Salem Witch Trials

In January of 1692, the daughter and niece of Reverend Samuel Parris of Salem Village became ill. William Griggs, the village doctor, was called in when they failed to improve. His diagnosis of bewitchment put into motion the forces that would ultimately result in the hanging deaths of 19 men and women. In addition, one man was crushed to death; several others died in prison, and the lives of many were irrevocably changed.

To understand the events of the Salem Witch Trials, it is necessary to examine the times in which accusations of witchcraft occurred. There were the ordinary stresses of 17th-century life in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. A strong belief in the devil, factions among Salem Village families and rivalry with nearby Salem Town combined with a recent small pox epidemic and the threat of attack by warring tribes created a fertile ground for fear and suspicion. Soon, prisons were filled with more than 150 men and women from towns surrounding Salem; their names had been "cried out" by tormented young girls as the cause of their pain. All would await trial for a crime punishable by death in 17th-century New England - the practice of witchcraft.

In June of 1692, the special Court of Oyer (to hear) and Terminer (to decide) sat in Salem to hear the cases of witchcraft. Presided over by Chief Justice William Stoughton, the court was made up of magistrates and jurors. The first to be tried was Bridget Bishop of Salem who was found guilty and was hanged on June 10. Thirteen women and five men from all stations of life followed her to the gallows on three successive hanging days before the court was disbanded by Governor William Phipps in October of that year. The Superior Court of Judicature, formed to replace the "witchcraft" court, did not allow spectral evidence. This belief in the power of the accused to use their invisible shapes or spectres to torture their victims had sealed the fates of those tried by the Court of Oyer and Terminer. The new court released those awaiting trial and pardoned those awaiting execution. In effect, the Salem witch trials were over.

As years passed, apologies were offered and restitution was made to the victims' families. Historians and sociologists have examined this most complex episode in our history so that we may understand the issues of that era and view subsequent events with heightened awareness. The parallels between the Salem witch trials and more modem examples of "witch hunting" like the McCarthy hearings of the 1950's, are remarkable.

Learn More

Salem Witch Trials Documentary Archives

Salem Witch Trials Weekly, produced by the Salem Witch Museum

Bewitchment in Salem, produced by the Salem Witch Museum in conjunction with SATV

The Salem Witch Trials: A Day-by-Day Chronicle of a Community Under Siege by Marilynne K. Roach (Jul 22, 2004)

Witch Trial Related Activities and Locations

 
Cry Innocent
Cry Innocent
Critically-acclaimed live reenactment of the witchcraft examination of Bridget Bishop. Featured on The Travel Channel, NPR, TLC, and more. Multiyear TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence. ♿ Groups...
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Gallows Hill Museum/Theatre
Immerse yourself in the facts, myths & legends surrounding the witch trials. Witness ghosts & more with our live theatre experience! Five-star rating on TripAdvisor....
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Salem Wax Museum
Salem Wax Museum of Witches & Seafarers
Salem’s original wax museum, family-owned and operated for over two decades! London-made wax figures depicting Salem’s history from the witch trials hysteria and bold seafarers....
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Salem Witch Hunt
Salem Witch Hunt Film & Tours
The Salem Witch Hunt Film exposes the true causes and events behind Salem’s witchcraft hysteria, featuring Witch Trials scholars and reenactors at actual 1692 locations...
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Salem Witch Museum
Salem Witch Museum
The Salem Witch Museum is Salem’s most visited museum. Open year-round with extended hours throughout the summer and October. We are the perfect start to...
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Salem Witch Village
Guided by a practicing witch, discover the myths and the facts surrounding witches and their craft! For the answers and truth behind the legends, make...
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Witch House
The Witch House
Salem’s only building with direct ties to the witch trials, the 17th century home of Judge Jonathon Corwin. Open daily mid-March through November. Call for...
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Witch Dungeon
Witch Dungeon Museum
Award-winning live reenactment of a 1692 witch trial, followed by a guided tour of the dungeon. The most exciting experience in Salem. Open daily 10am-5pm...
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Witch History Museum
Witch History Museum
Experience all the historical stories surrounding Salem’s 1692 witch trials told through an interactive tour. Walk among 15 life-sized scenes depicting these tragic untold stories...
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“The True 1692” 3D Film
Visit CinemaSalem at the Museum Place Mall, and learn about the Salem Witch Trials of 1692 in a 3D documentary. Showtimes are available at CinemaSalem.com....
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