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), an 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.

*"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 Mirror for Witches" (1928) by Newbery-Medal winning author Esther Forbes (1891-1968)

*"Road to Endor" (1940) by Esther Hammand

*"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.

*"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.

*"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

*"Witch Child" (2000) by Celia Rees

*"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" a pschyological suspense novel, is based in Salem and refers to many aspects of the trials including the arrest of Bridget Bishop.

The Salem witch trials in popular culture and media


*"Maid of Salem" (1937): a film starring Claudette Colbert and Fred MacMurray, with 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 Frederick 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.
* "Hocus Pocus" (1993), a Disney film comedy starring Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker and Kathy Najimy, is set in a town named Salem.
* "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 mainly about the Ipswich Colony of Massachusetts, makes references to 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. [ [ Bewitched Elizabeth Montgomery TV Land Bronze in Lappin Park Salem Massachusetts ] ]
* 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 Benjamin Franklin save his mother, 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 proposal. The sketch ends stating that she and 19 other women were burned at the stake. [ [ Salem Bitch Trial ] ]
* 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.
* 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 "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" (1997 to 2003), episode 45, Buffy, Willow and Amy are considered a threat to Sunnydale and left to burn at the stake after the apparent sacrifice of two children in an occult ritual.
* 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. See Season 1, Episode 9, "The Witch Is Back" (1998) and Season 3, Episode 4, "All Halliwell's Eve" (2000)
* PBS's television series "Secrets of the Dead" (2000-present) 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), starring Kirstie Alley, Shirley MacLaine and Peter Ustinov, was a television mini-series, airing in the UK as 4 parts, in the US on CBS in 2 parts.
* The Discovery Channel's "Unsolved History" series (2002-2005) included Episode 23, "Salem Witch Trials" (2003)

Comic Books

* 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 Spiderman, 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 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, in track names to lyrics.
* Jello Biafra had a side-project entitled "The Witch Trials", and his work with the Dead Kennedys made a few references to them.
* 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".

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 for more that may not be included here.

19th & 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

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