Salem in Massachusetts is perhaps best known for its Salem witch trials. This was a series of hearings and executions of people accused of witchcraft in the old colony of Massachusetts. They have haunted America ever since and stand as a reminder of how much thinking has changed since those early days.

The Salem witch trials took place between February 1692 and May 1693. In this time over 200 people were accused of with 30 were found guilty. 19 were executed, while another was pressed to death for refusing to plead, and is it thought at another 5 or more died in jail. There are many colonial attractions to visit in New England and Massachusetts in particular. Don't forget to visit the Plimoth Patuxet living museum (formerly Plimoth Plantation) of where the Puritans first settled.

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Background Of the Salem Witch Trials

This was the deadliest witch hunt in the history of colonial North America. Throughout the rest of the 17th century in Massachusetts and neighboring Connecticut, "only" 14 other women and 2 other men were executed.

  • Over 200: Were Accused
  • 19 Hanged: 14 Women and 5 Men
  • 5 People: Died in Jail

The Salem Witch Trails are considered one of Colonial America's worst examples of mass hysteria. They have been used as reasons for never forgetting due process and keeping in check extremism.

  • Women: Around 78% Of Those Accused and Convicted

Most of the people accused and convicted of witchcraft were women. The Puritan beliefs at the time in New England were at women were inherently sinful and more susceptible to damnation than men. While Puritans thought that men and women were equal before God, they were not before the Devil. Women were more likely to be accused if they were unmarried or didn't have children. One can visit a replica of the original Mayflower that first brought the Puritans to New Plymouth today.

Related: Est. 1673! Grab A Beer At "America’s Oldest Tavern” In Rhode Island

Salem Witch Museum

One of the main Salem Witch Hunt attractions is the Salem Witch Museum that delves into what would become one of the most enduring and emotional events in American History. Their museum is made up of two presentations. The first provides an immersive look into the events of 1692. Visitors will learn about these dark times and the web of lies and intrigue that plagued the witch hunt.

The second exhibit is called "Witches: Evolving Perception" and is a tour focusing on the meaning behind the word witch. They will delve into how the image of witches has changed over time. They have gone from workers of the Devil's black magic that spell doom for the good people of this world, to green Wicked Witches of the West (or Good Witches of the North), to students at Hogwarts.

This presentation focuses on the European witch trials (nothing happens in a vacuum) and the emergence of the stereotypical witch and the growth of witch-hunting.

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  • Open: Year-Round Every Day (Closed Thanksgiving, Xmas, New Year's Day, and a Few Weeks in January For Renovations)
  • Presentations: Offered Every Half Hour From 10.00 am to 4.30 pm
  • Admission: Adults: $15 | Seniors: (65 and Over) $13.50 | Children: (3-14) $12
  • Address: 19 1/2 Washington Square North, Salem, Massachusetts 01970

Related: What Really Happened To The 'Lost Colony' At Roanoke? These Are The Best Theories

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Tours & Witch Hunt Movie - Essex National Heritage Area

There are a number of Salem walking tours about the witches available. One is Myth & Misconceptions - Walking Tour. Those frightful trials that happened over 300 years ago have been dramatized in media, in movies, in documentaries, and in books. One of the dangers of this is that real history can get lost.

This tour seeks to delve into the history and uncover the myths and misconceptions that have grown up about the Salem Witch Trials. One will get to see what really happened why it happened.

  • Duration: Approx. 1 Hour
  • Includes: Stops At The Witch Trails Memorial And The Site Of The Original 17th Century Jail
  • Price Of The Tours: Adults: $12.00 | Seniors: (62+) $10.00 | Children: (6-16) $9.00
  • Under 6: FREE

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Another attraction they offer is the film Salem Witch Hunt: Examine The Evidence. This is presented by the Essex Heritage and the National Park Service. The film features authentic dialogue and has been researched by renowned scholars. It was shot on actual locations of the Witch Trials.

  • Movie Times: Wednesday-Sunday at 11:00am, 12:00pm, 1:00pm, 2:00pm & 3:00pm (May Change With The Season)
  • Movie Ticket Prices: Adults: $5.00 | Seniors: (62+) $3.00 | Children: (6-16) $3.00
  • Under: 6 FREE

There are many other witch hunt-themed tours in Salem. A list of tours of Salem can be seen here. Salem is one of America's most historic cities and one that is haunted by the past.

One of the best places in America to discover the nation's colonial history is in Virginia's Historic Triangle that includes the original site and replica of Jamestown, the colonial Williamsburg, and the historic battlefields of Yorktown.

Next: This Is What It Was Like To Be A Puritan During Colonial Times In New England