Halloween is right around the corner and before you know it you’ll be seeing hordes of pint-size ghosts, werewolves, and witches walking door-to-door soliciting candy by crying out “Trick-Or-Treat.” And while this annual tradition in itself has an interesting history, those black-draped, broom-straddling she-villains with their signature pointy hats have a fascinating history all to their own. While pop culture may conceptualize witches as green-faced spell casters, the real legend behind them is one of complexity, and perhaps no other historical event depicts this better than the Salem Witch Trials. If you want to discover more about the truth behind this Halloween costume favorite there is no better place to learn about the historic Salem Witch Trials than at the Salem Witch Museum, located in the same town where the haunting incident took place.
The Salem Witch Trials
As arguably the most infamous witch hunt in history, the Salem Witch Trials took place in 1692 in Salem, Massachusetts. After young girls in the village grew ill and were diagnosed with bewitchment, an intense period of hysteria, paranoia, and superstition ensued. A few outcasted women were accused of being witches and, in an attempt to protect themselves, they confessed and implicated others. As charges grew and nearly 200 people became accused of practicing witchery, the justice system eventually became overwhelmed. A short time later the prosecuting court was disbanded and the trials were deemed unlawful, but not before 19 innocent people were hanged and one man was pressed to death.
The Legend Lives On
When the Salem Witch Trials came to an end, those jailed under the pretense of practicing witchcraft were set free. Financial restitutions were given to the families of the victims and apologies were issued. The illness, once believed to be bewitchment, was later reported to most likely be fungus ergot, acquired from ingesting infected grain. Today the trials remain an important reminder of the effects widespread fear has on society, and a chilling testament to the modern-day witch hunting that still takes place in parts of the world.
Visiting the Museum
The Salem Witch Museum documents the dark history of the Salem Witch Trials through staged interpretations and dramatic narrations of the events. Additionally, visitors receive educational insights into contemporary witchcraft practices and society's changing interpretations of witches. As of 2016, admission costs only $11 for adults and the museum is open year round. In addition to the museum, Salem is home to a number of other historic sites connected to the witch trials that are just as fascinating as the museum itself. When you make your visit to the museum, be sure to plan a stop at these other great sites:
Witch Trials Memorial
Dedicated to memorializing the tragic events of 1692, the Witch Trials Memorial consists of 20 granite benches inscribed with the names of the victims and their execution dates. Although these stone markers exist, the actual locations of the victims' graves remain unknown.
Known as Gallows Hill, this location is the actual site where the executions took place. Because it was only recently identified to be the site of the hangings there is currently no memorial or identifying marker in place, although that is anticipated to change.
The Witch House
This building was home to Judge Jonathon Corwin and it is the only structure that remains intact with direct ties to the witchcraft trials. Tours of the house are offered during which participants gain a deeper understanding of what life was like in the 17th century.
Peabody Essex Museum
This comprehensive museum of art and culture is home to 552 of the original documents relating to the Salem Witch Trials. The actual court documents are preserved and on display here for visitors to marvel at.
Planning Your Stay
There are comfortable RV accommodations less than ten minutes from the Salem Witch Museum at Winter Island Park. This is a simple campground with beautiful scenery, making it an ideal place to stay at while touring the famous town of Salem. RV waterfront sites and field sites are available so you can either look out over charming beaches or breathtaking bluffs. Hiking trails are located on-site, as well as the historic Fort Pickering Lighthouse! The town trolley stops in the campground so you can easily get to the museum without having to fire up your rig!
Whether you’ll be disguising yourself with a classic witch costume or not this Halloween, making a trip to the Salem Witch Museum is a great way to get in the All Hallow’s Eve spirit! Plan your visit today! If you’ve already been to the Salem Witch Museum, tell us about your experience in the comments section!