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Salem Witch Trails and Hauntings

This time of year people naturally absorb themselves in creepy stories of immense terror and pernicious evil. While some stories may be fabricated, there are plenty of real bewitching events where wickedness prevailed and still lives on to this day. Salem, Massachusetts — the name alone can send shivers down your spine. Founded in 1626, it’s one of the oldest and wealthiest cities in the United States.

Salem survived the Revolutionary War and the bombardment of pirates and Buccaneers during the 18th century, but that’s not what this city is remembered for. There was something far more sinister that happened within the walls of Salem.

Salem

Copyright photo Doug Kerr

Today this historic seaside community is clearly defined by its dark past, the infamous Salem Witch Trials. Many believe this gruesome time in history has made the city a haven for evil spirits, sorcery and black magic. Brace yourself as we journey to one notable place in the city of witches.

Every year more than a million tourists visit Salem to experience witchcraft and sorcery firsthand. And their first stop is in the center of town on Liberty Street. There you will find 20 rough granite slab benches chiseled from a low stone wall surrounding an area adjoining the Old Burying Point. The benches are inscribed with the name of the accused and the means and date of execution. Each bench is a somber shrine to those who lost their lives in one of America’s darkest chapters.

Salem Witch Trials Memorial
Salem Witch Trails Memorial

This is the Salem Witch Trial Memorial, but the souls honored here are restless. Some have claimed to see a bright light that turns into a woman spirit – believed to be that of Martha Corey. The origin of this agitated entity goes all the way back to the Salem Witch Trials themselves.

Salem Witch Trails Salem Witch Trails

 

It’s January 1692 and the deeply Puritan community of Salem is in a crisis. An epidemic of smallpox has decimated the population, leaving the survivors poverty-stricken, frantic and overly cautious. Apprehension and severe paranoia built up between family, friends and neighbors. The Europeans brought smallpox over and this deadly disease went rampant not only among the people in Salem but also the Native Americans. The people became extremely tense and they were afraid of death by exposure, death my savages and death by starvation. They truly believed the Indians and the devil were against them.

The Puritans also felt there were going to lose control of their society and the strict religious tenets that they were governed by. This all-consuming fear allowed for a witch trial and hysteria to take over.

In the home of Rev. Samuel Parris, a terrifying scene unfolds. One of his daughters and his niece fall to the floor and begins convulsing uncontrollably. But, this is just the beginning. Soon other girls in the town begin to exhibit the same symptoms. In search of answers, the frightened residents turn to their church leaders. These leaders erroneously conclude that the girls were under a spell created by a mass of witches secretly working to destroy the town and bring forth Satan’s rule.

Gripped by fear, dread and paranoia, the people of Salem begin a massive witch hunt. No one was safe from the brute force justice that ensued. Many girls at the time were accusing older women of being witches. Most people who were accused as witches were the vulnerable ones in the community.

Women at the time were thought to be morally weaker. They were thought to have naturally ungovernable and lustful natures which were easily tempted into sin. The Salem Witch trials were really about the fear of women and their independence. What they were seeing was people acting differently once the settlement started to grow, particularly among women and girls. They started to behave in new and different ways that the church and staunch community found threatening. These women were not interested in living by the Puritan values, so it’s no surprise that there was an attack on the devil within.

Others theorize that these trials were the result of a mass wave of hysteria in the wake of the recent smallpox epidemic. Others believed that the Rev. Samuel Parris represented the danger of religious power when wielded by a self-centered and deceptive individual. One cannot help but question the amount of responsibility that Parris, who began preaching about the work of the Devil in his parish, holds for the horrific events of 1692.

Salem graveyard

Copyright photo by Amy Meredith

Over 200 men, women and children were accused of witchcraft, but not all were arrested. Among those arrested though was 72 year old Martha Corey, a beloved wife and mother. In the autumn of 1692, Martha along with a large group of other alleged witches, are put on trial. Martha denies any wrongdoing but is found guilty and sentenced to death by hanging. On September 22, 1692, Marth along with 18 others convicted of practicing witchcraft were executed by hanging, and one, Giles Corey, was pressed to death.

The chilling part of this horrific event is that everyone involved thought they were doing the right thing. The judges, the ministers and the community all thought they were doing the right thing. But 20 were put to death by the state because of those good intentions.

Salem Witch Trails Hauntings

Copyright image Corey Balazowich

In August 1992, the city of Salem erected the Salem Witch Trial Memorial for those innocent souls who lost their lives during the infamous witch trials. Their names are etched in stone to forever remember. Have the spirits returned to claim their namesake stone? Many believe that the restless spirits of the deceased still linger, perhaps looking for justice or acknowledgment. If you visit this memorial, by all means, pay your respects, but be on the alert, someone may be paying you a visit as well.

20 Comments

  • This story always interests me, I have yet to visit, but hope to one day as I am a descendent of Mary towne eastey and Rebecca nurse.

  • It is so sad people have not learned from this horrible time. All it takes is one loud mouth to take control and everyone will get behind that bully so they will not be the next target. That is all this was was people afraid of bullies. So sad

  • Paranoia may have a hold of me? I was reading & thinking how there are some similarities currently going on right now 🙁 May we remember & learn from this stunning sad history

  • I’d love to visit Salem. So much history. I do believe the spirits may be wandering around for one reason or another.

  • What an horrific event caused by ignorant people who thought they knew what was best for everyone. Shame on them! There were also witch trials in Europe, ludicrous ones too. People were trussed up and thrown in a lake, if they sank and died they were innocent of being a witch if they didn’t drown they were definitely a witch – these poor people didn’t even have a chance of surviving the accusation.

  • My daughter is fascinated by this kind of stuff. We have an opportunity to go here next September, I’m hoping we can.

  • This has always really interested me!! I would love to tour Salem and check out some of the historic places. Its all very sad but very mysterious all at the same time!

  • I would love to visit Salem. The Salem Witch Trials was tragic and scary. I agree it was terrible that everyone thought they was doing the moral thing.

  • This is so interesting. Salem has a lot of history-some of it not too great unfortunately. Would love to go and explore the place though.

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