Excerpt from my diary of the East Coast/New England Coast Trip, Aug. 15, 2013
Boo decided to go to the Art museum in town while me and the kids went to check out the Witches Dungeon, The Witch Museum, and the Pirate museum. My favourite one was the witches dungeon where some actors/actresses did a reenactment of one of the witches trials.
What happened in Salem, Massachusetts in 1692 is really fascinating stuff. A Puritan Minister had two daughters named Abigail and Betty who started acting crazy one day. They screamed and threw their Bibles on the wall in church, crawled on the floor, barked like dogs, crawled into the fireplace, and had episodes of being in a catatonic state. Their parents didn’t know what was wrong with them and called for a doctor to examine them. He told the parents that there was nothing wrong with them physically, but someone had “Bewitched” them. (The children had a nanny named Tituba, from the West Indies,who often told the girls and their friends stories about voodoo and witchcraft and they would sometimes “act” it out which was a a real no no in those days). The parents asked the girls to point out who was a witch, and so they did. They started accusing the townspeople of witchcraft.
Innocent people were sent to jail even though they did nothing wrong. During the witch trials, the judge would ask the accused if they were innocent or guilty of witchcraft. If they pleaded innocent, they would lose their property and be hung. If they pleaded guilty, they would lose their property, but were allowed to live because they “confessed”. Tituba was asked if she was a witch. She said, “Yes”; but she got off scott free because she didn’t have a property to lose and wasn’t sent to the dungeon because she “confessed”.
Some of the adults began directing Abigail and Betty to accuse certain people in town of witchcraft. When the accused people were hung, their property and livestock would be sold cheaply at auctions. Entire families were sent to the dungeon simply because of greed. Prisoners were asked to pay for their own cells, hand-cuffs, food and drink, and even their own hanging. If they couldn’t afford the cost of being in jail, family members were asked to pay. If they were unable to pay, the prisoner would be sent to a special cell that looked like a vertical stone coffin in which they were forced to stand all day, hand-cuffed to the wall. Not a nice place. Constantly dark and dingy, and sometimes the nearby river overflowed into the dungeon making their lives even more miserable as they had to live in waist high water until low tide.
One day, a police officer openly stated that the girls who were accusing others in the town of witchcraft should be hung. Unfortunately, he was then accused of witchcraft and they hung the police officer instead. Two dogs were also hung on Gallows Hill because the girls said that the dogs were possessed by the devil and they gave them the “evil eye”.
The hysteria didn’t stop there. Leaders of neighbouring villages would often hire the girls to point out the witches in their towns too. At one point, there was over 150 people in jail (and they only had about 600 people in town). The madness came to an end in May, 1693 when the girls pointed to the wife of the Governor of Massachusetts of being a witch. No more putting people in jail just because someone said so. The witches trials happened over a 1 1/2 year period. Sixteen people were hung, three died in prison, and one person was “pressed to death”.
Here are some quick pics of other interesting things we found in Salem.
My favourite pirate wasRachel Wall. She would lure boats towards her pretending to be “In Distress” and once people came to her rescue, they were ambushed.
Our newest acquisition was Ugh and Lee (photo on right). Wish I bought the ghoul too. but we didn’t have much space in the car!