Don’t Fear Salem: Christians Visiting Salem
I’ll give you what you can expect & things to consider as Christians visiting the Witch City, Salem, Massachusetts.
Innocents Who Paid With Their Lives
‘Amen, Amen. A false tongue will never make a guilty person.’
– Susannah Martin, hanged July 19th, 1692
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The hangings were not an easy, quick affair. There were no calculations of how long the rope, no breaking of the neck for a quick, merciful death. Instead, hands & legs bound, the victims strangled & writhed at the end of a rope. Convicted of witchcraft, the victims were denied a Christian burial and thrown into the rock crevices near the execution site. The families were said to have returned at night to retrieve their loved ones bodies from the pile, and buried them, unmarked, near home. Two are buried at the Rebecca Nurse Homestead in nearby Danvers. The rest of the bodies of the Salem Witch Trial victims remain unfound.
This page honors, foremost, those who died, but Salem’s Witch Trials had many more victims than the 25 who lost their life. Over 200 stood accused, loved ones ripped away to a dungeon-like jail coated with filth & lice. Packed in, men, women & children alike, with no bathrooms, no changing rooms, no hint of privacy. Sometimes the small cells & flood of accused left standing room only, until they spilled over into jails of nearby towns. Cells of stone & dirt, stifling in summer, freezing in winter bred sickness & misery. Humiliated, practically starved, sometimes tortured to reveal ‘the truth’. Over 40 of the accused ‘confessed’, a desperate attempt to save their lives. Their families, struggling with loss and one less working adult, were forced to find the money to pay for their imprisonment. They paid for the shackles, firewood, food, straw bedding, clothing, even the fees for their loved one’s executions. One family were not given their dead mother’s body, until they could pay her jail keep. Personal property of the accused was confiscated, stolen from their struggling families at home. They took family livestock, food supplies, property, furniture, jewelry, money. (This would have only affected men and unmarried & widowed women because a married woman couldn’t own property, her husband owned everything.) The 200 jailed, mothers, children, fathers, grandparents, waited their turn for a trial or the gallows. Barely more than kept alive, with only the food, warmth & medicine their family could afford.
Children orphaned, husbands & wives widowed, families broken & wounded forever. Even for the 175 who made it back home, the trauma could not be undone. A community that suffered in shame for 300 years for things they didn’t do and couldn’t change. The victims are far beyond what we can count. All paid a high price, 25 with their life. If it looks long to read, such is the body count of the Salem Witch Hunts.
Bridget Bishop– Widowed twice, though a remarried, mother of 3, two dying in infancy. Though a church member (in Beverly), she drank, worked a tavern & had been in trouble for cursing & fighting back with her abusive husband. She dared to wear artsy, colorful bodices, which was considered showy in Puritan New England. She’d been accused, though acquitted of witchcraft, 12 years before. “I am innocent, I know nothing of it, I have done no witchcraft. I am as innocent as the child unborn.” She was hanged at 59 or 60 years old, the very 1st of the Salem accused to be killed.
Sarah Good- Though married, she was poor & pregnant (with the baby who would die with her in the dungeon, shortly after birth), known to go begging door to door asking for handouts. Being so poor was a bitter pill, after growing up well-to-do. It was complained that she murmured curses to those who denied her pleas for food or shelter. Sarah’s other child, 4 year old Dorothy, would be accused & jailed as a witch, herself, being chained in the dark, filthy jail, as were the adults. On the gallows, asked once more to confess, Sarah replied, ‘You are a liar. I am no more a witch than you, and if you take away my life, God will give you blood to drink!’ She was hanged at only 39. It is said that the man to whom she made this reply, Rev. Noyes, died years later of a hemorrhage, choking on his own blood.
Elizabeth Howe- From Topsfield, married to a farmer who went blind at 50, a mother of 6, she’d been accused a decade before of witchcraft after a family dispute with a neighbor, though she was not arrested. She was well-liked in town, prior to that. She tried to join the church (Ipswich), but was blocked by the accusing neighbors, fueling the witch rumors that began to plague her, even though the ‘afflicted’ neighbor girl later recanted the claims. ‘If it was the last moment I was to live, God knows I am innocent.’ She was hanged at 56 or 57 years old.
Susannah Martin– of Amesbury, mothered 8 children, accused of witchcraft twice before, but the charges were dropped both times & she sued the 2nd accuser of slander. This 3rd time was no such charm. Her husband died 8 years before the 3rd accusations against her, leaving her poor & widowed, even though her husband was an extensive land owner. She had the courage to laugh during examination at the accusing girls’ fits and claims because they were “such folly”. She was confident in her innocence, outspoken & defiant, quoting the Bible throughout her trial, saying, “Amen, Amen. A false tongue will never make a guilty person.” She was a pious, older woman & must have been distressed and humiliated to be disrobed and have her body examined. She was hanged at 70 or 71 years old.
Rebecca Nurse– Rebecca was a Puritan grandmother, mother to 8 children of her own, who also took an orphan into her home to raise. She was well-liked & respected among town, considered to be a pious, deeply religious woman. Once accused, 40 prominent friends & neighbors petitioned the court (& even the governor), attesting to her devout & Godly character, risking their own lives in a time where it was very dangerous to testify for an accused ‘witch’. She was originally found ‘not guilty’, until the accusers acted out & the Judges changed their minds. She was hanged as a ‘witch’ at 71, a frail and deaf, Godly woman. Her body is buried in the family cemetery at the Rebecca Nurse Homestead.
Sarah Wildes– of Topsfield. She married a judge, mothering a child of her own & 8 motherless step-children. Even so, the family of the children’s dead mother spread rumors about Sarah and treated her as an enemy. Most of the evidence used against her was from this family & their friends. Before the witch accusation, her husband had threatened defamation against them. Sarah’s husband and son, a constable, were her only supporters, both testifying in her defense. Her son testified that she ‘always instructed him well in the Christian religion & ways of God’. She was hanged at 65, but even her death didn’t stop the accusations and attempts to defame her name. A year after her death, her husband remarried to George Jacobs Sr’s widow, another executed victim of the witch accusations.
Reverend George Burroughs– of Wells, Maine, formerly of Salem village. Widowed twice, previously the minister in Salem (village) before Rev. Parris came to the same church & brought the storm. Rev. Burroughs had escaped the ‘Indian Wars’ of Maine with a 3 year old orphan he rescued. Mercy Lewis, the orphan he saved later became a Salem witch accuser, herself, accusing even him after Burroughs had saved her life among the wars & wilderness of Maine. He had already returned to Maine 2 years before being accused, but they tracked him there and captured him- stealing Burroughs away from his family dinner table at home with no explanation or prep, & dragged him back to Salem when Mercy accused him. When pressed whether his previous house was haunted, he denied it, but admitted it had toads, which was viewed as an unnatural relationship with nature & more evidence of his guilt. A well-educated Harvard grad, Reverend Burroughs gave a moving speech at his execution & perfectly recited the Lord’s prayer, something it was believed a witch was unable to do. Drawing tears & emotion, it gave the crowd such doubt of his guilt that the crowd pressed forward & cried out to stop the execution, but were turned back by the leaders. He was hanged at the age of just 42.
Martha Carrier- of Andover. A Puritan woman, Martha mothered at least 6 children. To the girls accusing her of killing over a dozen people with disease and of inflicting them with pain, she said, “You lie, I am wronged.’ To the judges, she addressed, ‘It is a shameful thing that you should mind these folks that are out of their wits.’ Martha’s teenage sons were also accused & arrested and subject to torture, until they falsely confessed their mother’s guilt to escape the pain. 5 days after being found guilty, her 10 year old son was accused & arrested, then blaming his mother to save his own life. The following day, Martha’s 8 year old daughter was accused & arrested, & terrified into also accusing her mother, she saved herself the same way. Martha was adamant about her innocence, even on the gallows. She was hanged at age 42- 49 years old, being dragged & thrown into a mass, shallow ‘grave’ with the other hanged accused that day, 2 men, G Burroughs & J Willard. Laura Ingalls Wilder of Little House on the Prairie fame was her descendant.
John Willard– A married, father of 3 & deputy constable, involved in the arrest & transport of the previously accused. He quickly become so filled with guilt & doubt in his duties making their arrests, he quit the job. He went and appealed to one of the main accusers who he knew well, only to find himself accused by her the very next day. In his examination, he said ‘I fear not but the Lord, in His due time, will make me as white as snow.’ When offered the chance to defend himself, he was shut down by the magistrate, saying he wouldn’t allow him to ‘preach’. Then pressed, again, to confess, Willard replied, ‘If it was the last time I was to speak, I am innocent.’ He was hung at 35.
George Jacobs Sr- (buried near Rebecca Nurse @ the Rebecca Nurse Homestead), 72 year old, arthritic man who walked with 2 canes. Father of 3 & grandfather with long white hair, unusually tall. His son, daughter in law (her 4 young children went running & crying down the road after she was carted away to jail, their dad having fled the country to avoid the same, the kids left with the neighbors) and granddaughter were accused, as well. His granddaughter falsely pled guilty to being a witch & joined in accusing her grandfather to save her own life. She later recanted saying that she was told confessing & accusing would save her, but her “horror of conscience” would not let her sleep, ‘fearing the devil would carry me away for telling such horrid lies’. She wrote her grandfather a letter begging his forgiveness. His body was retrieved from Proctor’s Ledge by the family in night and buried at home. The bones were discovered on his property & held in the Historical Society collection until re-interred in a grave at the Rebecca Nurse homestead in 1992. The epitaph on his grave were words spoken by him during inquiry- ‘Well! Burn me, or hang me, I will stand in the truth of Christ.’
John Proctor– father of 5 with 1 on the way, owned a tavern & much land. Wealthy, John was accused by an employee. His pregnant wife, Elizabeth, reminded the accusing girls that it a sin to lie before God & that they would face judgement, for which she was quickly rewarded by being accused a witch, herself. The accusing employee who had put their father in jail broke the news to the Proctor children, home alone, both parents jailed and accused as witches. Though even the children were later accused. John told the judges & the jury that they were under the ‘delusions of the devil’ and that, “We are all innocent persons.” They were undeterred & John was hanged @ age 61, even though his accuser recanted 4 months before.
Alice Parker– A fisherman’s wife, she may have been Giles Corey’s daughter. Alice is believed to have possibly suffered from cataplexy, rendering her suddenly unconscious or momentarily paralyzed- sometimes mistaken for seizures, which was evidence used against her. Cataplexy is often brought on by emotional or intense events, which a trial as a witch would certainly induce. Baffled by the many accusations & wild fits of her accusers, she was asked why she tormented them. Bewildered & mortified, she sputtered, “If I do, the Lord forgive me…”
Mary Parker– of Andover.A Puritan widow, mother of 9, from not Salem, but Andover. She was hung with 7 others on what was to be the final executions of the Salem Witch Hunts. For these final 8, the largest group yet, time hung brittle in the air as their cart got stuck in mud on the way up to the hangman’s noose. Then they had to watch as others were hung, the bodies adding up, all still hanging from the tree. They waited on their own turn to climb those steps to the noose to add 1 more. Mary declared her innocence, once more, at the foot of the noose. She was around 55.
Ann Pudeator– Mothered 5, widowed twice. Was a nurse and mid-wife, being blamed a witch by her accusers from patients she was unable to cure of disease. The few ointments found at her home, upon arrest, were claimed to be evidence of witchcraft. She pointed out that one of her accusers had previously been whipped and on record as a liar. ‘I know nothing concerning the crime of witchraft for which I am condemned to die, as will be known to men and angels at the great day of judgement.’ It is believed she was released after the 1st accusations, only to be re-arrested and re-tried. She was hung at the age of around 71.
Wilmott Redd- of Marblehead. A fisherman’s wife known as ‘Mammy’, she was not well liked. She was poor, cranky and unfriendly. Redd’s Pond in Marblehead has been named for her, which is near where her small shack existed. She was the only resident from there named in Salem as a ‘witch’. Her son in law, Rev. George Burroughs, was hung as a ‘witch’ in Salem, just a month before. Wilmott, herself, had been accused of being a witch, previously, 5 years before.
Margaret Scott- of Rowley. About 77, birthed 6 children, but only 3 survived, grandmother to 11. Women who suffered high mortality rates with their children were more likely to be viewed as witches. A long-time widow who became even poorer without a husband, being forced to beg, verbally abusing and cursing anyone who denied her, for which she faced scorn. They suspected her as a witch for years. She was the only resident of Rowley to be accused in the Salem trials.
Samuel Wardwell- of Andover. A carpenter and father of 8, he was an eccentric man who sometimes dabbled in fortune-telling and had married above his means. His wife and daughter in law were accused, as well. Samuel and his wife were forced to leave their young children on their own. The sheriff had confiscated the farm animals and straw and corn, leaving the kids in vulnerable, poor condition. Eventually, it was petitioned to give them temporary homes & all 4 were split up. Wardwell, his wife and daughter in law, all 3 actually confessed to the crime since they saw that those who confess were likely to be kept alive, so that they could be used in future questioning. Pleading not guilty tended to earn a quick conviction and execution. During trial, however, Samuel recanted saying he wanted to clear his conscience before he was hanged. He was hanged at 49.
Martha Corey (Giles’ wife)- Accused in the middle of a church service that she & the accusing girl were both attending. Though she had a racy past, she was allowed into the church under new, much less restrictive rules, which displeased many people. She was also guilty by association of her husband’s sordid reputation. Though she believed in her Puritan religion and the other main tenets of Christianity, she didn’t believe in witches or the devil and said so, publicly. She also was outspoken in her disdain for the trials, the accusers and judges. Talking against the accusers put a target on your own head. Even though she was respected, accepted, and the 1st of the covenant church members to be accused when it was unthought of for church members to possibly be a witch, let alone accused. Aside from the topic, being vocal or critical publicly was not considered appropriate for a Puritan woman of the times. She laughed at the Judge when asked if she believed in witches or had conspired with the devil.
‘I am an innocent person. I never had to do with witchcraft since I was born. I am a Gospel woman.’ Martha was hanged around the age of 74.
Mary Easty (or Esty) of Topsfield. She was Rebecca Nurse’s little sister. A 3rd sister, Sarah, was accused & jailed as a witch, but she outlived the hysteria & and only she survived. Their mother had been accused over 20 years earlier, but had never been brought to trial. Mary was a married mother of 7 who, like Rebecca, was a religious woman. She was initially released after spending 2 months in jail, but was re-arrested 2 days later, being ripped from her bed in the middle of the night, when the girls doubled their efforts & accusations on her because she got away. A religious and kind woman, her loving farewell at her execution to her family caused nearly everyone to break into tears. She was so convincing on the stand that the Judge asked the accusing girls, “Are you certain this is the woman?” Mary petitioned the court, ‘Now I am condemned to die, the Lord above knows my innocency then and likewise does now as at the great day will be known to men and angels — I petition to your honours not for my own life for I know I must die and my appointed time is set but the Lord he knows it is that if it be possible no more innocent blood may be shed.’ Mary proclaimed her innocence while offering the judges forgiveness and blessings, praying for their wisdom in future trials. The plea is said to have brought pause & more doubt, and helped contribute to bringing the Witch Crisis to an end. Not before she was hung, however, at the age of 58, her sister hanged 2 months before.
Giles Corey– Refused to Enter a Plea & Died under Torture/ Crushed to death by stones: September 19th- A wealthy farmer with an ugly past, though he had become a church member by this point in his life. He initially believed the witch accusations, even against his own wife, Martha, & he testified against her. His eyes were opened, however, when he, himself, was charged the following month. He refused further testimony against his wife and wouldn’t cooperate with his own examination and ‘stood mute’ when asked to accept a trial. He was tortured for days for refusing to finalize a plea, stripped naked & crushed under massive stones, but he refused to confess or make further statement. He knew anything he said would be twisted into an admission of guilt & he refused to allow his property to be confiscated as a convicted witch. He was stripped naked and tortured in a field next to the jail, his tongue lolling out from pressure of the stones, before the Sheriff stuffed it back in with the bottom of his cane. Giles died in agony of a painfully slow death that dragged on over 2 or 3 days. Upon being asked, once again, to confess, Giles Corey, under lengthy, days-long torture, crushed by stones & could barely get a breath, responded only, “More weight!” Incredibly, he was 81. The tenacity of his protest under the barbaric treatment began to cause further doubt among the townspeople, just as Revered Burroughs’ execution had exactly a month before.
Died in Jail in 1692 & 1693, Awaiting Trial/ Execution:
* These 5 are only directly mentioned in the Danvers (Salem village) Witch Trial Memorial visited in Salem Part A, but they are victims of the Witch Trials & imprisonment, though death came before execution for these.
Lydia Dastin- March 10th, 1693: of Reading. A widowed grandmother, Lydia, 2 daughters, and a granddaughter all stood accused. Even though she & her daughter were found Not Guilty, they remained imprisoned because of unpaid jail fees. Unable to get the money, Lydia died in prison, even after acquittal at just 66 years old.
Sarah Osborne- May 10th, 1692– Widowed young, Sarah took the land inheritance of her sons and used it to free her indentured servant, who she then married. This and an ensuing public legal battle against her sons made her many enemies, as a result. It likely resulted in her being one of the 1st charged a witch. Still, she refused to lie and accuse anyone else, as others sometimes did to take the focus and blame off themselves. After a long illness, sickly even before jailed, Sarah died after waiting 9 weeks on a trial at the age of just 49.
Roger Toothaker- June 16, 1692: From Billerica, father of 8, a farmer who sometimes dabbled in folk healing. His wife, Mary, & her sister, and Roger’s 9 year old daughter were also arrested as ‘witches’. His wife confessed and accused her husband and daughter, maybe in an attempt to save their lives, though she also named others. She also named her sister, Martha Carrier, who was hanged as a ‘witch’ just a month later. Mary Toothaker, however, as did some of the other confessed ‘witches’, walked away free after the Witch Trials were ended in 1693. They kept confessors alive so that they could continue to give testimony on others’ ‘involvement’ & some just outlived the frenzy. He was only 57.
Baby Good, Infant daughter of Sarah Good who was hanged July 19th, 1692. The baby died shortly after being born in the jail to a mother who was likely malnourished and in weak health from her time in jail. The baby’s sister, Sarah’s other daughter- Dorothy, was also in jail as a witch at just 4 years old. The only ‘mercy’ they showed her mother Sarah was to wait til her baby was born before they hung her. The arrival of this baby, even had she survived, was her mother Sarah’s death certificate. Baby Good is the only victim listed not charged as a ‘witch’.
Ann Foster– Widow from Andover, mothered 6. When unexplained illness struck in Andover, the Salem accusing girls were brought in to find the ‘witch’ responsible. Ann died December 3rd, 1692 over 5 months after being jailed. Escaping the noose was not an easy death. She died @ 75 years old, miserable in a freezing, filthy jail after 5 long months of waiting & hoping for justice. Her son was forced to finish paying her jail keep before they would give him her body. Her daughter- Mary Sr. and grand-daughter- Mary Jr. also were accused & jailed. Junior confessed & blamed her mother & grandmother, then Senior did the same to Ann, both trying to save their lives, a mother trying to save her daughter’s by throwing her own mother to the wind. Though grandmother Ann had adamantly denied witchcraft before, even under possible torture, she now ‘confessed’ & took the blame to save her daughter & grand-daughter’s life.
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Was there a witch named Alison Kane or any last name with Kane in it
Paul, it’s certainly possible that there was. There were hundreds of people accused of being witches in Salem, many of them unknown, today. In the years following the witch trials, when people realized that it had been a terrible injustice and mistake, many of the records were destroyed in shame. I would say that if anyone would have records relating to a Kane or Alison in them, it would be the library in Danvers (original Salem village), Massachusetts. The curator there is the leading authority in the Salem Witch trials and they hold a number of the original documents, as does the University of Virginia. Thanks for your question and good luck in your search!