The Salem Witch Trials: The deadliest witch hunt in North America


"Standing stone, Gallow Hillock" by Alan Findlay

Gallows Hill in Salem, Massachusetts was declared in 2016 the place in which the hangings took place. 20 victims accused of Witchcraft were hanged on Gallows hill.

326 years ago, folks who had been imprisoned for the accusation of witchcraft were released, but for some men and women it was too late their judgment day had already come. 20 women and men were hung for the crime of witchcraft, others died while in prison and one victim was crushed to death. The Salem witch trials are now known as the deadliest witch hunt in North American history.

The trials began in 1692 after a group of young girls claimed to be possessed by the devil. This claim sent a wave of hysteria crashing through Salem. A special court was convened in Salem to prosecute those practicing witchcraft. The first to be found guilty was Bridget Bishop, she was hung later that year in June. After several more wrongful deaths, the trials came to a close when the judge annulled the rest of the accused cases. Although the cases came to an end, the painful memory of the trials remains present even today. 

“The trails were based on pure paranoia by people who thought they were better than everyone else.” Julianna Meinecke, a descendant of Anne Pudeator who was accused of witchcraft, said. “Anne was a widow and wanted to keep her husband’s property, so you know obviously a witch.”

Although Meinecke thinks it’s cool to be a descendant of Pudeator, she hopes nothing like the trials happens again.

“Salem has had historical amnesia. It has a tendency to look away from its tragic past,” Emerson Baker, a professor at Salem University who focuses on the innocent lives of individuals and families that were destroyed, said in an interview with Boston globe. “Gallows Hill is a place of unspeakable sorrow. Our job was to make sure no one ever forgets the victims.”

Remembering the wrongfully accused is something that Salem and its citizens do every day. On the 300th anniversary of the trials, a park was dedicated to the victims and their families in Salem and a memorial was made as a tribute to them in Danvers, Massachusetts. 

“The legacy of what transpired here crosses into the imaginations and consciousness of our community, our Commonwealth, and even our country,” said Salem Mayor Kimberley Driscoll. “It’s a legacy that speaks to the need for the rule of law and the impartiality of the judiciary.’’