Salem, Massachusetts does not shy away from its past and the notorious Salem Witch Trials of the late 17th Century, which draws tourists to this seaport year-round, though October is an especially busy time. If you’re curious about the Salem Witch Trials, but not up for braving the crowds, we have a few items in our collections that may pique your interest.
Nestled in series 2, volume 3 of the Massachusetts Historical Society Collections, is Dr. Jeremy Belknap’s transcribed “Recantation of confessors of witchcraft,” in which he recounts several women’s stories of being coerced into confessing that they were witches. Dr. Belknap had hand-written his account, and it was transcribed as completely as possible, though his hand was apparently difficult to decipher. The stories are a bit harrowing; especially with one woman whose brother tried with all his might to convince her that she was a witch and must confess it.
[Gooewife Tyler] said, that when she was brought to Salem, her brother Bridges rode with her, and that all along the way from Andover to Salem, her brother kept telling her that she must needs be a witch, since the afflicted accused her, and at her touch were raised out of their fitts, and urging her to confess herself a witch… (Belknap, p. 223)
For more on the trials, here are two trial transcripts that are part of our trials collection:
Tryal [for Witchcraft], Court of Oyer and Terminer, held by adjournment at Salem, June 30, 1692.
A Further account of the tryals of the New-England witches. : With the observations of a person who was upon the place several days when the suspected witches were first taken into examination. To which is added, Cases of conscience concerning witchcrafts and evil spirits personating men.