Over the past two years, the phrase “Witch Hunt” has taken a seat in the center in American politics. With that, it may have lost most of its emotional impact, but at one time, it truly represented one of the horrors of American history. Today I visited a memorial to the victims of that witch hunt in Salem Massachusetts.
First let’s start with a little bit of history. The year was 1692 and the British Colonies were quickly growing along the New England Coast. Modern science wasn’t yet known, and superstition ran rampant throughout the world population. In the small colony of Salem, a group of young girls claimed to be possessed by the devil and accused several women of witchcraft. Needing to get to the bottom of this, the locals convened a court session. The first convicted witch, Bridget Bishop, was hanged that June. Eighteen others followed Bishop to Salem’s Gallows Hill, while some 150 more men, women and children were accused over the next several months. Driven by a fear of the unknown and of outsiders, these trials will always be a stain on American History.
Their memorial lies in a small park in the town of Salem. The town itself is minuscule and there really isn’t much else there. The memorial lies directly along the side of the road, but there isn’t any street parking. A small parking lot lies on the opposite side and opens up into a field with a small path running through it to the memorial. As I walked up, I felt an eerie calm that was quite disconcerting. I couldn’t really place my finger on why I felt anxious, but as I walked u[p to the statues, I instantly felt a heavy emotional weight on my shoulders.
It really was surreal looking at the quotes engraved in the rock and reading about the victims. It all feels so real being here. The word torture specifically sticks out to me and feels like it pierces through my soul. Immediately I am transported into the past, imagining my friends or family being falsely accused and burned for no reason at all. I have a hard time understanding the favor that ran through the minds of the towns people. How ridiculous that a personal dogma can instill so much fear in the hearts of men, that it would lead them to these results. A single tear escapes my eye and runs down my cheek. We always need to remember the dangers of herd mentality and the horrors that our unprovable beliefs can bring.
Salem Witch Trial Victims Memorial
24 Liberty St, Salem, MA 01970
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