Tuesday, October 12, 2010

A word (or two) about Gallows Hill

Many visitors to Salem want to see Gallows Hill.  Legend has it that there is a hillside in Salem where the condemned were hanged. 

The Salem Witch Museum includes Gallows Hill Park in their list of sites associated with the Salem Witch Trials of 1692, noting:

The Salem witchcraft authority, Charles W. Upham, chose this hill as the probable site of the hangings of the nineteen condemned witches in 1692. Executions for witchcraft occurred here on June 10, July 19, August 19, and September 22. 

And adding: 

The present author believes that the actual site of the executions lies on a lower hill nearer the town. The great height and rugged terrain of this hill would have precluded transporting the condemned to this site in a cart, which is known to have occurred.

Gallows Hill Park is located off of Proctor Street, near the intersection of Mansell Parkway and Witch Hill Road.  If you ask about Gallows Hill at the Salem Visitor Center, the rangers and volunteers can provide driving directions to the park.

Before you drive through residential Salem neighborhoods, however, you should know what to expect.  It's a soccer field.  And a playground.  There is no evidence of a hanging tree, and no remains of a gallows. 

We actually do not know for sure where the gallows of 1692 were located, and we do not know if there were actual gallows or a hanging tree.  We do not know where the bodies of the condemned were buried, but we do know that the condemned were not entitled to a Christian burial within the church.

If you are seeking a place that is appropriate for reflecting on the Trials of 1692, the condemned, and the accused, we recommend visiting the Salem Witch Trials Memorial on Liberty Street between Charter and Derby Streets.  This memorial is a somber location that remembers those who died innocent people during the hysteria.  Their words fell on deaf ears, and they forever remain symbols of what happens when a society becomes intollerant, choosing hysteria instead of reason.

You are welcome to visit Gallows Hill, as well.  You may find a place peaceful reflection there.  Or you may find soccer practice.

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