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Our Tour of Downtown Salem

This entry was posted on Jun 08 2011

John Poole at the Salem Witch Museum by John Poole

As mentioned in my previous posting, my friend Alexandra and I spent the Sunday afternoon following the TTRAG Symposium 2011 touring downtown Salem. Like many visitors to Salem, our main objective was the Salem Witch Museum. But we also found opportunities to see a few more ancient homes, which, as you can imagine, Salem has no shortage of.

Now, for a little bit of history…..

The years leading up to 1692 saw much political disarray in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, as the colonists had overthrown their previous governor, and subsequently lost their charter with England. Salem itself no longer had the strong leadership of Roger Conant, who died about a decade earlier, and its populace was split between Salem Town and the more rural Salem Village (now present day Danvers). All of this, combined with several massacres of settlers by tribes from the north, created an atmosphere of great fear among the colonists that almost certainly helped to fuel the initial accusations of witchcraft in early 1692, and resulted in the infamous trials some months later.

The Salem Witch Museum, founded in 1972, is housed by a rather impressive building on Washington Square in downtown Salem. Constructed in 1845, this building originally served as the Second Church Unitarian of Salem. The museum is open daily and provides an elaborate, staged presentation describing the events, individuals, and chronology of the witchcraft trials.  This is followed by a docent-narrated lecture that attempts to explain the underlying causes of the hysteria that had inflicted the colonists, and draws parallels with other infamous “witch hunts” that had occurred in more recent history.

John Proctor Memorial Stone After our museum visit, we headed over to the Salem Witch Trials Memorial.  Dedicated by Elie Wiesel in August of 1992, the memorial consists of a peaceful patch of land enclosed by a large stone wall. Protruding from the interior side of the wall are twenty granite benches, each dedicated to one of the victims of the witch craft trials.

For an fascinating look at Salem with elegant photos, read John’s blogpost in its entirety here.

Posted on May 23, 2011

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