Cultural depictions of the Salem witch trials
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.
- The Salem Belle: A Tale of 1692, anonymous. Tappan & Dennett, Boston, 1842. See: copy at the Internet Archive
- 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.
- "Giles Corey of the Salem Farms" (1868), a play by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882)
- Salem: A Tale of the Seventeenth Century (1874), a historical novel by D. R. Castleton (Harper, New York) See: copy at the Internet Archive
- "Giles Corey, Yeoman" (1893), a play by Mary E. Wilkins Freeman (1852–1930)
- 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.
- A witch of Salem: grand opera in two acts (1926), book by Nelle Richmond Eberhart, music by Charles Wakefield Cadman
- 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.
- The Crucible (1961), an opera by Robert Ward (1917–living), based on the 1952 play by Arthur Miller.
- 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
- A Break with Charity (1992), a young adult novel by Ann Rinaldi (1934-living), takes the Salem trials as its main setting.
- 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.
- In the Harry Potter book series, both the third and fourth, respectively Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (1999) and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2000), both make slight references to the Salem trials
- In the Doctor Who Past Doctor Adventures novel The Witch Hunters (1998) by Steve Lyons, the First Doctor, his granddaughter Susan Foreman and their companions Ian Chesterton and Barbara Wright visit Salem in the midst of the witch trials. Historical figures such as Reverend Samuel Parris, Rebecca Nurse, Abigail Williams, Ann Putnam, Jr. and John Proctor are major characters in the novel.
- 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
- Witch Child (2000) by Celia Rees, is a fictional story about a young woman in Puritan New England who was a healer and pagan. ISBN 9780763642280
- I Walk in Dread: The Diary of Deliverance Trembly, Witness to the Salem Witch Trials, Massachusetts Bay Colony 1691 (Dear America Series) (2004), by Lisa Rowe Fraustino (1961-living), is young-adult historical fiction set during the Salem Witch Trials
- In The Last Witchfinder (2006), a historical novel by James Morrow (1947-living), the Salem Witch Trials feature prominently.
- "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
- The Pariah (1983) by Graham Masterton takes place in Salem and attributes the trials to the presence of the Aztec demon Mictlantecuhtli
- 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
- Maid of Salem (1937): a film starring Claudette Colbert and Fred MacMurray, with Bonita Granville, Gale Sondergaard, Louise Dresser, Beulah Bondi, Virginia Weidler, and Madame Sul-Te-Wan as Tituba, directed by Frank Lloyd
- I Married a Witch (1942): a film starring Veronica Lake and Fredric March, with Robert Benchley, Susan Hayward, Cecil Kellaway and Elizabeth Patterson, directed by Réne Clair; a witch burned in Salem centuries ago (Lake) comes back to haunt descendants of Puritan (March) who sent her to her death. Comedy-fantasy with special effects.
- The Crucible (1957): a Franco-East German film, originally titled Les Sorcières de Salem, starring Simone Signoret and Yves Montand and directed by Raymond Rouleau. Its screenplay was adapted by Jean-Paul Sartre from Arthur Miller's The Crucible.
- Bell Book and Candle (1958): a film starring James Stewart and Kim Novak; Novak plays a witch from old Salem who is still living in 1950s Greenwich Village.
- Three Sovereigns for Sarah (1985): a film starring Vanessa Redgrave and directed by Philip Leacock, based on the story of Sarah Cloyce, the sister of Rebecca Nurse and Mary Esty who were executed for witchcraft, but who managed to survive.
- Hocus Pocus (1993), a Disney film comedy, starring Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker and Kathy Najimy as three sisters who were hanged as witches in colonial Salem, and who return to life in twentieth century Salem to wreak comic havoc. (Parker would later discover, as documented in the NBC program Who Do You Think You Are?, her 10th great-grandmother, Esther Elwell, was arrested during November 1692 for withcraft, but fortunately the trials ended and she was never tried.)
- The Crucible (1996) is a film adaptation of Arthur Miller's 1952 play The Crucible, from a screenplay written by Miller himself; starring Daniel Day-Lewis and Winona Ryder
- Keeper of Souls (2004), a horror film set in a fictional Southern town called Grove Hill, connects the demon to the Salem Witch Trials.
- The Covenant (2006), a horror film that takes place in Ipswich, Massachusetts, which ties the supernatural powers of the present-day characters to their colonial ancestors, who had been charged with witchcraft during the Salem witch trials.
- The Lords of Salem (2012), a horror film written and directed by Rob Zombie about a coven of 300-year old witches who were secretly imprisoned and tortured during the Salem witch trials.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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: http://video.aol.com/video/tv-histeria-when-america-was-young/1813972
- 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.
- 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.
- In Marvel's Fantastic Four vol. 1 #185, published in August 1977, the titular super-hero team discovers a hidden town in Colorado called New Salem in which the inhabitants are witches and warlocks, descendants of those who survived the Salem Trials. The inhabitants include Agatha Harkness, Nicholas Scratch and the Salem's Seven.
- 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. www.abigailtherockopera.com
- Abigail by Metalcore band, Motionless in White.
- 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.
Jonathan Corwin's House, Essex St., Salem, MA; "A View of the house of the late Hon'ble Jonathan Corwin (Judge of the Supreme Court of Massachusets [sic] and member of the council appointed in the new charter, May, 1692). Erected 1642, by Cap't. Geo. Corwin", circa 1859, Library of Congress, Ira J. Patch, Salem, Mass. This building, as the "Old Witch House", is open to the public, and is the only building left standing in Salem with ties to the witch trials.
"Witchcraft at Salem Village", in Pioneers in the Settlement of America, Vol. 1, by William A. Crafts. Vol. I Boston: Samuel Walker & Company, 1876, p. 452; illustration likely by F. O. C. Darley or Granville Perkins (not specifically attributed)
"Trial of George Jacobs, August 5, 1692," Thomkins H. Matteson, painter, 1855 (Collection of the Peabody Essex Museum)
"Arresting a Witch" by illustrator Howard Pyle, to accompany "The Second generation of Englishmen in America," by T. W. Higginson, Harper's New Monthly Magazine, Vol. 67, (June - November), 1883, p. 221.
"Captain Alden Denounced", by illustrator Alfred Fredericks, in A Popular History of the United States, Vol. 2, by William Cullen Bryant, New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1878, p. 463
"Giles Corey's Punishment and Awful Death", illustrator unknown, in Witchcraft Illustrated by Henrietta D. Kimball, Geo. A. Kimball, Publisher, Boston, 1892.
"Tituba Teaching the First Act of Witchcraft", illustrator unknown, in Witchcraft Illustrated by Henrietta D. Kimball, Geo. A. Kimball, Publisher, Boston, 1892.
"The Witches," oil painting by Walter McEwen, circa 1892. (Collection of the Dallas Museum of Art)
"The Legend of Salem: The Rev. George Burroughs was accused of witchcraft on the evidence of feats of strength, tried, hung and buried beneath the gallows," Illustration for "Some Legends of the New England Coast," Part III, by Harriet Prescott Spofford, Frank Leslie's illustrated newspaper, v. 31, (1871 Feb. 4), p. 345.
"The sheriff brought the witch up the broad aisle, her chains clanking as she stepped." Rebecca Nurse, as depicted by artist F.A. Carter in the historical novel, The Witch of Salem, or Credulity Run Mad, by John R. Musick. New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1893. p. 275.
"She stood up serene but heroic", frontispiece, by Howard Pyle of fictional character accused of witchcraft, Dulcibel Burton, in Dulcibel: A tale of old Salem by Henry Peterson, Philadelphia: John C. Winston, 1907
"Marched from jail for the last time", p. 208, illustration by Howard Pyle of fictional character accused of witchcraft, Dulcibel Burton, in Dulcibel: A tale of old Salem by Henry Peterson, Philadelphia: John C. Winston, 1907
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
Salem witch trialsTimeline · People · Cultural depictions Magistrates Town physicianWilliam Griggs Clergy Politicians and public figures Accusers AccusedJohn Alden · Edward Bishop · Edward Bishop III · Sarah Bishop · Mary Black · Mary Bradbury · Martha Carrier · Rachel Clinton · Sarah Cloyce · Rebecca Eames · Mary Eastey · Mary English · Phillip English · Thomas Farrar, Sr. · Abigail Faulkner · Dorothy Good · Elizabeth Hart · William Hobbs · Mary Lacy · Sarah Morey · Sarah Osborne · Elizabeth Proctor · John Proctor · Sarah Proctor · William Proctor · Tituba Indian Confessed and accused others ExecutedBridget Bishop · George Burroughs · Martha Carrier · Martha Corey · Mary Eastey · Sarah Good · Elizabeth Howe · George Jacobs, Sr. · Susannah Martin · Rebecca Nurse · Alice Parker · Mary Parker · John Proctor · Ann Pudeator · Wilmot Redd · Margaret Scott · Samuel Wardwell · Sarah Wildes · John Willard Died in prison Pressed to death Born in prisonJohn Proctor, III
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