The Salem Witch Trials took place in Salem in the Massachusetts Bay Colony between 1692-1693. Historians believe the accused witches were victims of mob mentality, mass hysteria and scapegoating.
The Salem Witch Trials began in January of 1692, after a group of girls began behaving strangely and a local doctor ruled that they were bewitched. The girls then accused a local slave, Tituba, and two other women of bewitching them.
When Tituba was arrested a few days later, confessed she was a witch and stated there were other witches in Salem, the colonists panicked and began a massive witch hunt to find these other witches.
Many historians believe that a number of individuals in the colony, particularly the Putnam family, quickly took advantage of this witch hunt and mass hysteria by accusing rival neighbors or other colonists that they disapproved of or wanted revenge against.
Puritans were very hostile towards colonists who didn’t follow the strict religious and societal rules in the colony.
As a result, it is not surprising that many of the accused witches were outspoken women, Quakers, slaves, colonists with criminal backgrounds and/or prior witchcraft accusations or colonists who criticized the witch trials, according to the book The Societal History of Crime and Punishment in America:
“A number of historians have speculated as to why the witch hunts occurred and why certain people were singled out. These proposed reasons have included personal vendettas, fear of strong women, and economic competition. Regardless, the Salem Witch Trials are a memorial and a warning to what hysteria, religious intolerance, and ignorance can cause in the criminal justice system.”
All of these factors created a volatile and dangerous situation that resulted in the imprisonment and death of many innocent people.
How Many People Were Executed?
The official death count for the Salem Witch Trials is 20 people: 19 victims were hanged at Proctor’s Ledge, near Gallows hill, and one person was tortured to death.
Four people also died in prison while awaiting trial. The other victims were either found guilty but pardoned, found not guilty, were never indicted, evaded arrest or escaped from jail.
How Many People Were Accused?
According to various sources, over 200 people were accused of witchcraft during the Salem Witch Trials. Not everyone who was accused was pursued by authorities or arrested though.
Between 140 and 150 people were arrested for witchcraft during the witch hunt. Some of the court records have been lost over the years, but the following is an almost complete list of the victims arrested for witchcraft during the Salem Witch Trials:
Arrested for Witchcraft:
Nehemiah Abbott Jr
John Alden Jr
William Barker, Sr
William Barker, Jr
Mary Bridges, Sr
Mary Bridges, Jr
Thomas Carrier Jr
Bethia Carter, Sr
Sarah Cole (of Lynn)
Sarah Cole (of Salem)
Mary De Rich
Abigail Faulkner, Sr
John Jackson, Sr
John Jackson, Jr
George Jacobs, Sr
George Jacobs, Jr
Elizabeth Johnson, Sr
Elizabeth Johnson, Jr
Mary Lacey, Sr
Mary Lacey, Jr
Sarah Wilson, Sr.
Found Guilty and Executed:
Bridget Bishop (Age: 50s)
Bridget Bishop was a widow who lived in Salem town. Bishop had a bad reputation around town because she had been accused of witchcraft years before and had frequent run-ins with the law.
Bishop wasn’t the first person accused during the Salem Witch Trials but she was the first person tried because it was believed the case against her would be easy to win. She was brought to trial on June 2, found guilty and became the first person executed during the witch trials when she was hanged on June 10, 1692.
Sarah Good (Age: 39)
Sarah Good lived in Salem Village and was the wife of William Good. At the time of the witch trials she was poor and pregnant and would often go door to door in Salem Village begging for handouts while her husband worked as a day laborer.
Good was one of the first people accused of witchcraft during the Salem Witch Trials, along with Sarah Osbourn and Tituba. When the afflicted girls first began showing symptoms that they were bewitched, the girls accused the three women of the bewitching them. Sarah Good was brought to trial June 29 and executed on July 19, 1692.
Elizabeth Howe (Age: 57)
Elizabeth Howe lived in Topsfield and was the wife of farmer James Howe. Much like Bridget Bishop, Howe had also been accused of witchcraft before. In her previous case she was accused of bewitching a local girl.
No charges were ever brought up against Howe but she was later refused admittance to an Ipswich church due to the incident. In May of 1692, she was accused of witchcraft by the afflicted girls in Salem Village. She was arrested, brought to trial on June 29 and executed on July 19, 1692.
Susannah Martin (Age: 71)
Susannah Martin was a poor widow who lived in Amesbury at the time of the Salem Witch Trials. Much like Bridget Bishop, Susannah Martin had also been accused of witchcraft before. In her previous cases she was accused of infanticide and tormenting people with her specter. The charges were eventually dropped or dismissed.
Martin was accused of witchcraft by the afflicted girls in the spring of 1692. Susannah Martin was taken to Salem Village, brought to trial on June 29 and executed on July 19, 1692.
Rebecca Nurse (Age: 71)
Rebecca Nurse was an elderly grandmother from Salem Village and the wife of farmer Francis Nurse. She was a pious and popular woman who had a longstanding feud with the Putnam family over border boundaries between their adjoining land. She also disapproved of the controversial appointment of Samuel Parris, whom was a close friend of the Putnams, as the new Salem Village minister.
The Putnams were Rebecca Nurse’s main accusers during the witch trials and many of them testified against her. Rebecca Nurse was originally found not guilty at the end of her trial in late June but when the verdict was read out loud in the court the afflicted girls protested and the jury was asked to reconsider its decision. The jury reconsidered and came back with a guilty verdict. Rebecca Nurse was executed on July 19, 1692.
Sarah Wildes (Age: 65)
Sarah Wildes lived in Topsfield and was the wife of a local judge John Wildes. Sarah Wildes had somewhat of a bad reputation due to previous brushes with law. In 1649, she was accused of fornicating out of wedlock with Thomas Wardwell and in 1663 she was accused of wearing a silk scarf.
After she married widower John Wildes in 1663, John Gould and Mary Gould Reddington, the brother and sister of John Wildes’ late wife, developed a hatred of Sarah Wildes and, in 1670, began spreading rumors that she was a witch.
The rumors continued for years until an angry Sarah Wildes physically attacked Mary Gould Reddington on the road one day, pulling her off her horse and throwing her to the ground.
Even after Mary Gould Reddington passed away from natural causes years later, Mary’s friends continued to harass and torment Sarah Wildes. The Gould family were close friends with the Putnam family of Salem Village.
Shortly after the Salem witch hunt began in March of 1692, the Putnam family accused Sarah Wildes of witchcraft in April of 1692 and she was arrested. John Wildes daughter (from a previous marriage) and son-in-law, Sarah and Edward Bishop, were also arrested as was John’s other daughter Phoebe Wildes. Sarah Wildes was brought to trial on June 29 and executed on July 19, 1692.
Reverend George Burroughs (Age: 40s)
George Burroughs was the only Puritan minister to be accused and executed during the Salem Witch Trials. Burroughs was a minister in Casco, Maine during the 1670s but left the settlement after it was attacked by Native Americans.
He later settled in Salisbury, Mass for a while before being asked to serve as the new minister in Salem Village in 1680. The residents of Salem disagreed over his appointment as minister and he was not always paid his salary. He often borrowed money from the Putnam family to support his family.
When he stopped being paid all together, he left Salem and returned to Maine. At some point the Putnam family sued Burroughs for failure to repay his debt and shortly after accused him of witchcraft. Burroughs was arrested, brought to trial on August 5 and executed on August 19, 1692.
Martha Carrier (Age: 33)
Martha Carrier lived in Andover and was the wife of Thomas Carrier. Carrier was also the niece of outspoken opponent of the Salem Witch Trials, Reverend Francis Dane of Andover, and the sister of accused witch Mary Toothaker of Billerica.
Carrier was the first person in Andover accused during the Salem Witch Trials. She was accused by her neighbor Benjamin Abbot after the two had a dispute over land and Abbot immediately fell ill. Her children were also accused and were coerced into testifying against her. Carrier was brought to trial on August 5 and executed on August 19, 1692.
John Willard (Age: about 30)
John Willard was a deputy constable in Salem at the time of the Salem Witch Trials. He was one of the first people in Salem to speak out against the witch trials. Willard was responsible for helping to arrest the accused witches but soon began to doubt so many people could be guilty of witchcraft and quit his job in protest.
Shortly after, Willard himself was accused of witchcraft by Ann Putnam, Jr., who also accused him of beating her baby sister to death. Willard was not immediately arrested but his in-laws, the Wilkins family, began to grow suspicious of him.
Willard was accused a second time by his wife’s grandfather, Bray Wilkins, after Wilkins fell ill upon receiving a cross look from Willard in May of 1692. Just a few days later, Bray’s grandson, Daniel Wilkins, was found dead, his body bloody and beaten, and according to court records: “to the best of our judgments we cannot but apprehend but that he dyed an unnatural death by sume cruell hands of witchcraft or diabolicall act…”
An arrest warrant was issued for John Willard but he had already fled Salem Village. A second arrest warrant was issued and Willard was hunted down and arrested in Nashua, NH. During his examination at Beadle’s Tavern in Salem town, the incident with Bray Wilkins and Daniel Wilkins was brought up and the Wilkins family also accused Willard of beating his wife.
Several confessed witches testified against Willard as well as afflicted girl Ann Putnam, Jr., who testified that she saw many ghosts of people Willard allegedly killed. John Willard was brought to trial on August 5 and executed on August 19, 1692.
George Jacobs Sr (Age: 72)
George Jacobs Sr was accused of witchcraft by several people during the Salem Witch Trials, including his granddaughter, Margaret Jacobs. He was a reluctant church go-er and was an outspoken critic of the Salem Witch Trials.
He was first accused by his servant, Sarah Churchill, who also accused his granddaughter Margaret Jacobs. His son, George Jacobs, Jr, was accused as well but he evaded arrest.
Many people testified against George Jacobs, Sr, including almost all the members of the Putnam family. He was found guilty on August 5 and executed on August 19, 1692. Jacobs’ family reportedly retrieved his body from the execution site and buried him on the family property.
John Proctor (Age: 61)
John Proctor was a wealthy farmer who lived on the outskirts of Salem Village. He was an outspoken critic of the Salem Witch Trials and often threatened to beat or whip the afflicted girls for their role in the witch trials.
After his wife, Elizabeth Proctor, was arrested on charges of witchcraft in April of 1692, the afflicted girls turned on John Proctor during Elizabeth’s examination and accused him as well. John Proctor’s entire family was eventually arrested on charges of witchcraft.
Proctor knew Salem was in the midst of a mass hysteria and wrote a letter to the Boston clergy in July asking that they intervene or move the trials to Boston.
The clergy responded but it was too late to save Proctor, who was brought to trial on August 5 and executed on August 19, 1692. His remaining family members were either never charged or found guilty and pardoned. Proctor’s body was reportedly retrieved from the execution site and secretly buried on his farm.
Alice Parker (Age: unknown)
Alice Parker was the wife of fisherman John Parker. The couple lived in Salem town where Alice was known as a pious, honest woman. Parker also had a reputation for clairvoyance and on one occasion successfully predicted that a friend’s husband had died at sea.
In May of 1692, afflicted girl Mary Warren suddenly accused Alice Parker of witchcraft. During Parker’s trial, Warren made several surprising accusations against her, claiming Parker bewitched her mother to death, made her sister ill and drowned several men and boys in the sea, including a man named Thomas Wastgate and his entire crew who drowned after their ship sank. Alice Parker was brought to trial on September 9 and executed on September 22, 1692.
Mary Parker (Age: about 40)
Mary Parker was a widow from Andover. Parker was accused by Sarah Phelps and Martha Sprague of Andover. It is not known why the women accused her but Mary Parker stated during her examination that there was another woman in Andover named Mary Parker and suggested it was a case of mistaken identity.
Martha Sprague then stated that the woman in front of her was the woman who afflicted her. Mary Parker was brought to trial on September 17 and executed on September 22, 1692.
Ann Pudeator (Age: 70s)
Ann Pudeator was a widow who lived in Salem town where she also worked as a nurse and midwife. She had a reputation for being sharp-tongued and often quarreled with locals.
Pudeator was accused of witchcraft in May of 1692 by Sarah Churchill and several other afflicted girls of Salem Village. Some of her medical supplies, such as foot ointments, were confiscated and introduced to the court as objects of the occult.
During her trial, Pudeator accused many of her accusers of lying. Pudeator was brought to trial on September 9 and executed on September 22, 1692.
Wilmot Redd (Age: unknown)
Wilmot Redd lived in Marblehead and was the wife of fisherman Samuel Redd. Like Bridget Bishop and many other witch trial victims, Wilmot Redd had also been accused of witchcraft before in 1687. She was an unpopular person around town because she often quarreled with others and had an abrasive personality. Redd’s daughter was the wife of fellow accused witch Reverend George Burroughs.
Redd was accused of witchcraft in May of 1692 by the Salem Village afflicted girls and brought to Ingersoll Tavern in Salem Village for her examination. She had never met the afflicted girls before and when asked why they were afflicted she stated they were in a “sad condition.” She was indicted and several Marblehead residents testified against her. Redd was brought to trial on September 17 and executed on September 22, 1692.
Margaret Scott (Age: 77)
Margaret Scott was a widow from Rowley. Scott had seven children but only three survived childhood. After her husband died in 1671, Scott was left destitute and forced to beg from her neighbors. This made her unpopular with her neighbors.
Scott was accused by two of Rowley’s most notable families: the Wicoms and the Nelsons. A member of the Nelson family also sat on the grand jury that convicted her. Scott was brought to trial on September 17 and executed on September 22, 1692.
Samuel Wardwell, Sr (Age: 49)
Samuel Wardwell was a Quaker and carpenter from Andover. He was also a well known fortune-teller and practitioner of English folk magic. It is believed that his work in the occult as well as a his status as a Quaker led to his witchcraft accusation.
Wardwell was accused by Martha Sprague of Boxford in August of 1692, arrested and jailed in Salem. Shortly after, his wife and daughters were also arrested. During his examination, he admitted to fortune-telling and dabbling in magic and said that the devil may have taken advantage of him for these reasons. He then confessed to making a pact with the devil but later recanted his confession. Wardwell was brought to trial on September 17 and executed on September 22, 1692.
Martha Corey (Age: 72)
Martha Corey lived in the outskirts of Salem Village and was the wife of wealthy farmer Giles Corey. Corey had a reputation for being a pious member of the community despite the well-known fact that she had a child out of wedlock in the 1670s. Martha Corey was also an outspoken critic of the Salem Witch Trials and stated many times that the afflicted girls were liars.
During her own examination, she told the judge “we must not believe all that these distracted children say.” In March, Giles Corey testified against his wife in court, stating that she may have bewitched his farm animals and himself.
When Giles Corey himself was accused of witchcraft and arrested in April, he refused to provide any more information on Martha or himself. Martha Corey was brought to trial on September 9 and executed on September 22, 1692, just three days after Giles Corey had been tortured to death for refusing to enter a plea.
Mary Easty (Age: 58)
Mary Easty was the sister of accused witches Rebecca Nurse and Sarah Cloyce. She lived in Topsfield and was considered a pious, well-respected member of the community.
In April of 1692, Mary Easty was accused of witchcraft, arrested but was then released in May. She was accused again, a few days after her release, and arrested. She was examined and indicted on two charges of witchcraft. Easty was brought to trial on September 9 and executed on September 22, 1692.
Refused to enter a plea and tortured to death:
Giles Corey (Age: 71)
Giles Corey was a wealthy farmer who lived on the outskirts of Salem Village. He had a reputation for being an angry, violent man and was once charged with murdering his farmhand in 1676. He was found guilty but only suffered a fine for his actions. Many locals, including Thomas Putnam, suspected Corey had paid a bribe for his freedom.
In April of 1692, Giles Corey was accused of witchcraft after his wife, Martha Corey, had also been accused and arrested on the same charge. Giles Corey refused to enter a plea in an attempt to prevent his case from going to trial. He reportedly knew he was going to die, either in jail or on the gallows, and wanted to avoid being convicted before he did.
As a result, Giles Corey was tortured for three days in a field on Howard Street in Salem town in an attempt to force a plea out of him. He died on the third day of his torture on September 19, 1692.
Found Guilty and Pardoned:
Brought to trial on August 5 and found guilty. She was sentenced to death but the execution was delayed due to her pregnancy. She gave birth in January was released from prison in May, 1693.
Abigail Faulkner, Sr
Brought to trial on September 17 and found guilty. She was sentenced to death but the execution was delayed due to her pregnancy. She was released from prison in March, 1693.
Brought to trial in January, 1693 and found guilty. She was sentenced to death but pardoned by Governor Phips. She was released from prison in March, 1693.
Brought to trial on January 10, 1693 and found guilty. She was sentenced to death but pardoned by Governor Phips.
Elizabeth Johnson Jr
Brought to trial in January, 1693 and found guilty. She was sentenced to death but pardoned by Governor Phips.
Brought to trial on September 9, 1692 and found guilty. She was sentenced to death but never executed. She was released from prison in March, 1693.
Pled Guilty and Pardoned:
Confessed in August, 1692.
Confessed in April, 1692.
Mary Lacy, Sr
Confessed in July, 1692.
Confessed in September, 1692.
Died in Prison:
Died in jail in Boston on May 10, 1692.
Died in jail in Boston on June 16, 1692.
Died in jail on December 3, 1692.
Died in jail on March 10, 1693.
Escaped from Prison:
John Alden Jr.
Edward Bishop Jr.
William Barker Sr.
Bethiah Carter, Jr
Bethiah Carter, Sr
Thomas Farrer, Sr
George Jacobs Jr
Other victims include two dogs who were shot or killed after being suspected of witchcraft.
Most of the Salem Witch Trials victims were women but men were accused and executed too. Although some of the early victims were poor social outcasts from Salem Village, the accusations slowly spread to all types of people from all types of backgrounds, according to the book Death in Salem: The Private Lives Behind the 1692 Witch Hunt:
“Most of the victims were women. Everyone knew that witchcraft was largely a female perversity, but the reasoning stopped there. The over one hundred and fifty people singled out for social and legal ostracism over the course of 1692 included every age, social echelon, and background: rich and poor, young and old, feeble and sharp-witted. In Andover, seventeen alleged witches were identified in a single afternoon sting known as the ‘touch test.’ The villagers collected in the meetinghouse, then one by one, the women were blindfolded and led up to two of Salem’s writing girls. If the woman’s touch abated the girl’s convulsions, it proved that she was guilty. The logic seems to have been that physical contact with an actual witch would draw the evil spirits back out of the victim. So like sheep herded over a cliff, Andover’s women were seized, bound, served warrants, and loaded into the back of oxcarts for the four- or five-hour trip to Salem jail, their frantic relatives browbeating them the entire way. The ulterior reasons for their persecution sometimes surfaced at the trial. Often it was little more than a bad reputation or malicious gossip, repackaged and embroidered over decades. A human frailty or eccentricity might be trotted out as evidence. Sometimes it was the fruit of a protracted family feud, an insult uttered in haste, or a personal indiscretion – like Martha Corey’s – that the community refused to forget.”
Where Were the Accused Imprisoned?
Due to the large number of accused witches, the prisoners were kept in multiple jails in Salem, Ipswich and Boston.
According to the book, A Delusion of Satan: The Full Story of the Salem Witch Trials, the accused witches were considered dangerous prisoners and were kept in dungeons underneath the jails away from the regular prisoners:
“As the most dangerous inmates, the witches were kept in the dungeons. These were perpetually dark, bitterly cold, and so damp that water ran down the walls. They reeked of unwashed human bodies and excrement. They enclosed as much agony as anywhere human beings could have lived. The stone dungeons of Salem Town prison were discovered in the 1950s in St. Peter Street when the site was excavated to build a New England Telephone Company building. In 1692 they stood under a wooden structure, twenty feet square, known as the ‘witch jail.’ Since they were so close to the banks of a tidal river, they were probably infested with water rats. Certainly they were a breeding ground for disease…But accused witches were worse off than the other unfortunates [other prisoners.] Their limbs were weighed down and their movements were restricted by manacles chained to the walls, so that their specters could less easily escape to wreak havoc.”
The dungeons forever changed people and the ones who were lucky enough to survive the prison or escape the gallows often suffered for the rest of their lives. Such is the case with Dorcas Good, the four-year-old daughter of Sarah Good who was accused of witchcraft in March of 1692 and spent seven to eight months in jail before being released, according to the book The Salem Witch Trials Reader:
“Eighteen years later her father, William Good, was to write that ‘she was in prison seven or eight months and being chained in the dungeon was so hardly used and terrified that she hath ever since been very chargeable, having little or no reason to govern herself.’ By ‘very chargeable;’ he meant a financial burden: When she came out and for the rest of her days, he had to pay a keeper to take care of her.”
While in prison, the accused were repeatedly humiliated by being forced to undergo physical examinations of their bodies. The examiners were looking for physical evidence that the accused was a witch, such as a “mark of the Devil” or a teat from which the witch’s familiar was believed to have nursed from.
During the examinations the prisoners, who were mostly elderly, were stripped naked in front of a group of people and their bodies were poked and prodded and any suspicious marks or moles found were pricked with needles. The female prisoner’s breasts were often examined multiple times a day for signs of lactation or breastfeeding and the appearance of their breasts were recorded and discussed in the courtroom.
In his book Salem Witchcraft: With an Account of Salem Village and a History of Opinions on Witchcraft and Kindred Spirits, historian and former Salem mayor Charles W. Upham describes his disgust over this treatment of the prisoners:
“The mind loathes the thought of handling in this way refined and sensitive females of matronly character, or persons of either sex, with infirmities of body rendered sacred by years. The results of the examinations were reduced to written reports, going into details, and, among other evidences in the trials, spread before the court and jury.”
Where Were the Accused Questioned & Tried?
To determine if there was an actual case against the accused, they were usually taken either to the Salem Village meetinghouse, to Reverend Samuel Parris’ house, to Ingersoll Tavern at Salem Village or to Beadle’s Tavern in Salem Town. There they were questioned by a judge in front of a jury, which decided whether or not to indict the accused on charges of witchcraft.
The trials were then held in the Salem courthouse which was located in the center of Washington Street about 100 feet south of Lynde Street, opposite of where the Masonic Temple now stands.
This courthouse was torn down in 1760 but a plaque dedicated to the courthouse can still be seen today on the wall of the Masonic Temple on Washington Street.
How Were They Executed?
The executions took place on a small hill, called Proctor’s Ledge, at the base of Gallows Hill in Salem town. The victims were hanged by the neck by a rope tied to a tree. Contrary to popular belief, none of the victims were burned at the stake.
The reason is because English law only allowed death by burning to be used against men who committed high treason and only after they had been hanged until almost dead, quartered and drawn. The English considered it an unacceptable death for women since it involved nudity.
Burning at the stake was more popular in countries with a strong Catholic church because it did not involve the shedding of blood, which was not allowed in the Roman Catholic doctrine, and it ensured that the victim would not have a body to take with them to the after life.
Where Were They Buried?
After each execution took place, the victim’s body was cut down and placed in a nearby rock crevice or buried in a shallow grave somewhere on the execution site, according to a paper written by William P. Upham for the Peabody Historical Society in 1903:
“It is well known that the victims executed as witches on Gallows Hill in Salem, in 1692, were thrown into mere shallow graves or crevices in the ledge under the gallows, where the nature of the ground did not allow complete burial, so that it was stated at the time that portions of the bodies were hardly covered at all.”
As convicted witches, they were not allowed a Christian burial in consecrated ground. Relatives of several victims: Rebecca Nurse, John Proctor and George Jacobs, reportedly retrieved the bodies of their loved one and gave them a Christian burial on the family property.
It is not known what happened to the unclaimed bodies, or if there were any unclaimed bodies, but if there are they are most likely still buried in shallow graves at the execution site.
Were They Ever Exonerated?
Almost immediately after the Salem Witch Trials came to an end, the residents of Salem began to feel ashamed of what happened during the witch hunt.
They still believed in witches and the Devil, but they had doubts that so many people could have been guilty of the crime and they feared that many innocent people had been put to death.
The colony also been to suffer from frequent droughts, crop failures, smallpox outbreaks, Native-American attacks and other disasters and the colonists worried that the mistakes made during the Salem Witch Trials had angered God.
On December 17, 1697, Governor Stoughton issued a proclamation in hopes of making amends with God. The proclamation suggested that there should be:
“observed a Day of Prayer with Fasting throughout the Province…So that all God’s people may put away that which hath stirred God’s Holy jealousy against his land; that he would…help us wherein we have done amiss to do so no more; and especially that whatever mistakes on either hand have fallen into…referring to the late tragedy, raised among us by Satan and his instruments, through the awful judgement of God, he would humble us therefore and pardon all the errors and people that desire to love his name…”
The colony held the day of prayer on January 15, 1697, which was known as the Day of Official Humiliation.
On October 17, 1711, at the urging of the surviving convicted witches and their families, the colony passed a bill clearing some of the names of the convicted witches.
Not every victim was named in the bill though because some families of the victims did not want their family member listed. The bill states:
“Province of Massachusetts Bay Anno Regni, Anna Reginae Decimo. An act to remove the attainders of George Burroughs and others for Witchcraft. For as much in the year of Our Lord, one thousand six hundred and ninety-two several towns within the Province were infested with a horrible witchcraft or possessions of devils. And at a special court of Oyer and Termina holden at Salem in the county of Essex in the same year 1692, George Burroughs of Wells, John Proctor, George Jacobs, John Willard, Giles Corey and Martha his wife, Rebecca Nurse and Sarah Good, all of Salem aforesaid; Elizabeth Howe of Ipswich; Mary Easty; Sarah Wildes and Abigail Hobbs all of Topsfield; Samuel Wardwell, Mary Parker, Martha Carrier, Abigail Faulkner, Ann Foster; Rebecca Eames, Mary Post and Mary Lacey, all of Andover; Mary Bradbury of Salisbury, Dorcas Hoar of Beverly, were severally indicted, convicted and attainted of witchcraft, and some of them put to death, others lying still under the like sentence of the said court and liable to have the same executed upon them.
The influence and energy of the evil spirit so great at that time acting in and upon those who were the principal accusers and witnesses proceeding so far as to cause a prosecution to be had of persons of known and good reputation which caused a great dissatisfaction and a stop to be put thereunto until their majesties pleasure should be known therein; and upon a representation thereof accordingly made, her late Majesty, Queen Mary, the Second of Blessed Memory, by her Royal letter given at her court at Whitehall the fifteenth of April, 1693, was graciously pleased to approve the care and circumspection therein; and to will and require that in all proceedings against persons accused for witchcraft, or being possessed by the Devil, the greatest moderation and all due circumspection be used so far as the same may be without impediment to the ordinary course of justice.
And some of the principal accusers and witnesses in those dark and severe prosecutions have since discovered themselves to be persons of profligate and vicious conversations. Upon the humble petition and suit of several of said persons and of the children of others of them whose parents were executed.
Be it declared and enacted by His Excellency, the Governor, Council and Representatives authority of the same, That the several convictions, in General Court assembled, and by the judgments and attainders against the said George Burroughs, John Proctor, George Jacobs, John Willard, Giles Corey, Martha Corey, Rebecca Nurse, Sarah Good, Elizabeth Howe, Mary Easty, Sarah Wildes, Abigail Hobbs,Samuel Wardwell, Mary Parker, Martha Carrier, Abigail Faulkner, Anne Foster, Rebecca Eames, Mary Post, Mary Lacey, Mary Bradbury, Dorcas Hoar, and any of them be and are hereby reversed made and declared to be null and void to all intents, constitutionalism and purposes whatsoever as if no such convictions, judgments and attainders had ever been had or given, and that no penalties or forfeitures of goods or chattels be by the said judgments and attainders or either of them had or incurred. Any law, usage or custom to the contrary notwithstanding. And that no sheriff, constable, goaler or other officer shall be liable to any prosecution in the law for anything they then legally did in the execution of their respective offices.
Made and passed by the Great and General Court or Assembly of her Majestys Province of the Massachusetts Bay in New England, held at Boston the 17th day of Oct, 1711.”
The victims and their families named in the bill were also paid restitution totaling £600, which was divided up among them. Officials distributed the money in Salem in January and February of 1712.
In 1867, former Salem mayor Charles Wentworth Upham wrote a book about the Salem Witch Trials, titled Salem Witchcraft: With an Account of Salem Village and a History of Opinions on Witchcraft and Kindred Spirits, during which he applauded the victims for their bravery and courage:
“The sufferers in 1692 deserve to be held in grateful remembrance for having illustrated the dignity of which our nature is capable; for having shown that integrity of conscience is an armor which protects the peace of the soul against all the powers that can assail it; and for having given an example, that will be seen of all and in all times, of a courage, constancy, and faithfulness of which all are capable, and which can give the victory over infirmities of age, weaknesses and pains of body, and the most appalling combination of outrages to the mind and heart that can be accumulated by the violence and the wrath of man.”
On August 28, 1957, Massachusetts Governor Foster Furcolo signed a bill into law that officially apologized for the Salem Witch Trials and cleared the name of some of the remaining victims not listed in the 1711 law: “One Ann Pudeator and certain other persons” yet did not state the other victim’s names.
In 1992, on the 300th anniversary of the trials, the city of Salem built the Salem Witch Trials Memorial and the city of Danvers built the Salem Village Witchcraft Victims’ Memorial in honor of the victims.
On October 31, 2001, the state amended the 1957 apology, clearing the names of the remaining victims:
“Chapter 145 of the resolves of 1957 is hereby amended by striking out, in line 1, the words ‘One Ann Pudeator and certain other persons’ and inserting in place thereof the following words:- Ann Pudeator, Bridget Bishop, Susannah Martin, Alice Parker, Margaret Scott and Wilmot Redd.”
According to the Salem Award Foundation website, there are roughly 25 million people around the world who are descended from the Salem Witch Trials victims and the other participants in the trials.
Norton, Mary Beth. In the Devil’s Snare: The Salem Witchcraft Crisis of 1692. Vintage Books, 2003.
Hill, Francis. The Salem Witch Trials Reader. DaCapo Press, 2009.
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