In September of 1692, the Reverend Samuel Parris declared, “If ever there were Witches, Men & Women in Covenant with the Devil, here are Multitudes in New-England.” That same year saw America’s first convulsion of mass hysteria: in Salem, a colonial community came to believe that the “lambs” among them were being led astray by “lying Wonders” and “Sorceries & witchcrafts.” The Salem Witch Trials resulted in the murder of 25 people and has since become a tragic example of America’s penchant for paranoia, and the miscarriages of justice left in its wake. Despite countless studies of the upheaval and its trials, questions remain and dubious theories abound. This exhibition details what truly led to the widespread panic in Salem, and explores the conditions that turn everyday skepticism into perilous suspicions. Included are rarely seen documents from the Phillips Library collection. —C.J.F.
Peabody Essex Museum 161 Essex St, Salem, MA 01970 Get Directions »