Research team pinpoints site of Salem witch trial murders.
January 13, 2016 6:15 AM   Subscribe

He has told me that his nurse had often told him, that ... she saw, from the chamber windows, those unhappy people hanging on Gallows’ Hill, who were executed for witches by the delusion of the times. Building on work done a century ago by lawyer and historian Sidney Perley, a team of historians and researchers has definitively identified the exact location where those found "guilty" in the Salem, MA witch trials of the seventeenth century were murdered, or in the words of many, "executed."

Most students of the history of Salem know that the witch trial murders took place somewhere on Gallows Hill. In 1921, local historian Sidney Perley named Proctor's Ridge as the location, based on his own meticulous research. But the area was far too big and the technology lacking to identify the exact site.

Research team member Marilynne K. Roach says that Sidney Perley apparently examined "every deed and will" in the Salem courthouse, and the team relied heavily on Perley's work. But more and different kinds of evidence were needed to pinpoint a precise location.

The Salem Evening News (link in the FPP) has a very good account of the methods used by the team to track down the site. A good map of the site can be found in the Globe article also linked in the FPP.

The City of Salem will build a modest monument to the memory of the victims on Proctor's Ridge. But it is nearby Danvers that houses what's arguably the most resonant monument to the witch trials: the Salem Village Witchcraft Victims' Memorial, located across the street from the site of the Salem Village Meeting House where the accused were "examined" and found guilty. On the Victims' Memorial are etched some of the last words of the accused women and men who would die on Proctor's Ridge.
posted by Sheydem-tants (33 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
 
This is incredible research, that has taken the last 150+ years to find 20 murders that happened 325 years ago. Thats amazing. Any way you look at it, its amazing how history, geography, science, local records and even logic were used to find a location from that long ago.

What bothers me is that for whatever reason, we will probably never know the numerous locations that several thousands of slaves were murdered for whatever reason. There are plantations/fields/locations where I'm sure more slaves were disciplined to death in a month than all of the women (and I think one dude, and a few dogs) who were murdered during the entire SWT hysteria.

And we will never know about that...for whatever reason.
posted by hal_c_on at 6:51 AM on January 13, 2016 [8 favorites]


I know that area well - my Dad and stepmom lived in Salem for a time, and my stepsister lives basically down the street in Peabody. Here is what it looks like in Google Street View. Thanks for the post.
posted by Rock Steady at 7:10 AM on January 13, 2016 [4 favorites]


Wow, bad news for the owners of that tan house and Walgreens.
posted by maryr at 7:30 AM on January 13, 2016 [3 favorites]


"Which Walgreens did you find that Pepsi LipSmackers at?"

"Murder Embankment Walgreens."

"Oh yeah, at the corner of Proctor St. Yeah, I always forget there's a Walgreens there, what with the witch murders."
posted by maryr at 7:31 AM on January 13, 2016 [13 favorites]


"Welcome to Walgreen's. Can I help you?"
"I have a prescription. Here..."
"Okay. What flavor would you like? We have cherry, banana, damned soul, watermelon--"
"I'm sorry, what was that?"
"Watermelon?"
"No, before that."
"We can flavor your medicine with the faint eldritch sensation of a murdered woman clawing for all eternity at the thin membrane that separates this world from the next."
"..."
"Oh, I forgot! We have cookies-and-cream now."
"Banana, please."
"Okay, but I'll warn you -- some people say the banana flavoring tastes a lot like damned soul. They all taste like damned soul here."
"Did... did your voice change just then?"
"I can't imagine. Will there be anything else?"
"No..."
"Great. It'll just be a few minutes."
posted by Etrigan at 7:38 AM on January 13, 2016 [31 favorites]


While a one way street is apropos, surely they could have made this a dead end?
posted by Capt. Renault at 7:48 AM on January 13, 2016 [3 favorites]


I'm a congregationalist church pastor - and while we love to tout our "firsts" we often like to gloss over the fact that our polity and governance led to the irrational mob violence that stole these poor lives.

The terrible reality is that these murdered folks were Christians - they plead their faith in the face of all that brutality. And they were martyred by people who were recently descended from a population that fled that same sort of persecution. This is why we have to put bodies on the line when it comes to defending the establishment clause. It only takes a generation or two of religious rule before the knives are sharpened and the nooses strung. The testimony given against these individuals was religious in composition, based on folklore, and bolstered by a man (Mather) who was obsessed with his irrational hatred of women and human sexuality. And I'm certain that when their parents and grandparents landed in Plymouth they breathed a sigh of relief and said something like, "at least it can never happen here."

It can always happen here.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 8:01 AM on January 13, 2016 [41 favorites]


Manager Cheever: Purge your contempt and give us your true and honest allegiance! You will give the consent to us!

Regional Manager Parris: Speak man, we cannot relent. What say you, sir? Can we sign you up for a Walgreens Balance Rewards Card?

Customer: No...thank...you.

[Another weight is placed on the customer's chest.]

Manager Cheever: Think upon your answer very carefully, sir! Reflect upon your wife and your blessed children! Do you not want them to receive a $5 instant reward to redeem on their next purchase?

Customer: Not...today...thank you.

Regional Manager Parris: It brings me no pleasure to do this, you must understand that. Add another weight!
posted by Ian A.T. at 8:07 AM on January 13, 2016 [49 favorites]


...more Walgreen's jokes, please, they're too perfect.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 8:37 AM on January 13, 2016 [3 favorites]


The Google Street View confirms that it's an ominous location for a Massachusetts town — no Dunkin Donunts in sight.
posted by bendybendy at 8:42 AM on January 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


There's a Dunkin Donuts diagonally across from the Walgreens.

My dad grew up across the street from that Dunkin Donuts.
posted by bowbeacon at 8:45 AM on January 13, 2016 [6 favorites]


Then I started out, by a winding route, for Gallows Hill. Ascending St. Peter Street, I stopt at St. Peter’s Church (a place for all the world like an old parish church in England) to view the graves. They are scatter’d about in all angles of the hoary edifice, even straggling in single file along the narrow plot of grass separating the north wall from the flagstone walk beside it. One stone, in a southwest angle of the church, contains a name used by Mr. Hawthorne in connexion with one of his novels: reading “Here lyes buried ye body of Jonathan Pue, Esq., Late surveyor and searcher of his Majesties’ customs in Salem, New England”. He died in 1760. I was now at the corner of Federal Street, site of the town gaol of 1692 where the suspected witches were confin’d. One wall of the gaol is still standing, built into a house now number’d 4 Federal St. Being yet at liberty I paused not here, but walkt along Federal St. westward, following the route prescribed by the book and my later informant. I beheld some of the most famous mansions of the town, including the Pierce-Nichols House (1782), into which I could not get till the following day, tho’ it is own’d by the Essex Institute. I several times paused to stroke cats, which abound in all parts of the town; whether or not left there by witches, none may say. At last I reached bleak Boston-Street on the western rim of the town, and walkt north toward Gallows-Hill. Here the houses were grayer and more uncommunicative, and the cold wind made sounds I had not before notic’d. A very old man told me where to find the approach to Gallows-Hill, and hobbled beside me a while as if knowing that I was, like himself, in some way strangely linkt to the spectral past. When the ascent became steep he left me, but not without hinting that Gallows-Hill is not a nice place to visit at night. On and on I climb’d, crunching under my heavy overshoes the crushed, malignant snow. The wind blew and the trees tossed leafless branches; and the old houses became thinner and thinner. Some were not over a century and a half old, but others had overhanging gables and latticed windows which told me that they had been standing there when the terrible carts rattled with their doomed load from the gaol in Federal Street. Up .... up .... up .... Damn that wind—why can’t it sound less articulate? At last I was on the summit, where in the bed rock still lurk the iron clamps that held the witch gallows. It was getting on in the afternoon, and the light was reddish that glow’d over all the outspread town. It was a weird town in that light, as seen from that hill where strange winds moaned over the untenanted wastes on the westward. And I was alone on that hill in that sepulchral place, where the allies of the devil had swung ... and swing ... and hurled out curses on their executioners and their descendants. I recall’d a witchcraft judge (Major Bartholomew Gedney) in mine own maternal ancestry, and thought of certain imprecations of the dead in fact and fiction..... “God shall give them blood to drink.” And at that moment, as God is my judge, I heard faintly but distinctly the clanking of chains in the wind....the chains of the gibbet which had not stood since 1693 .... and from that accursed wind came a shriek that was more than the shrieking of wind ..... a malignant, daemoniac sound that left in my ears the hideous echo of a syllable ... “-ire”

- H.P. Lovecraft, Letter to Frank Belknap Long
posted by robocop is bleeding at 8:51 AM on January 13, 2016 [6 favorites]


I feel really bad for the other Salem Walgreens. They used to think they were hot stuff what with their bus stop and proximity to the lamp shop but now that must be ashes in their mouths.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 8:52 AM on January 13, 2016 [4 favorites]


That is the worst Yelp review of a Dunkin' Donuts I've ever seen.
posted by Etrigan at 8:54 AM on January 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


“God shall give them blood to drink.” And at that moment, as God is my judge, I heard faintly but distinctly the clanking of chains in the wind....the chains of the gibbet which had not stood since 1693 .... and from that accursed wind came a shriek that was more than the shrieking of wind ..... a malignant, daemoniac sound that left in my ears the hideous echo of a syllable ... “-ire”

tfw you trying to get prescriptions filled at Walgreens
posted by Rock Steady at 8:59 AM on January 13, 2016 [7 favorites]


.
posted by fiercecupcake at 9:01 AM on January 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


"Hi, I'd like to get my prescription filled?"
"OK, let's have a look... Tylenol Three, Cortisone cream, and I can't seem to make this last one out."
"Root of Hemlock."
"I'm sorry, what was that?
"Root of Hemlock."
"I'm not sure I'm familiar with that. I'd better call your doctor. Who is your doctor, actually? I can't make out his signature."
"She's a she. My doctor is a she."
"What's her name, then?"
"Dr. Le Fay. Morgan"
"Hmm. She's not coming up on the database, here. Where does she practice?"
"Listen, I'm in a bit of a hurry. Can you fill this prescription or not?"
"Ma'am, I have procedures I have to follow, and these are very basic questions. I hope you understand. Now, would Dr. Le Fay be listed on your Blue Cross?"
[*hisses, disappears in cloud of smoke*]
posted by Capt. Renault at 9:21 AM on January 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


Nobody else is spooked by the familiar name of the Ledge? Guess none of y'all played Elizabeth in your high school's production of The Crucible...(hair swish)
posted by Mooseli at 9:24 AM on January 13, 2016 [4 favorites]


I just spoke with the archivist (Danvers, aka Salem Village) in the basement and he rolled his eyes at this whole thing. This isn't new information, just an attempt to drum up the backing needed for a historical marker. Of course, there's some factionalism when it comes to the Hysteria and it looks like the proponents are in a different camp than he is, so this could be general grousing.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 9:46 AM on January 13, 2016 [5 favorites]


This isn't new information

Of course not. People knew about it like 300 years ago.
posted by Etrigan at 9:55 AM on January 13, 2016 [9 favorites]


Mooseli: "Guess none of y'all played Elizabeth in your high school's production of The Crucible"

I played Reverend Hale, tyvm, and I denounce these proceedings.
posted by Rock Steady at 9:58 AM on January 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


It can always happen here.

muslim panic* at christian college...
This evangelical Christian professor might lose her job for the way she reached out to Muslims
posted by kliuless at 10:36 AM on January 13, 2016


(Barely) open thread on that here, kliuless.
posted by Etrigan at 10:39 AM on January 13, 2016


thx!
posted by kliuless at 11:22 AM on January 13, 2016


Heh. I'm in my local community theatre group's production of THE CRUCIBLE in four weeks. In a church hall in Manchester, England. MUST LEARN MY LINES. Excuse me.

I saw cortex with the devil!
posted by alasdair at 11:49 AM on January 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


1921? The roaring 20s were nuts.
posted by OwlBoy at 11:55 AM on January 13, 2016


I played Mary Warren in my high school's Crucible. It was my biggest star turn to date.

What we weren't quite taught then -- out of ignorance, I'm sure, not malice -- was that Andover, where I was attending that school, was also a hotbed of witchcraft executions. The woods surrounding the school always felt full of that unearthly malice that Lovecraft spoke of, and they may well have hidden terrible things.
posted by Countess Elena at 3:11 PM on January 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


This isn't new information

Of course not. People knew about it like 300 years ago.


Well, the word on the street int he 20th century has been that no one actually knew the exact exact location, so they've worked out all this stuff about sight lines to justify their current pick. But I agree with Robocop's archivist's assessment. And hey, it made the news. Those neighbors aren't going to be fans.

Bleak Boston Street

Still an apt descriptor.
posted by Miko at 8:11 PM on January 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


Just read a story on this in the Boston Globe, and read all the comments...yeah...and found this one at the bottom:
There's no new news here—the location of the hangings was established over 80 years ago. The Peabody Essex Museum owns a map copyrighted in 1933 by James Duncan Phillips, assembled by William W. K. Freeman, identifying the exact same location noted in your article as the "Probable Place of Executions." The map was based on the research of Sidney Perley, mentioned in the article, and it is reproduced on the back inside cover of "The Salem Witchcraft Trials" by Katherine W. Richardson, first published by the Essex Institute in 1983, and copyrighted again by the Peabody Essex Museum in 2008. What did the current researchers establish that wasn't already established in 1933? And why was there no mention of these prior findings in the article?
posted by Miko at 8:47 PM on January 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


I was into knowing the sites of 325 year old murders before it was cool.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 9:55 PM on January 13, 2016 [4 favorites]


The terrible reality is that these murdered folks were Christians - they plead their faith in the face of all that brutality. And they were martyred by people who were recently descended from a population that fled that same sort of persecution.

"Once again, we see that religion manages to ruin absolutely everything." --Brian Sewell
posted by Short Attention Sp at 4:26 AM on January 14, 2016


Sorry if this has already been posted, but Atlas Obscura has the best explanation of what this "viewshed analysis" looks like of anything I've read so far.
posted by Miko at 12:34 PM on January 15, 2016 [1 favorite]


What we weren't quite taught then -- out of ignorance, I'm sure, not malice -- was that Andover, where I was attending that school, was also a hotbed of witchcraft executions. The woods surrounding the school always felt full of that unearthly malice that Lovecraft spoke of, and they may well have hidden terrible things.


Maybe someone didn't do their reading so closely :) It's mentioned in the text that Reverend Hale has been going back and forth to Andover and the judges are suspicious that he has been fomenting the revolt against the witch trials.
posted by Salamandrous at 5:33 PM on January 17, 2016


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