Between 1692 and 1693 a mass hysteria over witches and witchcraft occurred in colonial Massachusetts, resulting in the execution of 19 innocent people, and now, the actual execution site has been found – not on top of Gallows Hill as had always been believed.
A modern-day slang term “witch hunt” was derived from the hysteria of the Salem witch trials, to describe a misguided campaign against a person or a group of people who hold unpopular or unorthodox views, those that are alleged to be a danger to society. The term is also synonymous with injustice and paranoia.
In colonial Massachusetts, witch hunts sought to find actual persons who were believed to be engaged in the art of witchcraft, allegedly using the “devil’s magic.”
During the years between 1692 and 1693, more than 200 people were accused of practicing witchcraft, 20 of which were executed, the majority being women.
In time, the colony admitted the trials were a mistake and compensated the families of those who were convicted.
Site of the executions
Because many of the accused were killed by hanging, until only very recently, it was believed that the executions were carried out at a place known as Gallows Hill, where 19 people were hanged. A 71-year-old man was pressed to death using heavy stones. In addition, several people died while in jail.
Technology locates the relocation
Using a combination of ground penetrating radar and high-tech aerial photography, researchers from Salem State University say they have found the actual site of the Salem Witch Trials, which meets all the criteria.
The actual site is a place called Proctor’s ledge. It is a set among rocks, and is located behind a present-day Walgreens drugstore.
Coincidentally, a local historian and attorney had also concluded that Proctor’s ledge was the actual site all the way back in 1936. It was convincing enough that the city purchased the land.
Now, that the University has confirmed the findings, the city is considering placing a marker or memorial on the site to respectfully commemorate the victims.
Lessons learned from Salem “witch hunts”
One of the most important lessons that can be taken from the Salem witch hunts and Witch Trials is how easily people can turn against one another. It is a reminder that people should be seen as innocent until proven guilty, as well as, the need to strive for a greater sense of community. It reminds us to not be quick to judge people that are different than us or who have opinions that differ from ours.
A similar type of paranoia called the “red scare” or “McCarthyism” occurred during the early 1950s under the direction of Senator Joseph McCarthy, who alleged that there were many communists inside the US government and other institutions. It resulted in many unfair allegations and investigations, as well as, causing many people to become blacklisted or lose their jobs.