THE SALEM WITCH HOUSE: SALEM’S BLACK CROWN JEWEL
A house that truly looks the part, The Salem Witch House is deep matte black, an omen, and gives a glimpse into how the Witch Trials felt for those affected. It is also known as the Jonathan Corwin House and is located right in the heart of Salem, Massachusetts. Just fifteen miles North of Boston, this home is as foreboding as it is infamous. It was the stately home of Judge Jonathan Corwin (1640-1718) and is the only remaining structure in Salem that you can visit that has direct ties to the Salem Witch Trials of 1692. For a bit of history, in 1675, Jonathan Corwin, heir to a large puritan fortune in New England, purchased this home. Seventeen years later, he and his family would be a large part of the Salem Witch Trials, the most famous witch hunt in American history. The home stayed in the Corwin family until the mid-1800s, but the house was marked by the ‘Corwin Curse,’ in which eight Corwin lives were lost to premature death. From 1684 to 1690, the Witch House witnessed tragedy after tragedy. Jonathan and Elizabeth Corwin had five new children, all of which died young. John died at nine weeks, Margaret died at six months, Anna died at nineteen. Two additional deaths occurred to children Jonathan Jr. at three months and Herbert at eight weeks. It’s almost as if the curse prevents any new family members from becoming heir to the home and Corwin fortune.
SALEM’S WITCH TRIALS
The trials took place between February 1692 and May 1693. More than 200 men, women, and children were accused, 59 were tried, 31 were found guilty, and 20 were actually executed. Those who were executed were hanged, and one man was crushed to death whilst being tortured. Judges to the trials made their decisions based on ‘spectral evidence,’ which is evidence-based upon dreams or visions. After these 20 people were accused, they refused to admit to taking part in any diabolical activities and were hanged for their ‘crimes.’
Our Salem Witch Trial in-depth article states that ‘In 1641 when the Puritan colonists were establishing a legal code, the accusation of witchcraft was only second to idolatry (the worship of something or someone other than God.) The accusations were taken very seriously, as witchcraft was one of their top three crimes, their top three sins. Nineteen women and girls were hanged at Procter’s Ledge after being accused. The youngest was just five years old; the eldest was nearly 80. Even two dogs were executed based on the suspicions of their involvement in witchcraft.’
JUDGE CORWIN’S PART
Jonathan Corwin was called to investigate the claims of diabolical activity that were supposedly taking place in Salem and the neighboring communities. He took the place of Judge Nathanial Saltonstall, who resigned after the execution of Bridget Bishop. Corwin served in the Court of Oyer and Terminer and was ultimately responsible for sending 19 people to the gallows. Although he was less known than ‘Hanging Judge’ Hathorne, Corwin supervised the pre-trial examinations for the Salem Witch Trials. As we spoke of above, he replaced Judge Saltonstall after Bridget Bishop was executed. She was the first person executed in the trials, and her examination was held before Hathorne and Corwin at, you guessed it – The Corwin home. Bridget was sixty years old when she was hanged, and she was known for her wild and flamboyant temperament and dress, which eventually caused the very pure Puritans to accuse her of dealings with the devil. Her execution must have struck a chord with Saltonstall, leading him to resign from the responsibility of sending these people to their deaths.
DO WITCHES REMAIN IN THE WITCH HOUSE?
Who haunts the Witch House? Could it be those wrongly accused of witchcraft? Or those who were caught in the snares of the Corwin Curse? Visitors to the Sale Witch House report hearing disembodied voices and feel chills crawling up and down their body as they navigate their way through the home, which is now a museum. Even the famous television show Ghost Adventures investigated the house during the nineteenth episode of the fourth season if you’d be interested in checking it out!
The Witch House is home to spirits, yes, but it also holds much more than that. There are plenty of superstitious remnants located within the home, including a black show in the wall, which is said to ward of witches. Another reminder of the past is ‘witch bottles,’ a countermagical instrument containing hair, pins, and even fingernails. The witch bottles are said to protect the house from evil, although it seems as if evil incarnate lived there centuries ago peacefully.
THE WITCH HOUSE TODAY
The home has been marked by the witch hunt and by an intolerant and non-remorseful Corwin. Out of two judges and 12 jurors, Corwin was the only one who never apologized for his part in the persecutions. It seems as if he stayed standing with his decisions until the day that he died. The Corwin Curse also marked the home, leaving behind a cursed stain that hasn’t seemed to have budged. In total, over twenty innocent lives were lost to the Salem Witch Trials and the prejudice of Corwin and his peers alike. The home itself stands as a testament to the trials, reminding us of the mistakes of the past; it stands hopeful that we never make those same mistakes again.
A MEMORIAL GIVEN
After centuries of forgotten lives lost, ‘Finally, in July of 2017, on the 325th anniversary of the hangings, a memorial was designed and dedicated to those who were hung at Procter’s Ledge. A semi-circular stone wall stands with names and execution dates of all nineteen victims engraved in granite for years to come. There are also stone benches where locals leave flowers and offerings. The stonework near the memorial entrance is inscribed with historically correct pleas of innocence that are symbolically interrupted mid-sentence by the wall itself to show the indifference to the suffering that existed during the time. We can only hope that this memorial offers these wayward spirits closure of their passing and that some sort of justice has been served for them.’ Sources Cited: