The Salem witch trials threatened the very core of the early Massachusetts Bay Colony. The extraordinary hysteria involved more than 400 people and led to the deaths of 25 innocents — men, women and children — between June 1692 and March 1693. Explore rarely-exhibited original witch trial documents from PEM's Phillips Library collection and learn the true story of this tragedy as told through the voices and with the possessions of those directly involved.
Many unfounded theories about the Salem witch trials, from poisoning by rotten bread to property disputes to an outbreak of encephalitis, still persist to this day. The panic grew from a society threatened by nearby war and a malfunctioning judicial system in a setting rife with religious conflict and blatant intolerance. For more than 300 years since, the complex drama of the witch trials and its themes of injustice and the frailties of human nature has fascinated us.
The Salem Witch Trials 1692 is organized by the Peabody Essex Museum. Carolyn and Peter S. Lynch and The Lynch Foundation, Jennifer and Andrew Borggaard, James B. and Mary Lou Hawkes, Kate and Ford O'Neil, and Henry and Callie Brauer provided generous support. We also recognize the generosity of the East India Marine Associates of the Peabody Essex Museum.
TOP IMAGE: Tompkins Harrison Matteson, Trial of George Jacobs, August 5, 1692, 1855. Oil on canvas. Gift of R. W. Ropes, 1859. 1246. Peabody Essex Museum. Photo by Mark Sexton and Jeffrey R. Dykes.