Were it not for three prolific months in 1692, Salem Massachusetts might just be another town in the United States. But a horrific event took place during that now-infamous year that changed the legacy of Salem forever: The Salem Witch Trials.
The impact of the trials is still felt in the town today. Visitors come from all over the world to witness the historic sites for themselves and experience a destination that is now perpetually entwined with witches, Halloween, and all things spooky.
But there’s more to Salem than the trials that occurred in the 17th century. Check out these 10 spine-chilling and captivating facts about the town!
10 The Town's Name Was Definitely Not Prophetic
The name Salem is now heavily associated with Halloween, witches, and all things spooky. It was even the name of the family cat in the TV series Sabrina the Teenage Witch! Given the town’s history, there’s a certain image that comes up when we hear that name.
So it comes as a surprise that the town’s name originally comes from Hebrew, and it basically means the opposite of scary. The 17th-century settlers decided to name the town Salem after Shalom, the Hebrew word for peace and harmony.
9 The Witch Trials Lasted Only Three Months
There is one single event that put Salem on the world map and that’s the Salem Witch Trials. Even though hundreds of years have passed, the atrocities committed during that time have stayed with the locals and the rest of the world. Interestingly, the trials themselves only lasted three months.
According to the official Salem website, the trials were shorter than most people believe, but they were still deadly. During that time, 19 people were hanged and one person was pressed to death. The trials only lasted three months, but they managed to leave a perpetual dark mark on the town’s history.
8 Men Also Died During The Trials
When we think of witches, we typically think of women. The image of the witch that pop culture gives us is almost always female, so it’s normal to imagine only women being hunted during the Salem Witch Trials. In actual fact, five of the hanged 19 witches were men. Giles Corey, who was pressed to death for refusing to enter a plea at his trial, was also a man.
Adults weren’t the only ones to suffer during the trials. In addition to the 19 hanged and Corey who was tortured, there were five who died in prison. One was just an infant.
7 Some Condemned The Trials At The Time
Looking back, we as a society condemn the Salem Witch Trials and try to ensure that history never repeats itself in this regard. However, at the time, there were also individuals who resisted getting caught up in the hysteria. They saw the trials for what they were and condemned them.
One such man was Reverend Increase Mather, who famously said, “It were better that 10 suspected witches should escape than one innocent person should be condemned.” Governor William Phips also saw the situation clearly when his wife was accused and pardoned those who had been charged.
6 A Great Fire Tore Through The City In 1914
Because the shadow cast by the Salem Witch Trials was so great, it eclipsed the other major tragic events that took place in Salem throughout the years. Everybody’s heard of the trials, but few people know about the Great Salem Fire.
In June of 1914, a horrific fire tore through Salem’s leather manufacturing district after being ignited in Boston Street. Burning for two days, it left nearly half of the town’s population homeless and jobless by destroying nearly 1,400 buildings. The superstitious believe that the fire was started by the spirit of Giles Corey, as revenge for his death by torture during the trials.
5 Salem Gave Birth To More Than Just The Witch Trials
Salem’s achievements tend to be overshadowed by the legacy of the trials, so it may come as a surprise to learn that the town was actually the birthplace of the American military. The town Governor, John Endecott, created an official militia to defend Salem in 1628. During this time, every man of age was asked to complete service. The first-ever assembly of US troops was held on the Salem Common.
This paved the way for the creation of the Army National Guard. In 2013, President Barack Obama signed a law stating that the birthplace of the guard is indeed Salem, Massachusetts.
4 Several Scary TV Shows And Movies Have Been Filmed In Salem
It’s far away from Hollywood, but Salem has still served as the filming location for several TV shows and movies, according to Things to Do in Salem. Unsurprisingly, films and series with themes of witchcraft or Halloween are often filmed in Salem. Among these is the TV show Bewitched, The Lords of Salem, and of course, the Disney Halloween classic Hocus Pocus.
The 1996 movie The Crucible, set during the time of the Salem Witch Trials, was also filmed in Salem. Aside from visiting the historical sites of the city, many travelers now like to visit the old filming locations.
3 Witches Still Bring Tourists To Salem Today
Salem prides itself on having a thriving tourism industry, driven in large part by global interest in the history of the town. Every year, more than one million tourists flock to the town, collectively spending $100 million annually. Many visit the Salem Witch Museum and historic sites such as the 17th-century Witch House.
The most popular time to travel to Salem is during Halloween, but this might not be a good idea if you don’t like crowds. There are around 250,000 people in the town over a typical Halloween weekend!
2 There Is Only One Remaining Building From The Salem Witch Trials
Although Salem pays tribute to its history and will never forget its past, there is only one building still standing in the town today that was directly related to the Salem Witch Trials that took place in 1692. This is perhaps the most famous building in the town—the Witch House, which was built sometime between 1620 and 1642.
During the trials, the house belonged to Judge Jonathan Corwin. History of Massachusetts reveals that it is possible - not proven - that Corwin brought accused witches into the house to interrogate them before their trials.
1 There Is More Than One Salem
Salem in the world. In fact, the town inspired the name of a city in Utah, now also called Salem. According to Herald Extra, Salem, Utah was named after Salem, Massachusetts because one of its settlers was born there.
Salem, Utah is home to such landmarks as the Salem Pond and the Dream Mine of John Hyrum but doesn’t receive nearly as much interest or notoriety as its Massachusetts counterpart.