Monday, June 15, 2015

The Witch Hunt

"It's just a bunch of hocus pocus".....a line from one of my favorite Halloween movies, Hocus Pocus, which was set in Salem, MA.


We recently visited Salem, specifically, the historic district.  I have always been fascinated with the Salem Witch Trials and the Salem area.  I envisioned Salem filled with all sorts of historic Puritan overtones relating to the witch trials, with volunteers or paid city employees walking the streets in costumes reenacting the 17th Century way of life.  I realized quickly that I live in a fantasy world because that's not what I found.  I found quite a bit of modern day shops selling current witch-type items....voodoo dolls, potions, magic charms, incense, etc.  There were also psychic shops and tarot card readers o'plenty.  I was totally NOT interested in this bunch of hocus pocus.


I wanted information that would substantiate or contradict everything I've ever read and heard about the Salem Witch Trials.  I was looking for something a little more solid than religious hysteria.  While I couldn't find anything concrete to contradict the craziness of the witch trials, I was able to speak to someone who offered a little more plausible explanation for the witch trial period (which was actually only 4 months in the Salem area).  She said that most locals believe the witch hysteria occurred over land disputes.  If John B. had some land that William S. wanted to get his hands on, then Willie boy would accuse John (or someone in John's family) of witchcraft.  John (or said family member) is executed and the land becomes available for the taking.  Sounds pretty reasonable to me.  After all, these guys were in a new country trying to find their footing and trying to escape the long arm of the country they left behind.


They worked under the premise that "he who has the most, wins".  This makes sense to me.  Other plausible reasons for the unexplained illnesses include food allergies.


Again, these people are in a new country and if you eat something poisonous or something you are allergic to because you don't know it's poisonous or that you have an allergy, it would make you sick or kill you.


This period of US History is so surreal.  We are so far removed from this time period that it is hard to imagine that this type of religious and political hysteria took place.  But it's all there, in black and white or living color.





I've provided a few links for your inquiring mind.  Salem Witch TrialsSalem: The World Behind the Hysteria; Wikipedia Salem Witch Trials.
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22 comments

  1. I've always been curious about this myself. I think that the explanations you heard sound pretty on point. I've been looking for a good summer read...I think I am going to start here. Non fiction, of course! Hope it was a fun day!

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    1. We had a nice time -- it was definitely a different place. I think I want to read more about all of this also and may order a couple of books. Of course, they had tons of those, but their prices were through the rough -- not unexpected for a tourist location.

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  2. Amazing (and reprehensible) that those things actually took place, huh?
    Brenda

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    1. Brenda, I couldn’t agree more! That they could create such outrageous stories and act upon backward beliefs. I would like to think our society is different, but unfortunately, we are not! It was totally heartbreaking to see these engraved stones. And the irony of it all – the tombstone of one of the “witch” judges is juxtaposed with a sign advertising tarot readers and psychics.

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  3. Spooooky and eeeeery (of course fantastic) photos! It is all very fascinating! I was curious too, that it only lasted 4 months, I was under the impression it lasted for years! Thank you for the wonderful historic tour, Benita! Have a lovely week!
    hugs, Christine

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    1. Thanks so much Christine! To me, Salem is much like New Orleans, in that it has a weird vibe around the city. Like you, I had always thought it lasted for years and was surprised to see that it was just a short time. Hope you have a great week also! Hugs!!

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  4. I bet it was CORN! Did you find out if all the persecuted were woman? Love the BW photography.

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    1. Thank you ma'am! I fully believe a lot of the illnesses were food allergies or poison oak/ivy reactions. Those make you look and feel like you are dying and since we know that food allergies will kill you if untreated, it makes even more sense to me. No, not all of them were women. There were several men and I think 1 or 2 younger girls. But if you kill/convict the women, the men will be driven away. When we took our tour of Newport, they mentioned that it was established by Puritans who left Massachusetts because they didn't like the religious ways - I bet it was some of the people who were tired of the witch accusations or some whose family members were accused.

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  5. I would not have wanted to live during that time period. But I hear that the area is very pretty now! Funny how today witchcraft is tolerated in our "to each his own" society!

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    1. Me either Ann Marie. I would have been hanged for being so outspoken and defiant…LOL. The area is pretty, just could use a little more attention from the Historical Society. We thought it was very ironic that a town known for murdering it’s residents for the possibility of witchery is now overflowing with that very thing! A true turn indeed!

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  6. My Aunt and Uncle lived in Salem and I spent many, many weekends there. My Dad was from Massachusetts but moved to Connecticut which is where I live for the time being. My Uncle used to tell me stories when I was younger and scare the hell out of me but I always loved Salem.

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    1. Salem is a very unique and enchanting place. We were hoping to hear all kinds of crazy stories for entertainment purposes but there were none. Just a quaint little town with some interesting history, beautiful buildings and gorgeous views of the harbor.

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  7. Your theories sound reasonable to me. There usually is a commonsense explanation for most things.

    I didn't realize the trails happened in such a short period of time.

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    1. I thought they lasted longer also and was shocked to see it was only 4 months. Quite a bit of destruction for such a short period of time. I think if they had used a little common sense back then, these horrible things would not have happened. But you can’t reason with hysterical people!

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  8. I was just reading the other day how John Calvin a leader of the Reformation, had someone who didn't agree with him flayed and burned at the stake. Gruesome times back then.

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    1. It was a totally gruesome and revolting time period. Those crazy and egocentric leaders literally held your life in their hands. No one had a voice and if you did, you were killed for it!

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  9. I love walking through Salem. Coolest little town ever!

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    1. It was definitely an interesting place. We enjoyed seeing it!

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    2. I found the most amazing little shop there that I didn't want to leave.... full of books about spells, etc, and spices..just the neatest store ever! The house was really unique!

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    3. It reminded me very much of some of the places in New Orleans. We found a great little spice shop that I did not want to leave...LOL. It was amazing. We stayed in a B&B that was built in 1667 and it still had the original kitchen...so very cool!

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  10. I'm shocked that they don't have a bunch of people in costume there. I thought it would be more like Williamsburg or one of those other recreation places.

    My aunt went there once and said it was completely boring and run down, but that was about 10 years ago and she's a snot LOL

    xo

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    1. Your aunt is not a snot about Salem…..LOL The Historical Society has not kept up the some of the historic buildings so parts of it were very run down, some parts were in good shape. We thought maybe there would be people dressed up also, but they weren’t. I think it would make it a lot more interesting if they were. There were some cute shops, but quite a few seemed to cater to “cultish and psychic” clientele, which did not include us…LOL. Hugs!!

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