Archive for the ‘Book Reviews’ Category:
We have the privilege of working closely with historian Marilynne Roach on many projects. She answers nuanced questions about the Salem witch trials, helping our staff interpret the underpinnings of the events, and is a perpetual inspiration in understanding what can be learned from Essex County’s 1692 experience.
If you don’t yet own a copy of The Salem Witch Trials: A Day-By-Day Chronicle of a Community Under Siege, now is your chance to get one of 20 remaining signed copies of the book.
In our shop or online, while supplies last!
First let’s get a working definition.
US Legal.com :
“Spectral evidence refers to a witness testimony that the accused person’s spirit or spectral shape appeared to him/her witness in a dream at the time the accused person’s physical body was at another location. It was accepted in the courts during the Salem Witch Trials. The evidence was accepted on the basis that the devil and his minions were powerful enough to send their spirits, or specters, to pure, religious people in order to lead them astray.
In spectral evidence, the admission of victims’ conjectures is governed only by the limits of their fears and imaginations, whether or not objectively proven facts are forthcoming to justify them. [State v. Dustin, 122 N.H. 544, 551 (N.H. 1982)].”
We know that the Court of Oyer and Terminer, formed in June 1692 for the purpose of hearing cases awaiting in Boston’s jails backlogged while the Charter with England was being hammered out, recognized spectral evidence despite that it was not in keeping with generally accepted procedure of the time. In Law and People in Colonial America Peter Charles Hoffer offers this characterization (p. 41):
“The result of having laymen on the high-court benches might be…swift and sensible justice. Massachusetts superior Court justices, such as Samuel Sewall, were deeply moral men, concerned about the quality of their performance. Sewall was typical of the best lay judges – well traveled, well schooled, much respected, and experienced in colonial government and in hearing and deciding lawsuits, if not learned in the law. In the Salem witchcraft tirals of 1692 the judges, including Sewall, departed from current, learned, English practice, and did so with tragic consequences.
There were no trained lawyers on the bench, but all believed that there was a devil and that he contracted secretly with men and women to do his evil work in the colony. Thus, at least in theory, witches had the power to leave their bodies and in spectral form assault their victims.”
The following passage from another of Hoffer’s works the Salem Witchcraft Trials: A Legal History is further clarifying (page 78-79):
Mather fretted, “Our neighbors at Salem are blown up after a sort, with an infernal gunpowder, under the floor.” What could that mean? To us the reference may be obscure, but to his fellow Puritans the implication was obvious. In 1605 a band of Roman Catholics, driven to despair by King James’s persecution of their faith, tried to blow up the English houses of Parliament. The plan was discovered at the last minute, and the conspirators were executed, but the “gunpowder plot” became a symbol among Protestants of the danger Roman Catholicism posed to English Protestantism. In 1689 Parliament drove James II, a Roman Catholic, from the throne of England and replaced him with a Dutch Protestant, William of Orange, and James’s daughter, Mary, William’s wife. They were to rule jointly. A war followed in which Protestants battled Roman Catholics at home and abroad. This was the war that brought the Indians and their French Roman Catholic allies to the doorstep of Salem. Thus the Puritans saw Roman Catholicism as a continuing and powerful threat to Protestantism in England and the survival of Puritanism in New England. They also believed that Roman Catholic priests were in league with the Devil. Reports of priests and Indians worshiping the Devil before they attacked Massachusetts towns regularly made the rounds of the colony.
But the problem of spectral evidence remained, for the only ones who could see the witches in their spectral form, and thus say who it was that caused their pain, were the accusers themselves. Here Mather could find no answers in his library. He must leave it and enter the world of ordinary people. No abstract theory or abstruse theology could dictate commonly accepted contemporary notions of the truth of testimony.”
Even while most people had misgivings about the validity and use of supernatural proof, Cotton Mather cited a precedent from 1664 wherein Mathew Hale asserts that such evidence is suitable in cases of necessity. Mather interprets “in particular, the political crisis of the colony and the terrors of war. War against the Devil and war against the popish French and their Indian allies were the same in his mind.” (Ibid., p. 89)
Image, “The soul-killing witches that deform the body” shared from University of Virginia SWT Documentary Archive and Transcription Project.
Caption: “The soul-killing witches that deform the body,” Shaks.
Description: The image shows two witches stirring a steaming cauldron; it was published in a 1828 edition of Robert Calef’s More Wonders of the Invisible World. In the background a witch rides on a broomstick, brandishing a snake in her hand; to the left, spectral images fly out of the boiling cauldron; and a cat leaps into the scene from the right. References to cat familiars, flying witches, and spectral images are common features of the court records of the Salem witch trials.
Source: Frontispiece, The Wonders of the Invisible World Displayed, by Robert Calef. New Edition. Boston: T. Bedlington, 1828. Image by permission of the University of Virginia Library, Special Collections. © The Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia, 2003.
Boyer, Paul and Nissenbaum, Stephen. Salem Possessed.
Demos, John. Entertaining Satan.
Hall, David. Witch Hunting in 17th Century New England
Hansen, Chadwick. Witchcraft in Salem.
Hill, Frances. A Delusion of Satan.
Hill, Frances. The Salem Witch Trials Reader.
Hoffer, Peter Charles. The Salem Witch Trials, A Legal History.
Karlsen, Carol. The Devil in the Shape of a Woman.
Mappen, Marc. Witches and Historians.
Norton, Mary Beth. In The Devil’s Snare.
Richardson, Katherine. The Salem Witch Trials.
Roach, Marilynne. The Salem Witch Trials, A Day by Day Chronicle.
Robinson, Enders. The Devil Discovered.
Rosenthal, Bernard. Salem Story.
Starkey, Marion. The Devil in Massachusetts.
Rosenthal, Bernard, ed. Records of the Salem Witch-Hunt
Boyer, Paul and Nissenbaum, Stephen. Salem Village Witchcraft.
Trask, Richard, ed. The Devil Hath Been Raised.
Breslaw, Elaine. Tituba, Reluctant Witch of Salem.
Demos, John. The Enemy Within
Hill, Frances. Hunting for Witches, A Visitor’s Guide.
Miller, Arthur. The Crucible.
Tapley, Charles. Rebecca Nurse, Saint but Witch Victim.
Roach, Marilynne. Gallows and Graves.
Russell, Jeffrey. A History of Witchcraft.
Weisman, Richard. Witchcraft, Magic and Religion in
17th Century New England.
Aronson, Marc. Witch-Hunt (young adult)
Duble,Kathleen. The Sacrifice (grades 5-8)
Jackson, Shirley. The Witchcraft of Salem Village (grades 5-6)
Rinaldi, Ann. A Break with Charity. Fiction (grades 6-8)
Stern, Steven. Witchcraft in Salem . (grades 4-6)
Yolen, Jane. The Salem Witch Trials, An Unsolved Mystery
“A Map of Salem Village & Vicinity in 1692”
This map shows Salem Village, primary location of the Salem
witch trials history, as it looked in 1692. Sites of houses and public
buildings are noted. The map is drawn by Marilynne Roach, a
Salem witch trials expert.
“Three Sovereigns for Sarah”
A partly fictional account of the trials focusing on the three
Towne sisters, two of whom were hanged. The production
was filmed at locations connected with the trials. 2 1/2 hrs
“Days of Judgment: The Salem Witch Trials of 1692”
A film designed for school and home viewing that answers
many of the questions raised by the trials. 1 hour
The 1995 film version of Arthur Miller’s play. Screen play by the author.
Filmed on location in Essex County. 2 hours
During the last months of each year our visitation shifts from October crowds to January trickles. Our staff gladly take the quieter winters to catch up on pleasure reading, so we decided to host a book club or two this season.
The only rule for the book club was simply that we weren’t going to cover anything we’d “normally” read (i.e. Salem witch trials related.)
Our first selection for the Salem Witch Museum Breakfast (Book) Club comes from Floor Manager Jay Menice. A section of Gloucester, Massachusetts has been a fascination for him since Elyssa East published Dogtown: Death and Enchantment in a New England Ghost Town, a non-fiction examination of the mysterious history surrounding this some-say-enchanted place and a brutal crime set there.
Those of us who appreciate local authors have certainly encountered at least one title by Anita Diamant (the Red Tent, Good Harbor, et.al.), so we’re balancing the book club medley by including a work of historical fiction. The Last Days of Dogtown portrays life in this early American mythical community of witches, widows, orphans and spinsters.
In mid-January we’ll host a continental breakfast and book club discussion comparing and contrasting these two renditions of Dogtown. If you’d like to join us, please email Stacy at firstname.lastname@example.org for further details.
Hanged as a witch in Salem on August 19th, 1692 Martha Allen Carrier was initially accused along with her children and sister, Mary Toothaker. I recently listened to the audiobook version of The Wolves of Andover (retitled The Traitor’s Wife) and am now finishing The Heretic’s Daughter by Kathleen Kent. These fictional accounts are soundly researched immersing readers into the seventeenth century frontier life of these colonists, eerily capturing the seemingly mundane events that lead to their deadly outcome.
Not every victim of the Salem witch trials has much information about their lives before the tragic events, but in the case of Martha Carrier – her family being a prominent one in the founding of Andover – there are many resources for researching her fascinating case. If you’re reading either of these accounts of her life, you may find the following augmentations thought-provoking.
From the Salem Witch Museum Blog: http://www.salemwitchmuseum.com/blog/index.php/2011/08/martha-carrier/
Kathleen Kent: http://kathleenkent.com/
For descendants: http://marthacarrier.org/
Andover Historical Society: http://www.andoverhistorical.org/witchcraft.htm
Biographical sketch at University of Virginia’s Documentary Archive and Transcription Project:
The premier of the Old Town Hall Lecture Series on Thursday evening was a huge success! The talk by Richard Francis, author of Judge Sewall’s Apology, gave an overview of a flesh-and-blood Samuel Sewall, the only one of nine judges presiding over the Salem witch trials to apologize for his part in the tragedy. Read more »
Professor Benjamin Ray of the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Virginia lectured to a sold out room at the House of Seven Gables this week. Professor Ray is the project director of Salem Witch Trials Documentary Archive and Transcription Project where everyone “from teachers to fourth graders” can now readily access 8,000 searchable pages from source documents online. Read more »
The House of the Seven Gables will welcome Professor Benjamin C. Ray from the University of Virginia to present a talk entitled “A New Look at the Salem Witch Trials: Report on the most Recent Research” on Sunday November 7th, 2010 at 2:00 PM.
Professor Ray’s lecture will focus on the new scholarly edition of the court records of the Salem Witch Trials titled Records of the Salem Witch-Hunt. This book, of which Dr. Ray is an associate editor, is the first comprehensive record of all legal documents pertaining to the Salem Witch Trials in chronological order. With the inclusion of previously undiscovered manuscripts as well as documents published in earlier additions and omitted from later, Records of the Salem Witch-Hunt offers the most comprehensive historic account of the events of 1692-1693.
Tickets are $10 for non-members and $5 for members of The House of the Seven Gables&. For tickets, please call The House of the Seven Gables at 978-744-0991 ext. 104.