Cultural depictions of the Salem witch trials

Fanciful representation of the Salem witch trials, lithograph from 1892.

Cultural depictions of the Salem witch trials abound in art, literature and popular media in the United States, from the early 19th century to the present day.


The Salem witch trials in literature

  • Rachel Dyer (1820), by John Neal (1793–1876)
  • American poet John Greenleaf Whittier (1807–1892) wrote many poems about the episode, starting with "The Weird Gathering" (1831), and later, "Calef in Boston" (1849), about the public debates between Robert Calef and Cotton Mather in the aftermath of the trials.
  • Witching Times (serialized 1856-57), by John William DeForest (1826–1906)
  • Lois the Witch (1859), a novella by Elizabeth Gaskell (1810–1865), is based on the Salem witch hunts and depicts how jealousy and sexual desire can lead to hysteria. She was inspired by the story of Rebecca Nurse whose accusation, trial and execution are described in Lectures on Witchcraft, by Charles W. Upham, the Unitarian minister in Salem in the 1830s. Historical figure Cotton Mather makes an appearance in the story.
  • Salem: A Tale of the Seventeenth Century (1874), a historical novel by D. R. Castleton (Harper, New York) See: copy at the Internet Archive
  • The Witch of Salem, or Credulity Run Mad', by John R. Musick. New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1893. Historical fiction set during the witchraft trials. copy at the Internet Archive
  • Ye lyttle Salem maide, a story of witchcraft (1898), a novel by Pauline Bradford Mackie (1873-?), Lamson, Wolffe and Co., Boston, 1898. See: copy at the Internet Archive
  • Dulcibel: A tale of old Salem by Henry Peterson, Philadelphia: John C. Winston, 1907. Historical fiction.
  • Various stories by H. P. Lovecraft (1890–1937) are set in the fictional town of Arkham, Massachusetts, said to have been founded by refugees from the Salem trials. For example, in The Dreams in the Witch-House, the witch Keziah Mason, whose house the title comes from, is said to have fled Salem.
  • Road to Endor (1940) by Esther Hammand
  • "The Devil in Boston" (1948, premiered 1953 in Los Angeles), translated by June Barrows Mussey from the original German "Wahn oder Der Teufel in Boston" (1948, premiered 1949 in Frankfurt a. M.), a play by Lion Feuchtwanger (1884–1958), a German-Jewish writer in exile in the US. Main characters are the Puritan minister and theologian Cotton Mather (1663–1728) and Hanna Parrish, Feuchtwanger's adaptation of Elizabeth Parris. Close to the historical events. Depicts the dynamics of the witch hunt and the interests of the Mathers. A fictional character, Mather's brother-in-law Robert Colman, represents Enlightenment thought.
  • The Crucible (1952), a play by Arthur Miller (1915–2005), a commentary on the actions of the House Committee on Unamerican Activities and Senator Joe McCarthy.
  • I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem (1992), translated from the original French Moi, Tituba, sorcière noire de Salem (1986), by Maryse Condé, Condé freely imagines Tituba's childhood and old age, endows her with a contemporary social consciousness, and allows her to narrate the tale. ISBN 9780345384201
  • Acceptable Risk (1995), an adult medical thriller novel by Robin Cook (1940-living), with a plot that attributes the afflictions in Salem to an unusual mold that is rediscovered by present-day medical researchers.
  • Beyond the Burning Time (1996), a young adult novel by Kathryn Lasky, which depicts the trials through the eyes of a fictional young woman, Mary Chase.
  • Gallows Hill (1997) by Lois Duncan (1934-living) is young-adult fiction in which main character Sarah, and many others, turn out to be reincarnations of those accused and killed during the trials.
  • Dorcas Good, The Diary of a Salem Witch (1999) by Rose Earhart, is a fictional diary of remembrance by an adult character, based on her imprisonment as a child during the witchcraft trials, based on what happened to Dorothy Good. ISBN 9781893221000
  • "Oyer and Terminer," a sci-fi short story by Joe Masdon in the collection "Time Twisters" (Jean Rabe and Martin H. Greenberg, eds, DAW, 2007), is set during the Salem witch trials
  • The Lace Reader (2008) by Brunonia Barry, is a psychological suspense novel based in Salem and refers to many aspects of the trials including the arrest of Bridget Bishop. ISBN 9780061624766
  • The Heretic's Daughter: A Novel (2008), by Kathleen Kent, is a fictionalized account of the case of Martha Carrier, as told from the point-of-view of her 10-year-old daughter, Sarah Carrier. ISBN 9780316024488
  • The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane: A Novel (2009) by Katherine Howe, is a fictional account of a woman in the 21st century connecting with an ancestor, Deliverance Dane of Andover, who was accused of witchcraft during the Salem witch trials. ISBN 9781401340902
  • Time of the Witches (2009) by Ann Meyers is a story that describes a fictional character, Drucilla, as she grows up during the witch trials. Many real people, including Tituba, make appearances.

The Salem witch trials in popular culture and media



  • The television series Bewitched (1964–1972) includes six episodes in Season 7 (1970) that were filmed on location in Salem, with a plot that includes time travel to 1692. On June 15, 2005, the TV Land Network erected a bronze statue in Salem of Elizabeth Montgomery as the lead character, Samantha. TV Land spent $75,000 to install the sculpture in Salem's Lappin Park. It was sculpted by StudioEIS under the direction of brothers Elliott and Ivan Schwartz.[1]
  • Leonard Nimoy's television series In Search of... (1977–1982) aired Season 5, Episode 109: "Salem Witches" (1980)
  • The science-fiction TV show Voyagers! had the main characters, Bogg & Jeff, help save the mother of Benjamin Franklin, Abaia Folger, from being hanged during the Salem witch trials in episode No. 4, "Agents of Satan," which first aired on October 31, 1982.
  • A television mini-series Three Sovereigns for Sarah, starring Vanessa Redgrave, Kim Hunter and Will Lyman, first aired on PBS on May 27, 1985.
  • In The Simpsons animated television comedy series (1989–present), a segment of the 1997 Halloween special episode "Treehouse of Horror VIII" is based on the Salem witch trials.
  • Episode 348 of Season 19 of the sketch comedy series Saturday Night Live (first aired October 2, 1993) contained a skit depicting the "Salem Bitch Trials" in which Abigail Wolcott, played by Shannen Doherty (who played the part of Prue, a witch on the TV series Charmed, see below), is examined by Deputy Governor Danforth, played by Phil Hartman, on charges of "bitchcraft," with testimony given that she had told a woman her dress made her hips look big and snubbed a man's desire to court her because his surrey was not sufficiently fast, adorned or stylish. The sketch ends stating that she and 19 other women were burned at the stake.[2]
  • In the television series Sabrina the Teenage Witch (1996–2000), in Season 1, Episode 23 (1997), "The Crucible," a class field trip goes to Salem to re-enact the trials. The warlock cat, Salem Saberhagen was named after the Salem Witch Trials.
  • In Histeria!, an animated television series for children (1998–2001), episode 36, "When America Was Young", included a People's Court-style sketch based upon the trials. View episode:
  • The History Channel's In Search of History (1996–2000) television series aired the episode "Salem Witch Trials" (1998).
  • In the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "Gingerbread", Buffy Summers, Willow Rosenberg and Amy are sentenced to burn at the stake after the apparent sacrifice of two children in an occult ritual causes the town to be consumed in fear and paranoia.
  • In Charmed, a television series (1998–2006), part of the fictional background is that Melinda Warren, an ancestor of the three fictional protagonists, was burned at the stake in the Salem witch trials, having been betrayed by her lover. See Season 1, Episode 9, "The Witch Is Back" (1998) and Season 3, Episode 4, "All Halliwell's Eve" (2000) In Season 2, Episode 2, Phoebe is caught using witchcraft to commit a crime in the future.
  • PBS's television series Secrets of the Dead (2000— ) aired Season 2, Episode 1: "Witches' Curse" (2002), featuring Linnda R. Caporael
  • The History Channel aired a documentary, Witch Hunt (2002).
  • Salem Witch Trials (2002), a mini-series directed by Joseph Sargent and written by Maria Nation, starring Kirstie Alley, Henry Czerny, Gloria Reuben, Jay O. Sanders and Alan Bates, with appearances by Shirley MacLaine and Peter Ustinov, aired in the UK as four parts, in the US on CBS in two parts.
  • The Discovery Channel's Unsolved History series (2002–2005) included Episode 23, "Salem Witch Trials" (2003).
  • Ghost Hunters, Season 3, Episode 17: "Salem Witch", originally aired October 24, 2007, explores the haunting of the Hawthorne Hotel in Salem, Massachusetts, by the spirit of Bridget Bishop, one of the people executed in 1692.
  • In The Vampire Diaries, Bonnie Bennett's ancestors were Salem witches, who fled Salem in 1692.
  • In Bones season 5 episode 20: 'The witch in the wardrobe' references to the occult and salem witch trials form the basis for the plot.

Comic books

Unknown Worlds, September 1962, Issue No. 18, with the story "Witch Hunter of Salem"
  • Issue No. 18 in September 1962 of Unknown Worlds, from American Comics Group, contained an 11-page story called "Witch Hunter of Salem", depicted on the cover, in which the minister who was hunting witches in Salem turned out to be one. Zev Zimmer (Script), C. C. Beck (Pencils), Pete Costanza (Inks); Cover by Ogden Whitney.
  • "Visions of Hate!" appeared in the comic-book Marvel Team-Up in 1976, as part of a serialized story-line in which Spider-Man, Vision and the Scarlet Witch travel through time to Salem, 1692, to battle an arch-nemesis, Dr. Doom —- who has enlisted the help of Cotton Mather -- get entangled in the witchcraft accusations. Pages 11–16 in particular depict the historical episode.


  • The 1962 opera The Crucible with music by Robert Ward and a libretto adapted lightly from Miller's play.
  • The second album by the indie rock band Liars, They Were Wrong, So We Drowned, is a concept album about the trials.
  • Rob Zombie's album Educated Horses (2006) contains many references to the trials, mainly in the song American Witch. His song, entitled Lords of Salem, also was based on this.
  • Jello Biafra had a side-project entitled The Witch Trials, and his work with the Dead Kennedys made a few references to them.
  • Canadian progressive rock band Rush's song "Witch Hunt" (from 1981's Moving Pictures) is about how manipulators can use fear to "possess" the "ignorant" masses to their liking, much like the Salem townspeople during the Witch Hunts.
  • American punk-rock band AFI has a song "Malleus Maleficarum" on their CD Art of Drowning; the title is based on a book of the same name.
  • Neal Peterson mentions Alice Parker in his song "I wind my clocks / OneSixNineTwo". Peterson is a descendant of Parker.
  • American death metal band Ishia have a song called "Witch Hunting in Salem".
  • American metalcore band Unearth wrote a song about Giles Corey named "Giles" for their album III: In the Eyes of Fire.
  • American black metal band Ceremonial Castings's 2008 album "Salem 1692" is based on the events and two members of the band are direct descendants of Judge John Hawthorne.
  • Abigail Williams, an American symphonic black metal band from Phoenix, AZ, take their name from one of the accusers in the trials.
  • Hunting For Witches by Bloc Party references the hysteria about witches in Salem and uses it as a metaphor for hysteria about immigration in contemporary Britain.
  • Burn the Witch by Queens of the Stone Age is about the Salem Witch Trials.
  • "The Dead Can't Testify" a song by Canadian rock group Billy Talent is based on the Salem with trials.
  • "Salem '76" a song by Mary Lou Lord is about the plight of a victim of the Salem Witch Trials
  • "Under a Killing Moon" a song by the rock band Thrice talks about Salem Witch Trials and the innocent people burned in them.
  • Young Goodman Brown Nathaniel Hawthorn a short story depicting a faithful Puritan man who sees the member's of his town at a witch meeting and can no longer see the good in his world
  • Swedish heavy metal band Wolf wrote a song called "Curse You, Salem", a song about the trials.
  • "ABIGAIL the rock opera" is a Musical, Theatrical, Cinematic Experience that takes an empathetic view towards a young eleven year old Abigail Williams. A Hero's Journey. This is a two hour performance done only in song. It is out of San Francisco and being performed at Temple @ 540 Howard Street through September 2010.
  • Abigail by Metalcore band, Motionless in White.


Advertisement circa 1891 for Daniel Low, Salem, MA
  • Daniel Low, a jeweler in Salem, Massachusetts, began selling souvenir sterling "Witch" spoons in 1890, using two different patterns, the first with three pins, the word "Salem", and a witch on a broom. (See right)

19th century illustrations depicting the episode

The story of Salem featured prominently in many publications in the 19th century about the 17th century colonial foundations of the United States. The illustrations continue to be reproduced widely in 20th and 21st century publications, in many cases without accurate attribution or reference to the century in which the illustrations were created. This gallery includes their citations and the names, where known, of the artists who created them. Check the Wikimedia Commons for more that may not be included here.

19th and 20th century photographs of 17th century buildings related to the episode

Although a few of the houses that belonged to the participants in the Salem witch trials are still standing, many of these buildings have been lost. This gallery includes photographs take in the 19th century and early 20th century that preserve the visual record of these homes.

References and notes

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

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  • Cultural depictions of the Salem Witch Trials — abound in art, literature and popular media in the United States, from the early 19th century to the present day. The Salem witch trials in literature * Rachel Dyer (1820), by John Neal (1793 1876)* American poet John Greenleaf Whittier (1807… …   Wikipedia

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  • Cotton Mather — This article is about the 17th century Puritan minister. For the rock band, see Cotton Mather (band). Cotton Mather Cotton Mather, circa 1700 Born February 12, 1663(1663 02 12) …   Wikipedia

  • Mary Bradbury — Born Mary Perkins Hillmorton, County Warwick, England Died December 20, 1700 Salisbury, Essex, Massachusetts Known for Accused Salem Witch Convicted Later Exonerated …   Wikipedia

  • Dorothy Good — (properly known as Dorcas Good) was the daughter of William Goode and Sarah (Poole) Goode. Both Dorothy and her mother were accused of practicing witchcraft in Salem at the very beginning of the Salem witch trials in 1692. Only 4 1/2 years old at …   Wikipedia

  • performing arts — arts or skills that require public performance, as acting, singing, or dancing. [1945 50] * * * ▪ 2009 Introduction Music Classical.       The last vestiges of the Cold War seemed to thaw for a moment on Feb. 26, 2008, when the unfamiliar strains …   Universalium

  • Mary Walcott — For the American botanical artist, see Mary Vaux Walcott. Mary Walcott (July 5 , 1675 – after 1719) was one of the witnesses at the Salem Witch Trials of Salem, Massachusetts in the years 1692 and 1693. Deposition of Mary Walcott, August 3, 1692… …   Wikipedia

  • Sarah Good — (July 11, 1653 – July 19, 1692) Born in Salem Village (now Danvers), Massachusetts, was accused of witchcraft in 1692. It has been proved in multiple ways that Sarah Good was falsely accused of witchcraft. She was accused only because of… …   Wikipedia

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