Where: Salem village, Massachusetts, New England, USA
What happened: 19 villagers were hanged with accusation of witchcraft and devil worship. Hysteria took hold as more and more villagers were accused of being taken over by the devil.
Go there for: Past and present experience of Wicca faith and witchcraft.
Salem is synonymous with witches and witchcraft. More than 300 years ago, this small town in Massachusetts was in the grip of a nine-month religious fervour. Nineteen men and women were hanged, one man crushed and hundreds of lives irrevocably changed. All were accused of witchcraft and being in league with the devil by a group of Puritan girls over-stimulated by the voodoo tales of a Caribbean slave called Tituba. The real events of Salem were depicted in a tense drama, The Crucible by playwright Arthur Miller.
Today in Salem witches and witchcraft are a big business. For $5 you can raise the devil in the Witch Dungeon Museum or pick up a Hysteria Pass and scare yourself silly at Witch Village. Even the police cars here have got a witches logo on them.
There are 2,500 modern day witches, or Wiccans, who live around Salem. Laurie Cabot, the ‘Official Witch of Salem’ set up the WLPA in 1986 to correct myths and misinformation on witches and defend their rights. Witches generally don’t do evil or worship Satan. They have regular clothes and look and dress like ordinary people. Modern witches do use spells, but they are a form of prayer and not for harmful purposes.
Wicca is a pre-christian faith based on nature which was resurrected in 1951 by Gerald Dardner after the laws against witchcraft in England were repealed. Wicca is a tolerant religion that pays homage to a God and Goddess and recognises no personification of evil. The Wicca religion was recognised in the US under the Constitution in 1985. The Mabon is a harvest festival held to thank the Goddess for giving us enough produce to feed us through winter.
Salem Witchcraft Hysteria
Online ‘blair witch’ style witch hunt game
Want more? Join Ian Wright as he journeys through the Deep South, home to the civil rights movement, the American civil war, and blues, jazz and rock.
main image: The only remaining structure in Salem with direct ties to the Witchcraft Trials of 1692. Image courtesy of Jennifer Boyer, Flickr creative commons