Sunday, November 28, 2010

Witch trial locations

I wrote about a visit to Salem in an earlier post.

Salem Village

It was a surprised to learn that Salem Village was a long distance from the port of Salem which claims now to be the Witch town.  The Meeting House where the trials took place can be found in the town of Danvers (then known as Salem Village) which is about a 15min drive from the cemetery in Salem where the commemorative stones for the Witch Trial victims can be found.

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The site of the meeting house is now a memorial which was built across the road from where the original Meeting House stood and was dedicated in 1992.

I visited the site in 2009 and copied the inscription on the commemorative plaque.

Salem Witch trial memorial1672 Salem Village Meeting House

Directly across from this site was located the original Salem Village Meeting House where Civil and Military meetings were held, and ministers including George Burroughs (hanged August 19, 1692), Deodat Lawson, and Samuel Parris preached.
The infamous 1692 witchcraft hysteria began in this neighborhood. On March 1 accused witches Sarah Good, Sarah Osburn and Tituba were interrogated in the Meeting House amidst the horrific fits of the "Afflicted Ones". Thereafter numerous others were examined including Martha Cory, Rebecca Nurse, Bridget Bishop, Giles Cory and Mary Esty. Many dire, as well as heroic deeds transpired in the meeting house.

In 1702 the Meeting House was abandoned, dismantled and removed to this site until the lumber "decayed and became mixed with the soil".

In 1992 a memorial was erected here to honor the witchcraft victims and to remind us that we must forever confront intolerance and "witch-hunts" with integrity, clear vision and courage.

Danvers preservation commission, 1992

Hawthorne Hill
I also discovered that the site Hawthorne Hill (now a collection of upmarket condominiums) was once the location of the home of the Salem Witch trial judge (this hill is about a mile from the site of the original Meeting House).

Hathorne Hill, Danvers StateNow a residential property, the building on this site was planned by a famous psychiatrist (Thomas Kirkbridge) in the late 1800's. This was a centerpiece of huge wings that spread out on either side - giving the building a bat-like appearance from far.

Called the State Lunatic Hospital at Danvers, it was built in 1878 on land that was the site of the home of John Hathorne, one of the Salem Witch trial judges.

It gained notoriety as the place where the full frontal lobotomy was perfected and frequently used (along with shock therapy) - especially as the hospital became more overcrowded in the 40's and 50's.

It is believed to be the inspiration for HP Lovecraft's Arkham asylum which was also used in Batman comics.

The last patients were moved from there in 1970.

In 2001 it was the location for filming a Horror/Thriller called called Session 9 and is the setting for a spooky novel called Project 17.

Gallows Hill 
The hangings of the victims of the Witch Trials took place on a hill called Gallows Hill.  I came across a very detailed description of one writer's search for the actual location of the hill.  There is a hill near the port of Salem that has a water tower with a witch logo on it.  Signs and directions claim that it is Gallows Hill

Daniel found when he walked up the hill now known as Gallows Hill that the location didn't sit very well with what he had read about it.  After several attempts and a great deal of research he was able to settle on a location nearby that holds up better to the written record.

He uncovered research by a Historian called Sidney Perley which led him to a nondescript little hill below the water tower location.  This hill was just over what was the boundary line of the Port of Salem (across a bridge called Town Bridge that existed on the site) and close to where the water was.  Benjamin Nurse was said to have rowed a boat from the Nurse homestead to the foot of Gallows Hill to retrieve his mother's body from the site.   Daniel's account includes some photographs of what he thinks might be the crevice in which the bodies of the dead were "buried" when they were taken down.

Burial Site
Oral history describes how some of the families of the victims came at night to retrieve their bodies so that they could be buried properly.  Some may not have been as fortunate.

Even though the official record says that they were buried in a crevice on Gallows Hill, we do know that Rebecca Nurse's body was probably retrieved for proper burial.  It is possible that some of the others who were hanged with her were similarly removed.  Elizabeth Howe was from Ipswich which is a good distance (about a 30min drive) from both the port of Salem and from Danvers (Salem Village).  Her husband was blind and she had small children, but her father-in-law - although in his 90's - was bold enough to speak in her defense and may have been able to arrange to retrieve her.

1 comment:

  1. Very few people are aware of these facts, so thank you for posting them. I was aware and used a few of these elements in my award-winning historical novel about the Salem Witch Hunt: THE AFFLICTED GIRLS. "Something terrible happened in Salem Village in 1692 ... but it isn't what you think!" Suzy Witten