In the summer of 1692, 19 women were hanged for witchcraft in the small village of Salem. One of them was my 9th great grandmother, Susannah Martin. We had come to this epicenter of 17th century hysteria to see what we could find about Susannah. From what I'd read, she was a small, pretty woman with a salty tongue. Those were probably her main offenses, since she was also accused of making "unwomanly advances" to her male neighbors. Contrary to popular belief, the witches were not burned at the stake, that gruesome method was mostly a century earlier in Europe. However, on July 19, 1692. Susannah and four other women were "turned off" (the quaint euphemism for "hanged"). Throughout that summer of 1692, 14 more women would meet the same fate.
The hysteria of that summer still echoes through Salem and overrides the fact that Salem was also has a substantial maritime history. The harbor here was once filled with tall ships and many a China clipper set sail under a Salem master. It’s also a charming town of cobbled streets and historic buildings, many open to the public. There are several museums in Salem celebrating both their bewitched and maritime past. The Salem Wax Museum divides its displays between both. In 1992, the 300th anniversary of the Witch Trials, they erected a monument to the victims of the hysteria. It's a low stone wall with each of their names carved out.
Since we were staying pretty close to the Common, we only followed bits and pieces of the Heritage Trail that takes you from the House of the Seven Gables, around the Common, and up to the Old Burying Ground, but the whole walk is less thatn 2 miles. You can also take a little trolley around to the various sights. You can pick up maps of the route marked with the various historic sites just about anywhere.