Salem, Mass., has earned a reputation as the unofficial Halloween capital of the world. But it’s not just at Halloween when visitors are lured into the town where several people were accused of being witches during the Salem Witch Trials in 1692. This led to a plague of mass hysteria in the small puritan village.
Here’s a quick brush up on the history: a 12 year-old girl, Ann Putnam Jr., and a group of here friends started rumors that they were suffering “afflictions,” including convulsions and speaking gibberish. This lead to the harsh and untrue accusations of witchcraft against many 72 people, 19 of whom were hung, and at least ten others died in the inhumane conditions in the prisons. Ann Putnam Jr., eventually took back her accusation and publicly apologized. But it was too late.
The Witch Dungeon Museum sets the stage by performing a mock trial based on real transcripts. You will see Sarah Good hopelessly defend herself against Ann Putnam’s lie. Trials like this continued for thirteen months until the Governor’s wife was accused of being a witch, causing him to put an end to all trials.
By admitting you were guilty, your life was spared but in horrific conditions. The Puritans covered up the original dungeon because they were ashamed of themselves for believing such outrageous lies. Family members were able to visit loved ones in cells but it would cost them, putting extra cash in the pockets of the Puritans. An accused person was also forced to give up their land, which meant neighbors started accusing neighbors so they could cash in on more property. Kids even accused their own parents.
Sometime in the 1950’s a phone company purchased the land where the old dungeon housed innocent prisoners. An integral part of history was discovered when they broke the foundation, the original dungeon. The Witch Dungeon Museum laid its blueprints from the actual cells. You will see just how tight corridors were, the dirt they slept on, even when the floors flooded, and the rodents that slept next to them.
The Salem With Trials are a dark part of history but because of the experience at this museum it’s not forgotten.