Myths and Magic: The Salem Witch Trials

Beginning in January 1692, many women and one man were accused of participating in witchcraft. It began when a doctor diagnosed a group of young girls who were experiencing fits consisting of screams, contortions, and seizures as witches partaking in dark magic. Over the course of many months, more than two-hundred women were accused of witchcraft.

Contrary to popular belief, no one was ever burned at the stake in Salem, Massachusetts. Despite no one being burned alive, a total of twenty people were executed due to the trials. The nineteen women were hung at Gallows Hill in Massachusetts and one man was crushed between stones or killed by crushing. Sadly, many more women died awaiting their trials in jail. The burning of people in Salem is a myth likely derived from the European witch trials. The trials in Europe often ended in execution and many of those women were burned at the stake, in accordance with traditional Roman law.

Witch Trial Memorial at Proctor’s Ledge, Salem MA

In 2017, Salem, Massachusetts created a memorial for the people who were killed during the trials and as a result of the trials. The memorials are located at Proctor’s Ledge to commemorate the women who were executed there around three hundred and thirty years ago. Proctors’ Ledge is located at the bottom of Gallows Hill and is widely accepted as the place of the executions. The memorial is a set of stone benches, each with a name of one of the victims, that surrounds a patch of grass and locust trees. Locust trees are assumed to be the type of trees used in the hangings. Finally, there is a dirt path between the benches that allows visitors to walk and reflect.

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