March 27, 2023

On the northern coast of Massachusetts in the United States, 25 km from the city of Boston, is the village of Salem, known by many as ” the city of witches”. Today it is a quiet town, even a little sly, where life flows slowly as in any provincial town. An avenue as wide and as old as Salem overlooks the port area where a ship is anchored with very tall masts on whose tops soar heavy yards, a legacy of a distant past. Looking towards Derby Street, 16th and 17th century villas, invaluable architectural heritage, sit in walled gardens backing onto the street.

Just like jewels, the ancient houses are set among the more recent wooden houses in typical American style, overlooking the sea, with enchanting sun-kissed lawns even in late September. Read down below and find out more about Salem witches.

History of Salem

Let’s start our journey from the beginning, from when Salem was founded. It was 1626 and a company of fishermen arrived from Cape Ann to settle in the area where the town now stands. The colonists were led by Roger Conant, who landed in Plymouth following the arrival of the Pilgrim Fathers on the Mayflower. A statue is even dedicated to him in one of the most important squares of Salem, he is in fact the founding father of the city, the one who became the first Governor of Massachusetts.He brought the small urban agglomeration to a thriving economy. In fact, in the mid-1600s, the village of Salem was a vigorous center of trade, also thanks to its prosperous port. In the process of expanding inland, Salem displayed a perfect cohesion between religious power and mercantile power.

But things soon changed. In fact, it is good to understand in which historical context we find ourselves in order to understand the facts that followed, events that are truly incredible.

It was 1680, for the settlers of the time, Salem was the last civilized outpost before the wild nature and the territories of the Indians. “ The inhabitants of the English colony therefore felt lost and vulnerable, in a context of precariousness, where King Philip’s War, characterized by continuous clashes between the colonists and the native tribes, had shaken the principles and Puritan rigor. Feeling abandoned by God’s benevolence, the inhabitants of Salem were led to see Satan everywhere, especially in the weakest and most defenseless, as if they were a perfect scapegoat for the release of tension accumulated in the air. ” so we read in an explanatory article by

In those years, in fact, a long armed battle called King Philip’s War had just ended, which had pitted the English settlers against some native tribes. The conflict also involved Massachusetts which, despite the English victory, remained exposed to Indian raids for a long time, even at the time of the trials. As if that weren’t enough, the Salem colony was without a governor for almost 10 years, starting in 1684. Thus it was that the community began to govern itself by listening, as if at face value, to the words of the most influential figures.

The Witch Hunt

The tranquility of this small community of settlers had already been deeply undermined and the confusion, mixed with discord, soon resulted in a religious psychosis from which it was impossible to go back. In the winter of 1692, Elizabeth Parris , known as “Betty” and Abigail Williams, respectively daughter and niece of the pastor of Salem, began to have strange ailments. The little girls used to gather in the kitchen of Parris parish priest, where the house slave, Tituba Indian, worked every day . She this she was of Caribbean origin, like her husband John, who also served the Parris family and practiced obeah, a ritual magic widespread in the West Indies.

Tituba encouraged the girls who enjoyed guessing their future husband with an object similar to a magic sphere, but these were not times in which one could play “be a witch”. This artifice influenced them to such an extent that one of them said she saw a ghost inside her. The girls began to behave in an unusual way, crawling on the ground, barking and none of the doctors consulted was able to give an explanation. Four other girls in the village, friends of Betty and Abigail, began to have strange behaviors influencing each other. Fake convulsions, violent demonstrations, sudden screams so much that the worried parents turned to the reverend Samuel Parris , father of Betty, the one who started the chain of death.

This innocent game soon turned into one of the most terrible and heinous witch hunts in American history. The collective hysteria had begun. On February 8, 1692, the village doctor William Griggs announced that the only explanation for the behavior of the young girls could be possession by the devil. This involved a crime as the evil eye is not a disease, but a crime caused by one person to harm another. It therefore fell within the jurisdiction of the judicial authorities. At first Parris decided not to address the latter, but word of him spread and the idea that there was a witch in the village caused mass hysteria.The witch hunt began at the behest of the community, fearful and totally exalted by a real religious fanaticism.

A succession of unfortunate events led to a series of witchcraft accusations and trials which , starting on June 2 of that same year, catapulted the town of Salem into the abyss of the inquisition . In fact, in 1692, one of the largest witch hunts in history broke out in Salem. It didn’t take much to be accused, even just having expired milk in the house or having a neglected appearance. Having a peculiar-looking mole, birthmark, or third nipple was considered a mark of the devil and sufficient to incriminate a person.

The processes

“Meanwhile, the girls’ lies, deceptions, and name-calling continued unabated. One of them, during a session of the trial, went so far as to point to the window, saying that she could see the witches gathering at that very moment for a sabbath on the lawn in front of the Casa delle Adunanze . The bystanders were terrified, the climate of psychosis increased more and more.” Power thus passed from the hands of adults to that of girls, who, with their accusations, had innocent men and women tried for witchcraft. They exploited the authority given to them, perhaps for fun or to knowingly harm, we cannot know this. I can only remotely imagine the terror that hovered among the locals for fear of being accused.

Any attitude, word or deed could lead any individual to be singled out as a devil worshipper. That summer, 144 people were tried , 19 were sentenced to death for witchcraft, in addition to one who died in prison during torture. Tituba Indians was the first reported by the girls, a Caribbean slave, but the social backgrounds of the victims varied. The trials involved such wealthy people as George Burroughs, a clergyman and landowner in England. Elderly and very devout women, dear to the community like Rebecca Nurse, by all considered a holy woman. The charges extended beyond the borders of Salem, many prominent Mass

Victims of the Salem trial

Of the 144 accused of witchcraft in Salem, 106 were women and 14 were women among the 19 convicted. Recently, the first episodes of Salem witchcraft, and not those due to later hysteria, have been analyzed scientifically. Some researchers have come to the conclusion that the accusing girls could have been people suffering from a neurological disease . Huntington’s chorea“, as this degenerative form is called, would only be diagnosed much later, in 1892. It is a disease for which a cure has not yet been found, which causes disordered movements of the body and a state of amnesia. 400 years ago, perhaps ignorance led to mistake the effects of this disease for demonic possession.achusetts figures were indicted, though never arraigned. These included Governor Phips’ advisor, two members of the provincial government and even Lady Phips, the governor’s wife.”

Those poor, homeless and beggars, therefore women who could not defend themselves, were easy targets for witch hunters. Like Sarah Good, who begged from house to house, she was accused of witchcraft and later convicted. Being a child didn’t mean she wasn’t a witch: Dorothy Good, Sarah’s daughter, was 4 years old when she was imprisoned for witchcraft. Later, after being tortured, she confessed that she was and she said that she saw her mother deal with the devil.

New Salem

The events of that summer marked the history of the community, giving the city an aura of mystery forever. The descendants of the inquisitors still reside here and there are those who believe that the energy of those ancient existences can still hover through the streets of the city today. You may or may not believe in the supernatural, but the fact remains that Salem is considered the most haunted small town in America. With its centuries-old traditions, it is in the collective imagination, the one and only city of witches . Salem is the birthplace of writer Nathaniel Hawthorne, his are “The Scarlet Letter” and “The House of the Seven Dormers”. It was an inspiration to a young Stephen King for “Salem’s Night” of 1975 and here was filmed “Hocus Pocus” a funny Disney comedy of 1993.

Salem has been an inspiration for cinema, literature and more, because it is a precious gem of perfectly intact colonial architecture, so much so that it has been designated as a National Historic Site of America . In her lives the ancient memory of dark and terrible facts, mixed with a modern aura of fun and magic that makes the soul of this town twofold. Legend has it that in Salem, every Halloween night , witches and sorcerers killed more than 300 years ago return to haunt the places where they were tried and convicted. This is how, on the eve of the feast of All Saints’ Day, it becomes an important event for all lovers of the paranormal and beyond.

Every place in Salem has a story. The museums are imbued with an aura of mystery and superstition, in the heart of the town a red line runs between the magic shops and the witches’ caves. In the center of town is a cemetery as old as the witch hunt and as you turn the corner, the ‘Black House’ home of Judge Jonathan Corwin who presided over the trial in 1692, that’s where it seems to be watching us. Then when evening falls, darkness engulfs everything and if you listen, you can hear the ocean telling of a sad and distant past. His voice, carried by the wind, is that of the many men and women who worked and lived here, sailors, prostitutes, pirates, slaves and captains-at-arms. How can you not be charmed by it?

The Salem Witches: Books, Movies, and TV Series

If you are passionate about horror and want to delve into the history of the Salem witches, you could read the book “The Salem Witches” written by Rob Zobie and BK Evenson. It is a novel inspired by the events that took place in Salem, but completely invented.

Still, there is an American TV series that bears the same title but that was put on hiatus after the first three series aired.

Finally, another series inspired by the witches of Salem is broadcast on Netflix , the title of which is ” The Covenant “. The series centers on the lives of some of the descendants of the women tried in Salem.

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