Updated: Apr 23, 2019
“He wondered at the atrocities human kind was capable of committing. The majority of those housed below were ill, mentally or physically, not witches. Most were poor victims--the outcasts of society; or the opposite, people so blessed, others coveted their lives.” ― Brynn Chapman
On this day in 1692, the first people were accused of witchcraft in Salem Massachusetts - Sarah Good, Sarah Osborne and Tituba, a West Indian slave. They were arrested the following day.
On June 10th, 1692, Bridget Bishop, the first victim of the Salem witch trials, was hanged for witchcraft in the colony of Massachusetts. Five more people were hanged on July 19th. And then five more on August 19th. On September 22nd, eight people were hanged for witchcraft. Overall, 20 people were hanged in the United States during the Salem witch trials.
On October 12, 1692, Governor Phips puts an end to any new witchcraft cases in Salem and bans any new publications about the trials. On October 29th, the court that had been convened for the trials was dissolved. Few records were kept of these events.
On December 14, 1692, the Great and General Court of Massachusetts passed a new law allowing the widow of a condemned witch to keep her dowry and inheritance, which normally would be confiscated by the court. The law also allowed for a condemned witch to be given a proper Christian burial and provided alternative punishments to death for lesser witchcraft-related crimes.
In May of 1693, Massachusetts Governor Phips received instructions from England to end the trials and all proceedings. Phips issues a proclamation stopping all further court proceedings against accused witches and pardoned the remaining accused in jail.
Fast forward to the fall of 1970. The popular television show, Bewitched, aired several episodes about the Salem Witch Trials which were filmed in Salem. In the episodes, Samantha time travels back to 1692 and tells the Salem judges “The people that you persecuted were guiltless. They were mortals, just like yourselves. You are the guilty,” The episodes caused a surge in public interest in the trials and Salem soon became a popular tourist destination.
Today, much of Salem's cultural identity reflects its role as the location of the trials. Police cars are adorned with witch logos, a public elementary school is known as Witchcraft Heights, and the Salem High School athletic teams are named the Witches. Gallows Hill, believed to be the site of numerous hangings, is currently used as a playing field for various sports.