Current Affairs United States

Victims and Witches in Salem, MA

How do 24 innocent people get executed over accusations of witchcraft? Most (mostly women) were hanged, one guy was pressed to death, and several others died in jails under terrible conditions. The accused–like the guy who was pressed to death–were tortured into confession, and killed whether they confessed or not. All over religious hysteria. It was a question that I kept asking myself when Mr. Pretty and I visited Salem, Massachusetts this year for Halloween.

And so it was with not a little surprise and disgust that I read the rambling letter that President Don Trump sent to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to protest impeachment proceedings (before he was actually impeached). In the letter, Trump wrote that “more due process was afforded to those accused in the Salem Witch Trials.”

Considering the impeachment investigation and eventual impeachment were couched entirely in verifiable facts and witnesses, Trump and his people were never published for refusing to testify, and no one was tortured into confession or killed, the hyperbole is stunningly ignorant.

If you’ve been to visit Salem (and I would imagine for the people who actually live in Salem or the vicinity), it feels like a rather personal attack. The Salem Witch Trials are a deep stain in this country’s history (and we have many), but they are also an affront to rational thought. I suppose the same could be said of Don Trump’s Presidency. So for him to try to hook his victimhood wagon to 24 innocent people sticks in my craw.

The modern day city of Salem has chosen the path of empowerment by becoming ground zero for actual witches, which is interesting. There are several graveyards and memorials within the city limits pertaining to the trials. The majority of those accused, though, were never buried in marked graves–rather, they were tossed in unmarked mass pits. The actual location of many of the executions is located in Salem proper.

That said, most of those accused and the actual interrogations happened in Danvers, Massachusetts–formerly Salem Village. Mr. Pretty and I made a point of visiting the victims’ memorial there before we left the Salem area. It was a far different atmosphere than Salem–the day before Halloween. There were no crowds, no psychic fairs, no costumed revelers.

It was peaceful. As it should be. The victims deserve some peace.

The memorial lists every person who was murdered and how they were killed. The most chilling listing (to me) is Sarah Good’s infant daughter, who died in jail. And, of course, because Don Trump invoked the Salem Witch Trials to try to hide his crimes, when I think of Sarah Good’s daughter I think of all the little kids imprisoned in Trump’s border jails or whatever you want to call them. At least seven children have died in those camps (so far), more than the number of kids who died in the Salem hysteria. And for what? Because their parents were fleeing violence in their home countries?


One day there will be memorials to these innocent kids (and the rest of the migrants who have died in these camps), much the same as there are memorials for the innocent victims of the witch trials. And we’ll think of it as a horrifying stain on this country’s history (the majority of us already do).

Interestingly, the Danvers memorial is located where it is because the interrogations were carried out across the street–which are now residential homes. As an exclamation point, one of those homes was a burned out shell: it had caught fire earlier in the year. One wonders if it wasn’t a precongnitive response to Trump’s comparison.

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