Never before have I dedicated a post to an article I didn’t write, but this one is right up my alley–probably up yours, too, if you read this blog regularly. The site where 19 victims were executed during the Salem witch trials has been confirmed. Here’s an excerpt from the Salem News article:
The Gallows Hill Project prepared a series of questions and answers explaining how they confirmed Proctor’s Ledge as the execution site for accused witches.
How did they pin down the site?
Marilynne Roach discovered a few key lines of eyewitness testimony in a Salem witch trials court record from Aug. 19, 1692. … The record quotes the defendant Rebecca Eames, who had been on her way to the court in the custody of her guards and traveled along the Boston Road, which ran just below the execution site.
A few hours later, she appeared the Salem court for her preliminary examination. The magistrate asked Eames whether she had witnessed the execution that took place earlier that morning as she was passing by. She explained that she was at “the house below the hill” and that she saw some “folks” at the execution. Roach determined that the “house below the hill” was most likely the McCarter House, or one of its neighbors on Boston Street. The McCarter house was still standing in 1890 at 19 Boston St.
Read the rest of the article here! (No, seriously, do it–it’s awesome.)
After the tourists leave, Salem’s witch shops try to make ends meet
(This feature article was originally written for a class. The names of people and places have been changed by request–I have no desire to piss off a witch!)
It’s the beginning of November, and Essex Street stands abandoned.
Three weeks ago, the pedestrian mall in downtown Salem was so crowded, it seemed half the world had converged on a single spot. The street’s paving bricks were obscured by the crush. Its t-shirt carts nearly foundered amid a flood of goths, New Agers, and drag queens. Like a black-and-orange beacon, the approach of Halloween had drawn together hundreds of refugees from the fringes of society. Their houses were in Newton, Beverly, or a dozen other suburbs scattered across the country. But during the month of October, Salem was their home. Continue reading
Eighty-one-year-old Giles Corey was an accused witch, the only victim of the Salem witch hysteria to have been pressed to death. For two days, his tormentors piled heavy stones on top of his supine body, demanding that he confess to consorting with the devil. Corey wasn’t an idiot, though–he knew a confession wouldn’t save him. Each time he was commanded to enter a plea, his response was: “More weight!” Apart from that, he was silent, despite the extreme pain caused by this form of torture. So, yeah: it’s safe to say that Giles Corey was kind of a bad-ass.
This is his memorial in downtown Salem. The first thing you probably noticed is all the pennies–it’s some kind of Massachusetts thing. I’ve seen coins stacked on grave markers in Boston, too. I’m not sure if it’s meant to be an offering, a request for protection, or a general symbol of well wishes. Regardless, Giles Corey’s memorial had more pennies than anyone else’s.
It also had this:
Call me a sap, but this made me cry the most macho of macho tears. I’m not religious. I don’t believe that Giles Corey is up in heaven, looking down on his memorial and thinking, “Man, nice flowers.” But there’s something sweet and humanizing about the gesture, nevertheless. The dead aren’t truly gone until they’re forgotten, and it’s nice to know that–at least in the hearts of his descendants–Giles Corey lives on.
I’ve always had a soft spot for “The Thing on the Doorstep.” It’s not one of Lovecraft’s most recognized stories, nor is it one of his most critically acclaimed. It doesn’t feature Cthulhu, or ghouls, or the far-reaching cosmic terror that marks more famous works like “At the Mountains of Madness” and “The Dunwich Horror.” What it does have, though, is a prominent female character–the only one found in any of Lovecraft’s fiction, unless you count Keziah Mason. (Okay, “The Curse of Yig” has a female protagonist, and “Medusa’s Coil” features a female baddie–but those were ghostwritten for Zealia Bishop.)
I don’t know if old H.P. hated women so much as he didn’t know what to do with them. The guy wasn’t exactly getting laid on the regular. Whatever the reason, Asenath Waite was the only woman he wrote.
And what a woman. Asenath is not only a certified genius, she’s also forceful, strong-willed, and relentlessly menacing. Having seduced the bright but naive Edward Pickman Derby, she lures him into a marriage that shocks Arkham society. Poor, besotted Edward soon realizes that his bride only wants him for his body–literally. Asenath has the ability to exchange her soul with that of another, and it isn’t long before she’s slipping into her husband’s skin for extended jaunts into cursed, subterranean vaults. Edward, meanwhile, is repeatedly locked inside his wife’s form, helpless to keep her from trafficking with nameless horrors. Eventually, he fears, Asenath will make the switch permanent.
When Judge Jonathan Corwin moved into the big black house at the corner of North and Summer in Salem’s Chestnut Street District, I doubt he had any inkling of its future place in history.
“Now here’s a place that’ll never be associated with anything unsavory,” he probably said to himself.
“Especially not witch trials,” he likely added.
Three-hundred-fifty years later, we know just how wrong he was. The Witch House is the only extant building with a direct link to the Salem Witch Trials of 1692, a tragic bout of mass hysteria during which 19 people were killed and dozens more imprisoned. I visited the Witch House for the second time last weekend. Here are some of the things I learned. Continue reading