The endless fascination with the Salem Witch Trials

Join a panel of recognized experts on the Salem witch trials to discuss the current state of scholarship on the trials and what future directions of study might look like. Hear each panelist discuss a brief overview of their current projects as it relates to the trials in a 101-minute YouTube video by clicking here. This program was sponsored by the Lowell Institute on March 4, 2022.

(Above, left) Dan Lipcan, Director of PEM‘s Phillips Library, moderated the panel. (Above, right) Emerson “Tad” Baker is professor of history at Salem State University. He is the author or co-author of six books on the history and archaeology of early New England, including A Storm of Witchcraft: The Salem Trials and the American Experience, and The Devil of Great Island: Witchcraft and Conflict in Early New England. His current book project explores material life in 17th-century New England. Baker talks about counter-magic, particularly protective magic (technically called apotropaic magic), one aspect of his current work, illustrated in the hardware shown below.

(Above, left) Marilynne K. Roach is a writer, illustrator and history nerd who has published articles for journals as diverse as the New England Historical and Genealogical Register and the Lizzie Borden Quarterly, and also nine books including The Salem Witch Trials: A Day by Day Chronicle of a Community Under Siege, and the biographical Six Women of Salem. As a member of the Gallows Hill Group, she helped verify the site of the 1692 witch trial hangings. Roach spoke about the continuing fascination with the 1692 trials and her own journey down that path as real scholarship began casting new light on the actual events and their context. (Above, right) Richard B. Trask is the town archivist for Danvers, Massachusetts (old Salem Village), and has custody of the Brehaut Witchcraft Collection, the most extensive collection of Salem witchcraft imprints. Trask is a descendant of several persons accused of witchcraft, including Mary Esty and John Procter Sr., both executed in 1692. He has directed or participated in innumerable witchcraft-related projects, from excavations to films, and has authored or co-authored 16 publications on a variety of historical topics, including “The Devil hath been raised” (shown below).

(Above, left) Margo Burns is the project manager and associate editor of Records of the Salem Witch-Hunt, published in 2009 by Cambridge University Press, the definitive collection of transcriptions of the legal records of the episode. She is the great-x10-granddaughter of Rebecca Nurse, who was hanged for witchcraft in 1692. Burns discusses the current state of her research into the life of William Stoughton, Chief Magistrate of the Salem witchcraft trials, and gave a sneak peek at a recent archival discovery that she will feature in the book.