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  • Writer's pictureTeresa Keefer

Remembering Innocent Lives Lost

On March 1, 1692 the 'authorities' of Salem, Massachusetts engaged in one of the most horrendous investigations in American history. This was the day they questioned Sarah Good, Sarah Osborne, and a slave woman by the name of Tituba about their practice of what was deemed in those times as witchcraft. Over the following months, over 150 men and women were jailed on charges of "Certaine Detestable Arts called Witchcrafts and Sorceryes". By the time it was over, 19 innocent lives were taken by hanging with the exception of one man--Giles Corey--who was pressed over a period of two days. Each time he was asked to confess, he cried out for them to put more weight on his body. For two days this man was tortured. All because he would not confess to engaging in witchcraft.

Giles Corey was a landowner in Salem at the time, and had he confessed to witchcraft, his property would have been seized by the Salem authorities leaving his descendants with nothing. Therefore, the man was subjected to pressing between stones until he came to an excruciatingly painful death.

I was able to spend some time in Salem last fall. I walked the Old Burying Point cemetery where there are now tribute stones for each of the lives taken. However, those who were murdered by the authorities were not buried there because they were not allowed to be. Heaven forbid if the hallowed ground would be tainted by those who were accused of witchcraft. I was also fortunate enough to visit Proctor's Ledge where there is another memorial for those innocent lives. Proctor's Ledge is where those lives were taken. Starting with the hanging of Sarah Good, Elizabeth Howe, Susannah Martin, Rebecca Nurse, and Sarah Wildes on July 19, 1692.

What happened in Salem, Massachusetts was an example of how a small group of fanatics persecuted innocent people. Intolerance brewed in the town which held staunch Puritan beliefs carried over from England. To me, it shows how religion controlled the populace to the extent they would turn a blind eye to what was happening to their neighbors and friends. This was a time of injustice and division that resulted in 19 hangings, one pressing, and over 20 more who died in jail. Let's remember those victims...

Below are pictures of the memorial at Proctor's Ledge...

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