Dinah: Welcome to this self-guided audio tour at the Peabody Essex Museum. I’m your host, Dinah Cardin. The tour starts inside the museum with stops at three different galleries and will take you outside the museum to visit a half dozen locations around Salem. The average length of the tour is about 90 minutes, but set your own pace as you listen to PEM curators offer an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at some of the most compelling objects and stories in Salem.
We start in a gallery featuring Native American and American art, with a few objects related to the Salem witch trials . If you haven’t already done so, please make your way over to the Putnam gallery. There is a sign there about this tour outside the gallery entrance. Each of the stops on the audio tour will conclude with this sound. [SOUND] That's your cue to scroll to the next slide and click play. You'll find detailed maps on the bottom of each slide to help orient you inside and outside the museum.
Dinah: We will stay right here for a moments in the light filled atrium where we’ll give you some background. More than 300 years after the Salem witch trials , the personal tragedies and grievous wrongs continue to fascinate us and provoke reflection. The infamous series of events in 1692 led to the deaths of 25 innocent men, women and children. The Peabody Essex Museum has the largest collection of original Salem witch trials materials and serves as the leading authority of the tragic events. Today, we seek to provide a more complete story of what happened. We're joined now by Dan Lipcan, the Ann C. Pingree director of PEM's Philip Library. Dan has become an expert on this topic, having curated two exhibitions at PEM that featured the Salem witch trials . Dan, can you set the stage for us for the events of 1692?
Dan: 1692 was a little bit of a crazy time. The inhabitants of the Massachusetts Bay Colony were experiencing things like extreme weather, very hot summers, very cold winters, bad crops. There was hunger. There was a border war on the Northern edge of the colony with the indigenous populations at the time. This contributed to kind of a sense of panic and threat. Settlers had come over to the Massachusetts Bay Colony from England, where they were searching for religious freedom. This was a Puritan society run by Puritan elders. This was not America yet. It was a very early stage in New England's history. There wasn't electricity or power. It was dark. It was mysterious, probably very scary. Life was very, very difficult. You add the extreme weather, the border wars, disputes among people for property lines, people struggling to gather resources and fend for themselves and their families. All of those factors contributed to conditions where accusations, revenge, and suspicion could come to life. Over 200 people were accused of these heinous crimes which were, if you were found guilty, punishable by death. Ultimately, 25 innocent men, women, and children lost their lives to this crisis.
Dinah: Dan, we know that the events in Salem in 1692 have fascinated people for centuries. What's the appeal?
Dan: That is true. People have been fascinated for centuries and it seems every generation has a new take on what the trials meant, what caused them, what the factors were. The term "witch hunt," if you're paying attention to the news at all, you know that it's pervasive in our society. Witch hunts have a very long history. They've taken place throughout the world, particularly in Europe. But for some reason, even though hundreds more people died in Europe, we are talking about Salem in 1692. This is the iconic case of witchcraft. The history here has inspired artists, writers, and historians around the world. We've got hundreds of books, plays, movies, TV shows, and podcasts. All sorts of amazing material of people taking a crack at interpreting and understanding these events. I think part of the fascination is that 1692 was a very long time ago. The trials were not on TikTok or Instagram live. There's a certain amount of mystery and there's a certain amount of information that we just will never know.
Dinah: Now it's time to go inside the Putnam Gallery. Go to the halfway point of the Native American and American installation where you'll see a sign on the wall that says Salem witch trials .
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Dinah: Now that we're all here in the Putnam Gallery, go to the right of the witch trials sign. Find the case containing old documents. Let's move on to the items before you. People living in 1692 held these possessions, lived with this furniture in their homes, wrote these words. It gives you goosebumps, doesn't it?
Dan: It does. It's really powerful to see the words and the thoughts of these people accusing their neighbors. In many cases, condemning them to death. As you can see, the handwriting can be pretty difficult to read. We have transcribed these documents. We've digitized them and made them available on our website, pem.org. The library maintains a collection of just over 500 original documents from the trials. And these are 320 years old. It’s incredible that these have survived that long and they are still readable.One document that we see here is a recording of the examinations of Sarah Good, Sarah Osborne, and Tituba from March 1, 1692, one of the very first examinations of the crisis. It accuses Tituba, who was an indigenous woman enslaved by the local Reverend Samuel Parrish. Samuel's daughter and cousins made the first accusations of witchcraft when they accused Tituba, Sarah Good, and Sarah Osborne, Tituba goes on to testify here. She's confirming for Salem residents that this was a broader crisis than they had imagined. She stated that she saw seven more people performing witchcraft. That really scared people a great deal and made it very real to them. Tituba was held in prison until May 1693. For more than a year, she languished there in prison and these were horrible places to be. Actually, a few people die in prison during the course of the trials, because they were such terrible places. A grand jury finally rejected the charges that were brought against her in May 1693. She was effectively purchased by another person, who in turn enslaved her.
Dinah: How has that felt to continually work with these?
Dan: It's an incredible honor to work with these documents. People over 300 years ago wrote these words on these pieces of paper. It's been really amazing to get used to the penmanship. The more you look at these documents and figure out how to transcribe them, the easier it is to read them, which is a fun thing to come out of my work. Again, this is a human story. There are real people involved here that went through this terrible tragedy. It makes everything a little bit more tangible and understandable when we can see these things in front of us that were used and created in that time.
Dinah: Now, we move to this dramatic oil painting directly above the case.
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Dinah: This large oil painting by Tompkins Harrison Madison depicts a dramatic courtroom scene. To tell us more is PEM Associate Curator Sarah Chasse.
Sarah: You can see, as we approach this painting, it is a very dramatic scene. There are numerous people filling the room that we see. There are very rich jewel tones throughout in the costumes of the people. In the right foreground, you see George Jacobs, Sr. kneeling and pleading for his innocence in the courtroom filled with people, swirling action, color, drama, people are fainting, people are raising their arms in protest. In the immediate foreground, a young woman reclines in another woman's arm and points towards George Jacobs. We believe that is meant to depict his granddaughter, Margaret Jacobs, who was his principal accuser in the trials. This was painted by Tompkins Harrison Madison, an American painter who is very famous for painting history scenes, and also scenes from famous works of literature, like those of Nathaniel Hawthorne. Matteson reimagined the examination and trial of George Jacobs almost 150 years after the Salem witch trials . This painting really stands in for many people as a visual representation of the trials, even though it was painted so long after them in what is really a romanticized, imagined fashion. You can see at his foot lies a black hat. Under the hat is a walking stick. He was known to walk around town with both his walking sticks.
Dinah: This is the actual stick?
Sarah: This is actually George Jacobs' walking stick.
Dinah: Now look to the lower left of the painting, where you’ll see the walking stick.
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Sarah: PEM owns the two walking sticks that belonged to George Jacobs. He was known to walk about round with both of his walking sticks. And in particular, in terms of the testimony against, several of the accusers claimed he used his walking sticks to beat them in spectral or spirit form.
Dinah: If we look at this stick, would we know anything about when it was carved? How it was made? It's so very old.
Sarah: Yes. It's a very simple form. We can presume that it was made here in Salem in the late 17th century. We do not know who made it. The Peabody Essex Museum is extremely fortunate to be the caretaker of all of these original objects that survived from people involved in the trials. Both people who are accused in the trials and accusers.
Dinah: How does it help us better understand the story when we see this stick that was in this man's hands every single day?
Sarah: I feel like the actual objects are a portal to understanding that time and period, and the culture in which these events happened.
Dinah: Move to the right of the painting where there is a small cabinet in a case.
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Dinah: What is this really cool chest over here?
Sarah: This is an incredibly rare 17th century American made cabinet. It was made by the Symonds shop of joiners, here in Salem. They brought back carving and joining traditions from England where they had emigrated from. This is a valuables cabinet. It was made to commemorate the marriage of Joseph and Bathsheba Pope in 1679. In the octagon shape that's carved onto the front of the panel, you can see their initials and the date commemorating their wedding. This was a luxury item at the time. Thirteen years after their wedding, the Popes became principal accusers in the witch trials. This cabinet is important in terms of craftsmanship in American furniture, but beyond that it has this extra layer of power and meaning.
Dinah: Do we know who they accused or a little bit about that story?
Sarah: The Popes accused many people of witchcraft during the course of the trials. Their testimony led to the conviction and execution of three innocent people: Rebecca Nurse, Martha Corey, and John Proctor.
Dinah: What sort of things would have been kept in this cabinet?
Sarah: Great question. You will notice we have the door open on purpose so that you could peek inside of it. It has 10 drawers inside. The chest was one of the most valuable possessions that the Popes would've owned in that time period, in addition to textiles. In this, you would keep small items, money, documents, and other valuable items. You can see that it has a keyhole on the front. It was designed to be a locking cabinet to keep your possessions safe. One of the reasons this cabinet is so rare is for its craftsmanship and the original finish of the cabinet is preserved. This makes it one of the most outstanding examples of 17th century American cabinet making. At the time of English colonial settlement, Salem became known for its cabinet making and this carried on for several centuries. To us now, it looks like a worn, brown with black accent cabinet. But in its time, it would've been very brightly colored. The natural colors of the wood would have made this bright red, brown, yellow, and black colors overall. It was really a dazzling object in its time.
Dinah: Next we go to the middle of the room where you’ll see a chair inside a case.
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Dinah: What are we looking at here? This grand chair.
Sarah: This is an amazing 17th century turned great chair. A great chair would be like an armchair that was used by the head of the household in a 17th century home. This was made by a joiner here in Salem who had originally come here from England. This chair commemorates Philip and Mary English who were accused in the witch trials. They were wealthy, prominent members of the Salem Community. There are words on the back top splat of the chair. It says, "It shall be told of her." Then, if we look at the back of the chair, on the top, in paint, it says, "1692." The Salem historian, Reverend William Bentley, preserved this chair because he recognized its significance. He added the painting to commemorate Mary English's life. Philip and Mary English were able to escape the trials, and so they were not executed. They were able to come back to Salem after the trials. Yet, the chair still stands as a powerful testament to their false accusation. It is so important to remember the actual history of the witch trials, and to really think about the injustice that was done to these innocent people.
Dinah: For the fastest way to exit this gallery, go back the way you came. Or continue to look around this gallery at some very Salem specific objects and furnishings and we’ll meet you at the next stop.
When you leave this gallery, go up the main stairs or the elevator to reach Level 2. Walk forward and then take a left into the East Gallery. Look up, where you’ll find an exhibition on the balcony. It’s called Salem Stories. We'll meet upstairs there at the letter O for October.
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Dinah: As we walk into the gallery, let's first address the whale in the room. This giant, suspended, long finned pilot whale skeleton has no doubt caught your attention. It was collected in next-door, Beverly Harbor in 1873. We're here today to look at smaller objects, things related to the Salem witch trials. Salem Stories is an exhibition that presents 26 vignettes about this unique city. Salem is home to many stories with local, national, and international significance. Did you know that Alexander Graham Bell completed the first successful long distance telephone call from Salem in 1877? Did you know that Parker Brothers produced the game Monopoly here? Then, of course, there is the Salem witch trials . PEM curator Paula Richter will tell us more.
Paula: We are at the section, which is O for October, and it explores objects and artwork related to Salem's current Halloween celebrations. This month-long, very unique, very energetic series of programs and activities draws visitors from around the country and even internationally here to Salem. This had its roots in the 19th century when mass commercialization timed to some of the anniversaries of the original Salem witch trials . Beginning around 1892, with the bicentennial of the Salem witch trials , a lot of local businesses began to make specialized products using the history and mythology about the Salem witch trials in new ways. We're going to look at a product, it was called witch cream. It was a product that was made by CH&J Price. It was a skin product and they developed a cartoon like advertising Motif. They used it to promote their skin product to consumers at the time. It says it nourishes the skin. It's very cleansing and healing and it keeps it soft, clear and fresh.
Dinah: The beginning of witch kitch?
Paula: In some respect, yes.
Dinah: It seems like to me this product would completely sell now. I can see this selling in Salem shops. [laughs]
Paula: It’s one of a number of witch inspired products that were made at the time and then into the 20th century.
Dinah: What’s next?
Paula: Well, another object that is probably a little bit less commercial, is a witch weathervane from around 1900, probably, again inspired by the early interest from the time of the bicentennial of the Salem witch trials in 1892. This is by an artist whose name we don't know. It came from a local building and it's a wonderful silhouette. It's made out of iron and it was painted originally. It depicts a figure riding a broom with a pointed hat and then a bat or a bird is off to one side. Perfectly balanced as weather vanes have to be. It’s a very bold and compelling object. It also casts a wonderful shadow in our gallery, so it looks very dramatic.
Dinah: Love it. OK, and what's this? Now direct your attention to the sheet music in the same case.
Paula: Our Phillips Library here at the museum has a substantial collection of early musical manuscripts and printed sheet music. This is called "The March Of The Salem Witches" and it's by George H. Walker & Company. It was published in 1896. It was written by a local man John Masoud of Salem. It shows a parade with figures, there's a drummer in the front and there are figures carrying broomsticks, there's a little bit of the harbor in the background and a number of other elements. John Masoud was involved with a band here in Salem. This is an example of locally composed music along the Salem witch theme.
Paula: Another object we have in this case is a very rare and early mechanical toy. It was produced around 1868, so just after the American Civil War really at the height of the Industrial Revolution. There were a lot of small manufacturers who also found inspiration with The Salem witch trials and this is a mechanical Fortune Teller. It's of a figure mounted on a base that has a drum. The drum spins around and when it stops, it points at a fortune. It's kind of a game or a toy, but it also draws on some of the interest in fortune telling spiritualism. That was also very popular in the late 19th century. I can imagine a family clustering around this toy and spinning it, and then one by one learning what the fortunes were.
Dinah: Next, we’re going to look up at a poster from a beloved movie that was filmed partly in Salem.
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Dinah: One of the most eye catching things in the O section for October is the Hocus Pocus poster here that people might see right away and recognize people like Bette Midler and Sarah Jessica Parker. What can you tell us about this?
Paula: In 1993, there were a variety of places in Salem that were filmed for the movie Hocus Pocus. One of them was one of the historic houses of the Peabody Essex Museum, the Ropes Mansion. I had the experience of being present in the house as one of the staff who were supervising the use of the house during the filming. This poster shows the three main characters who are Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy. They're portrayed on top of a full moon, and they're riding, not the traditional broomstick, but it's actually a vacuum cleaner, kind of a funny twist in that movie. They're shown hovering over what is presumably the landscape of Salem.
Dinah: What was it like at the Ropes Mansion back when this was being filmed?
Paula: The street was closed for over a block in front of the Ropes Mansion. There was an incredible pumpkin display outside the fence and the walkway that leads up to the front door of the house. The only actors who were there at the Ropes Mansion were the child actors. They filmed the scene where they walk up to the door, anticipating a party inside, and knock on the door and it opens and then it goes to an interior that was filmed in a studio. People in the neighborhood were hovering around the edges of the filming watching it. Then these incredible pumpkins out front glowing in the dark. There also were a fairly large group of extras. These were actors and actresses who lived locally. They were hired to populate one of the front rooms of the Ropes Mansion. They appear in the film as kind of shadowy silhouettes having a party in the downstairs room. It took all night to film what is a very short segment in the film, but it was a very memorable experience. In recent years, we've been inspired by Hocus Pocus and have begun decorating the exterior of the Ropes Mansion with lights and some pumpkin decorations, drawing inspiration from the film. There has been tremendous interest in that film and I think it may be more popular than when it was first released.
Dinah: We will move to the letter L, which is to the left of where we are now.
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Paula: We're going to look at another letter in Salem Stories and it's the letter L, which in this gallery it stands for Daniel Low & Company, which was a company founded in the 19th century. They initially were silversmiths. They grew into silver and jewelry, a kind of department store actually, where they had giftwares and other specialized products. The company was in business for almost a hundred years. It had a very long run as a local business. One of their best known products was something that they introduced in 1892. It really fed into a wave of souvenir products that were developed here in Salem and elsewhere. It was the Salem witch spoon. It's sterling silver. There are a couple of different versions of it. It does have a depiction of a witch. One version of it has a cat on it and some other symbolism. They were meant to be a kind of high end souvenir that people could buy here in Salem. We know that local residents were also interested in them. The museum has several examples of these in the collection. We have two spoons on display, as well as an advertising sheet on what they called witch novelties. Daniel Low developed a number of products that included a thimble, stick pins which were a jewelry item, as well as spoons and other silver flatware that have these related motifs.
Dinah: My grandmother got me started on the spoon collection when I was a child. You put them in the little wooden spoon holder on the wall. Is that what you would have done with these?
Paula: You can display them like that. Many people did have displays with their own version of a rack or another means of displaying them. But some people also seem to have used them. They might have a small collection of these. The late 19th century was also a time of a lot of expansion of transportation, so people could get them up in the White Mountains of New Hampshire or different other tourist destinations. They could also use them and entertain their guests at tea or that kind of thing.
Dinah: Keep moving left to the letter H for historic preservation.
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Paula: Another section of the Salem Stories exhibition where you find witch trial related objects and images is H for historic preservation. It looks at a number of historic buildings in Salem and the beginnings of the historic preservation movement that was so active here in the late 19th century and early 20th century. One of the buildings that is featured in this letter is the John Ward house which was built about 1685. It was originally sited on St. Peter Street in Salem and then later moved around the corner onto an adjoining block on Brown Street, where it was restored by the former Essex Institute, which was a precursor of the current Peabody Essex Museum. During the restoration, they uncovered some interesting objects. The John Ward House was a stone's throw away and within view of the Old Salem jail, which was the original jail, which was the original jail where some of the accused were held awaiting their trials. We can imagine the members of the Ward Family as bystanders watching the events unfold around them. It must have been an incredibly dramatic and disturbing occurrence in 1692. George Francis Dow, the preservationist, found a number of objects that were hidden in cavities in the house. These are seemingly random at first, but there's been a lot of scholarly interest and research in historical archaeology and the archaeology related to building sites. There were a number of ways in which people during the 17th century try to protect their homes, and the people who lived in the houses using objects as protective devices. One of the interesting objects found in the Ward house, it's a bundle of twigs with a kind of fiber around it. It's actually an example of what we're called poppets. Now, poppets were dolls. They could take many forms, but some of them were simple and made out of rudimentary materials and rudimentary forms. We are now re-evaluating this little bundle of sticks and seeing it as perhaps one of these protective devices. It's an interesting subject area because, of course, this reflects the worldview of the local settlers, many of whom were from the British Isles and who emigrated here to Salem in the 17th century. They brought with them things like their Puritan religious beliefs. These are Christian beliefs, but they also had folk rituals that they brought. They might inscribe pinwheels on the door casings or they would tuck shoes or coins or these poppets that were meant to either protect the inhabitants of the house. It's a very intriguing object, adding a lot to our understanding of life in the 17th century as well as what happened during those 1692 witch trials.
Dinah: Once you've finished touring Salem Stories, it's time to leave the museum and head outside to some key sites around the Witch City. We begin right behind the museum at the Salem witch trials Memorial on Liberty Street. Exit the front of the museum, turn right and right again to go down the Axelrod Pedestrian Walkway. Make a right at the end and the memorial will be on your left.
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Dinah: If you have joined the tour halfway through, it will make more sense to go back and start at the beginning. The tour starts outside the Putnam gallery on the ground level of the museum. Here we are at the Salem witch trials Memorial with Dan Lipcan, Director of PEM’s Phillips Library, who has been actively involved with the organization that maintains this memorial.
Dan: The memorial is maintained by the volunteer community organization, Voices Against Injustice. This organization uses the lessons from the witch trials to educate and inspire people to confront social justice with courage and resolve. It took 300 years for an official Witch Trials Memorial to finally be built in Salem. We're standing here at the site. You'll notice if you look around the stone benches, they are arranged along the perimeter. Each one of them bears the name and the execution date of one of the 20 victims. It's a quiet and contemplative environment. The memorial was dedicated in 1992 by Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel and "The Crucible" playwright Arthur Miller. Here’s Bridge Bishop. She was the first to be hanged.
Dinah: The marker for Bridget Bishop is the first one on your left as you enter the memorial.
Dan: Historical research reveals a picture of Bridget Bishop as a witty and independent, although a little bit quarrelsome, resident of Salem. She had been accused and acquitted of witchcraft 12 years earlier, so she may have been an easy target by association. Multiple accusers claimed that her specter was responsible for various damages and physical afflictions. Their testimonies were the result of longstanding suspicions or misattributed gossip about Sarah Bishop, who was a different person entirely. Tragically, this injustice against Bridget Bishop set the pattern for the remainder of the trials. So, today, ancestors of the victims and people who resonate with this story, come to visit the memorial. This happens year round. They leave flowers and tokens on each of these benches. As we look around today, we see sunflowers and coins left on all of the benches, in fact. There are folks wandering around here, and looking at each of the benches. Perhaps one of the things they don't realize is that the memorial was positioned and oriented in such a way that the backs of the gravestones in the neighboring cemetery, the Charter Street Cemetery, is what faces the memorials. That is essentially a metaphor, a gesture that the community of Salem turned its back on the victims of the witch trials. It's remarkably moving. I'm getting goosebumps actually as I'm talking about it because it's such a powerful image to think about how people rejected these folks unjustly for invented crimes.
Dinah: Right next door to the memorial for the Salem witch trials is one of the oldest cemeteries in the United States. So, go now and enter the Charter Street Cemetery at the corner of the memorial. We'll meet you there.
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Woman: Hi, folks. You're welcome to walk through if you're interested. Please, don't touch the grave markers.
Dinah: When you enter the cemetery, stay on the gravel path. Keep going at the first small intersection and then stop at the second one, where you’ll see a large, light stone. There are many notable figures buried here and today, we'll tell you about one.
Dan: In front of us is the tombstone of John Hathorne, one of the most vocal participants during the Salem witch trials . He lived just south of the Salem Courthouse in 1692. His gravestone here, you see the skull on top with the wings on either side, some floral rosettes along the bottom, and on the left and right. The inscription says, "Here lies interred the body of Colonel John Hathorne Esquire, Aged 76 years, Who Died May the 10th, 1717." His first examination took place on March 1st when he questioned Sarah Osborne, Tituba, and Sarah Good at the meetinghouse in Salem Village. He had a way of questioning the victims in a way that presumed their guilt, basically. "Have you made no contact with the devil?" he would ask. Kind of answers itself in a way. Salem's literary son, Nathaniel Hawthorne, is a descendant and actually quite a harsh critic of his ancestor. It's said that the W was added into the last name Hathorne to distance the descendants from this judge. Perhaps it was his great great grandfather's participation in these tragic events that led Nathaniel to create some of his darker writings.
Dinah: Our next stop is the 17th century historic property called the Ward House. We will walk to the front of the museum on Essex Street and behind the National Park Service Visitor Center to find several historic structures, including the darkly painted Ward House.
Dan: Oooh, darkly painted.
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Dinah: Here we are at the museum’s John Ward house. You might notice a sign here for PEM Walks. More than a dozen of the museum’s historic properties in Salem feature these signs with QR codes that connect you to behind-the-scenes architecture audio tours. We are joined now by Steven Mallory, PEM’s Manager of Historic Structures and Landscapes who will share the connection between this house and the Salem witch trials . While Stephen was showing me inside the house, the tour will stand outside the house for now.
Steven: John Ward was a currier, who prepared hides for the leather working industry. He also was appointed by the city of Salem the Sealer of Leather. He was very much a middle class person and this is a very high quality house for 1685. But it was multi-use rooms. People living in rooms that were set up for household industry during the day, and then those furnishings might be moved aside and beds set up for sleeping. They lived with tools. They lived with vegetables. You know you think of root cellars and all that sort of thing, well there's plenty of information to indicate that, you know, the rooms of the house had everything from fine bed linens to a pile of squash in the corner. Because that was life in seventeenth century Massachusetts. This house originally stood directly across the street from the prison. People who lived in this house most likely would have heard the cries of people who were living in terrible circumstances, some of them even dying in prison.
Dinah: Potentially they would have sat at discussing the news of the trials and the news of people.
Steven: We do know that it was daily conversation around the dinner table. The city, and really, Massachusetts Bay was gripped with this hysteria, and as the hysteria went on more and more prominent families were accused, which became a terrifying thing. It wasn't just the poor, it wasn't just people with disabilities, it wasn't just the fringe. It wasn't just somebody that had been suspect before. Now, it was leading families. But people still needed to be fed, they still needed to earn a living, And so it's kind of an interesting point that life still went on despite the terror of 1692.
Dinah: Now, we’ll walk to another house that looks a lot like the Ward House and is referred to now as The Witch House, located at 310 Essex Street. We’ll meet you there.
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Dinah: Now, we're standing at the Witch House, a 17th century structure where Jonathan Corwin, a judge in the Witch Trials, lived. To tell us more is Steven Mallory, PEM's manager of historic structures and landscapes. Do we know why it's called the Witch House?
Steven: This is referred to colloquially in town as the Witch House because it's one of the only surviving structures in Salem that was directly connected to the 1692 trials. Built about 1675, this restored home on the corner of Essex and Summer Streets offers a glimpse of daily life at the time of the trials. This was the residence of Jonathan Corwin from 1640 to 1718. He was a merchant and political figure who held various positions in Salem, including serving as magistrate during the 1692 pretrial examinations. Corwin remained on the bench until October 1692, when the governor officially disbanded the court. We do not know much about how Corwin felt about the trials because he spoke little during the examinations and never made any public statements. He never apologized for his role in the trials.
Dinah: What else do we know?
Steven: Judge Corwin is a little bit of a confusing character, because he wasn't even qualified to be a judge at the time, but because of political connections and other things, he found himself deeply embroiled in the tragedy that became the witchcraft crisis. His brother-in-law, John Hathorne, served as magistrate, and one of Corwin's children was listed as afflicted in Tituba's examination. His mother-in- law was also accused of witchcraft, but the charges against her were ignored and no arrest warrant was issued.
Dinah: What can you tell us about the architecture of the house?
Steven: This house was restored in about 1945, 1946. It assumes its 17th-century appearance, which is actually quite accurate, given the period in which it was restored. When the house was discovered, an investigation was done to restore it, they discovered evidence of the two story porch on the front, the pendant drops, and the front gables. One of the guiding lights for the restoration of this house, which includes the three part casement windows come from an 18th century pen and ink drawing.
Dinah: The Witch House is open for self guided tours. Check out their website, thewitchhouse.org, for more information. The connection between Salem and witches has been highlighted over the years by pop culture, such as the film Hocus Pocus by Disney. Please walk over to the next site now. The Rope Mansion is just a few doors down at 318 Essex Street.
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Dinah: Now, we're at the Ropes Mansion at 318 Essex Street. To tell us more is Steven Mallory, PEM's manager of historic structures and landscapes.
Steven: This house has a connection with the modern witch craze in Salem. It's a favorite stop for fans of the film Hocus Pocus, which was filmed here in the 1990s. Visitors to the house should know that only the exterior of the house was used by Disney in the film. The interior, if you visit it, it's a gem historically, but it is not the way that it appears in the movie. Every year now, we decorate the house with pumpkins and hay bales to make it festive, like it was in the film when it served as the site of a party. But this house is also a favorite for those who love historic house museums. The house was built about 1727 and filled with stories from the Ropes family. In 1893, three unmarried Ropes sisters living in Cincinnati decided to move back to Salem, their hometown, upon hearing that the Ropes Mansion, along with a sizable fortune, had been bequeathed to them. The sisters conceived an ambitious plan to transform the mansion into a comfortable home for themselves and make preparations for it to become Salem's first historic house museum.
Dinah: Do you want to give us some details of the house?
Steven: Architecturally, the form of the 1727 house is intact. However, when the Ropes sisters moved back from Cincinnati, they underwent a massive renovation to convert it to a Colonial Revival mansion. They picked it up and moved it back from the street in 1894, put it up on a higher foundation, with an elegant fence outside, and then they renovated the entire interior in the Colonial Revival taste to become more or less a monument to their family's holdings of antiques, and decorative arts, and other family artifacts.
Dinah: What kind of things can we see inside?
Steven: In terms of restoration, the house is considered to be a fly in amber – wallpapers and carpeting, and textiles and paintings, and everything is pretty much intact. During weekends in the summer and fall, there is no charge for the 15 room house. Inside, you'll see 200 -plus-years of Ropes family furniture. Much of it was actually made in Salem or nearby. These include pieces from the Queen Anne Chippendale periods, Empire periods. There's also very important Chinese export dinner service in the house from the 1820s. The mansion includes a historic garden popular for picnics and weddings. The is a Colonial Revival masterwork by local Salem architect John Robinson, and it was laid out in a kind of English Georgian Revival style. The design of the garden and the plantings in it, by the wishes of the Ropes sisters, are a mix of things that come back every year and that are historically accurate to the garden. What you see in the fall is lots of tall sunflowers and late season plants like hydrangea and things like that. After Halloween on November 1st, the community is part of a big garden clean out for the end of the season, and they can pick the things that they would like to take home.
Dinah: Now, let's walk just a few blocks on Essex Street, back toward the museum, and make one more stop in Lappin Park at the corner of Washington and Essex Streets. I'll meet you at the Samantha statue.
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Dinah: Visitors often find themselves right here at the Samantha statue. To tell us more is Kate Fox, executive director of Salem's tourism office, Destination Salem.
Kate: Bewitched is here because of the Salem Saga episodes. Those were filmed in the early 1970s when the studio in California had suffered a fire and they needed to continue filming. They brought the cast and crew here to Salem, filmed the Salem Saga and then that is recognized as a catalyst for our contemporary tourism in Salem today. Samantha is a nine-foot tall bronze statue. She's sitting astride her broom and framed by a crescent moon. She is prominently located in Lappin Park on the corner of Essex and Washington Streets. The Samantha statue was dedicated in 2005. She was given to the city of Salem by TV Land Network. It was part of a campaign they did with statues around the country to nod to some classic sitcoms.
Dinah: How do you connect this very contemporary TV witch to what happened? How does this keep the Salem witch trials in people's minds?
Kate: People don't necessarily know why Salem's The Witch City. When they come here in October, they don't necessarily know why they're here, other than they have that subconscious awareness of Salem, Witch, Halloween. It's because of that that we today have these parallel paths that coexist nicely. Where we have the really sad history of 1692, which have lessons we continue to learn from today. People continue to research, and continue to publish books, and give us new knowledge about what happened in 1692. We also have modern witches and a vibrant witch community. AND we have Halloween, and pointy hats, and costumed witches. A practicing witch once described it to me as like Christmas. You can have Jesus and Santa in the same place.
Dinah: The annual Haunted Happenings celebration includes a host of Halloween-related activities, ranging from serious to playful, bringing hundreds of thousands of visitors to the city annually. While in town, they'll see the witch everywhere…riding a broom on the police cars, at the top of the masthead of the local newspaper, The Salem News, around the sign at Dairy Witch Ice Cream, and maybe on the shirt of a teenager. The football team is called, you got it, "The Witches.” Salem is known around the world for the events that took place in 1692. It’s known as the Witch City. But, Salem’s name is in fact taken from Jerusalem and also means "The City of Peace." Today, we look at the City of Salem – and the world – through the lens of this challenging history. Interrogating these tragic events time and again to better understand community and our shared humanity. We will continue to ask questions and to tell our story. From the Peabody Essex Museum, I’m Dinah Cardin. Thanks for listening…This audio tour was generously supported by the George S. Parker Fund.