We entered the small town of Salem in search of witches and real life mentions of the characters from the Henry Miller play, The Crucible.
The day was appropriately rainy and gloomy, a perfect match for the mystery we were seeking. How did this small town, in 1692, bring itself to hang 20 innocent people? Why did mass hysteria combine with greed and zealous righteousness to allow the “establishment” to commit unthinkable crimes against the people they were suppose to be protecting?
We began our investigation at the birthplace of Nathanial Hawthorne, author of (among other works) The Scarlet Letter and The House of the Seven Gables. The house was small and plain, like many old New England homes. During his beginning forays into authorship, Hawthorne was a recluse within this home. He was insecure and preferred to keep his attempts at writing a secret from his neighbors. Local legend believes that Hawthorne, originally a Custom House official, was inspired to begin writing after an encounter with a ghost.
The second home we visited was that of Nathanial Hawthorne’s cousin. It is believed that this is the house he used as inspiration for the setting of his mystery novel, The House of the Seven Gables. This house has been restored to enhance its similarity to the Hawthorne’s novel. It includes a secret staircase that winds around an interior chimney and allows characters (and tourists) to make surprise entrances into various rooms.
Hawthorne is the great-great grandson of John Hathorne, the judge who infamously presided over the Salem Witch Trials, condemning so many people to their deaths. In his preface to The House of the Seven Gables Hawthorne asks if the evil deeds of one’s ancestors reverberate upon future generations.
Speaking in the third person, Hawthorne provides us this insight into his thinking: The author has provided himself with a moral – the truth, namely, that the wrong doing of one generation lives into the successive ones…he (Hawthorne) would feel it a singular gratification if this romance (novel) might effectually convince mankind – or, indeed, any one man – of the folly of tumbling down an avalanche of ill-gotten gold, or real estate, on the heads of an unfortunate posterity. Preface from The House of the Seven Gables
It is probable that Hawthorne is referring to himself. Hawthorne’s themes often “center on the inherent evil and sin of humanity, and his works often have moral messages and deep psychological complexity.” The Scarlet Letter exposes the injustice of morality as it is applied to young women during the Puritan era. We are now eager to read The House of the Seven Gables.
The grave tour was fascinating and creepy.
We enjoyed seeing John Hathorne’s grave as well as the gravestone of an original Mayflower Pilgrim.
We also saw the Salem Witch Memorial of the 20 men and women that were hanged in 1692. Here is where we found the Crucible characters come to life (or death).
Lest Terror Be Forgotten
June 10, 1692
|Bridget Bishop”I am no witch.
I am innocent.
I know nothing of it.”
July 19, 1692
|Sarah Wildes||Elizabeth Howe”If it was the last moment I was to live,
God knows I am innocent…”
|Susannah Martin”I have no hand in witchcraft.”||Sarah Good|
|Rebecca Nurse”Oh Lord, help me! It is false. I am clear. For my life now lies in your hands….”|
Happymess kids were fascinated with the idea that they could walk on the very same streets and visit the same homes where so many famous events occurred.
Let Me Count the Days: Homeschooling is visiting the past in the present.