2001 October 31

Massachusetts Exonerates Five Salem Witch Trial Victims –On Halloween !


The Massachusetts legislature on this day passed a resolution exonerating five victims of the notorious 1692 Salem Witch Trials. It passed the resolution and the acting governor signed it — on Halloween!

The Salem Witch Hunt is one of the most infamous chapters in all of American history. Innocent people were falsely accused of being witches, often on the basis of “spectral evidence.” A total of twenty people were executed for allegedly being witches. The first to be executed, on June 10, 1692, was Bridget Bishop. Others who were convicted were released and not executed after the community and leaders of the Massachusetts Bay colony came to their senses.

During the Cold War, the acclaimed playwright Arthur Miller wrote the play The Crucible (January 22, 1953), which drew an analogy between the Salem Witch Hunt and the anti-communist hysteria of the Cold War. In Salem, the interrogation of suspected witches began with the question, “What evil spirit have you familiarity with?” It was echoed during the Cold War when HUAC and other communist-hunters asked, “Are you now or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party?”

The resolution adopted on this day exonerated Bridget Bishop, the first person executed (by hanging) during the witch hunt hysteria (June 10, 1692); Alice Parker, Susannah Martin; Margaret Scott; and Wilmot Redd. Descendants of the five were present when the legislature acted, and cheered when the resolution passed.

Massachusetts had previously cleared victims of the witch hunt hysteria in 1957, but the resolution named only one person, and “certain other persons.”

Read the best new book on the subject: Stacy Schiff, The Witches: Salem, 1692 (2015)

Read: Mary Beth Norton, In the Devil’s Snare: The Salem Witchcraft Crisis of 1692 (2002)

Visit the memorial to the Salem Witch trials: http://www.salemweb.com/memorial/memorial.shtml

Learn more about the trials: http://law2.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/salem/salem.htm

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