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A Fascinating Lesson in Salem

A Fascinating Lesson in Salem

It's a term heard used throughout society and media today in a variety of ways: witch hunt. But where did this term originate?

And how does its history parallel with what we're experiencing in modern times? The Salem Witch Museum in Salem, Massachusetts, gives groups an inside look.

The Salem Witch Museum examines one of the most enduring and emotional events in American history: The Witch Trials of 1692.

In January 1692, the daughter and the niece of Reverend Samuel Parris of Salem Village became ill. When they failed to improve, the village doctor, William Griggs, was called in. His diagnosis of bewitchment put into motion the forces that would ultimately result in the death by hanging of 19 men and women. Additionally, one man was crushed to death, seven others died in prison, and the lives of many were irrevocably changed.

Upon entering the museum dedicated this historic event, groups are able to learn about the drama of that dark time via materials based on actual trial documents, all while surrounded by 13 life-size stage sets and figures accompanied by captivating narration.

Photo courtesy of Kate Fox.

The second exhibit in the museum, Witches: Evolving Perceptions, is led by a guide who delves into the changing interpretations of witches, the truth behind the stereotypes, witchcraft practice today and the frightening phenomenon of witch hunting.

Groups who want to take things a step further can view the self-guided tour map of the 1692 Salem Witchcraft Trial sites around Essex County and Boston. They can even visit sites including original houses, foundations, gravesites and sites historically marked.

As years passed since the trials, apologies were offered and restitution was made to the victims' families. Historians and sociologists have examined this most complex episode in our history so that we may understand the issues of that time and apply our understanding to our own society.

The parallels between the Salem witch trials and more modern examples of "witch hunting"—like the McCarthy hearings of the 1950s—are remarkable and remain a relevant topic for groups.

Written by Sarah Suydam, Staff Writer for Groups Today.

Main photo courtesy of Salem Witch Museum. 

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