An editorial in today’s Boston Globe caught my eye because I’ve been to Salem with my family recently. While the over-the-top celebration of Halloween each October sets Salem apart and the city does a fair job telling the disturbing story of its witchcraft episode in the 17th century, the Globe editorial writers have a point. Salem would make more of a contribution to society if it had an in-depth, scholarship-based presentation in the form of a new small museum or large permanent exhibition (using media perhaps) that explored the roots and consequences of the community’s famous witch trials and deadly punishments. The Globe calls on the National Park Service, which preserves and tells the city’s maritime history, to help tell this part of Salem’s history.
Intolerance and hysteria, mob psychology, irrational responses to unfamiliar behavior, blind faith, cruel and unusual punishments—all these elements of the human experience are not confined to the past. Just read the news any day.
Detail from one stone marker in the Salem Witch Trial Memorial (web photo courtesy of virtualtourist.com)