This article is about the TV series trials, you may be looking for the Historical Salem Witch Trials.

Salem Witch Trials
Salem-Promo-Still-S1E12-19-Mercy's Acolytes Hanged
General Information

Salem, Massachusetts




judgment and death sentence of (suspected) witches.

We have been ruled by witches all along. And not, as we thought, from the outside, but in the very worst way. From within. Witches ruled Salem from the very top.
— Anne revealing witches behind the trials

The Salem Witch Trials are a number of sentences inflicted on Salem citizens accused of witchcraft began in 1962 in the colonial town of Massachusetts.

Salem witch trials are the pivotal element of the first season


The witch trials take place in a similar way to those of the Great Witch Hunt occurred in Europe from the Middle Ages to the Modern Era. A witch hunter arrives in the city where are taking place supernatural phenomena and gives chase to those responsible, questioning and condemning them to death. To do this, the hunter uses different systems such as physical and psychological torture using torture devices as pliers, tongs, holding the head of prosecuted under water etc. To get rid of the culprits the sentence is usually by hanging or burning alive, but death due to torture is not uncommon.

In History

Main article: Salem Witch Trials (Historical)

The Salem witch hunts broke out in 1691 after some of the youngsters reported having been victims of a curse. The girls, including the daughter and niece of Reverend Samuel Parris, Betty, and Abigail, used to meet to "predict" the future and later began to take on strange behavior (swearing, trance states) and to suffer seizures. The mysterious epidemic spread to many other young people of the village and, as doctors were unable to explain the facts, it was declared that they were victims of Satan. Three women were arrested: Parris's slave Tituba, Sarah Good, a beggar, and the elderly Sarah Osborne. The first confessed to being a witch and added that she met a tall man from Boston who for the judges was, of course, Satan. The witch hunts broke out in all its horror in 1692. It was established a court and were imprisoned and executed 20 people, including women, men, and children. Among these, only Giles Corey was not hanged: the octogenarian did not allow them to process him, and for that reason was crushed under stone slabs. Four people died still in prison. The general hysteria ended in the fall of 1692 and October 12, 1693, Governor Phips dissolved "The Court" and instituted a Court of Justice which, after having examined 52 cases, acquitted 49 prisoners and commuted the sentence of three death row inmates. Since then he has not seen other witchcraft trials. It was the only witchcraft trial with death sentences ever held in the English colonies of North America, while frequent were the processes in the Spanish colonies.

Throughout the Salem series

On September 1962, the young reverend Cotton Mather is sent to Salem in the stead of his father Increase Mather, unaware that he is literally entering into the Hellmouth. The alleged demonic possession of the local reverend's daughter, the young Mercy Lewis, has attracted the attention of Boston's Puritan council, but in no time it creates a real hysteria of witch-panic. The girl is convulsing and is constantly attacked by a monster visible only to her, that inflicts wounds all over her body. When Captain Alden's back to Salem, already three people were hanged on charges of witchcraft and soon Giles Corey is accused by Mercy in the public square, where Reverend Mather led her bound in chains so that she can point out the witches who magically prevent her from revealing the names. Rather than confess to the false and satisfy the perverse game of the bloodthirsty puritans, Giles Corey dies, pressed by stones during a painful interrogation in the public square under the eyes of his friend Alden. In reality, the processes are orchestrated by real witches, including Mary Sibley and magistrate John Hale, who want to destroy the Puritans from the inside, making them slaughtering with each other (The Vow).

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Mercy Lewis is chained "for her safety"

The blood of Giles Corey did not have time to dry out on the stones that the trials continue to claim victims. To keep up the citizens' fear and have another victim for her sacrifices, Mary Sibley takes advantage of a hapless local prostitute's unborn baby to send a strong and clear message to the selectmen and to the same reverend. When the deformed baby is delivered, the charges falling on the midwife Bridget Bishop, who had expressed doubts about the real involvement of witchcraft, considering the trials yet another Puritan way of stifling free thought. Despite Anne Hale beg her father to intervene, Cotton Mather sent Bridget to be hanged on charges of witchcraft since to strengthen the evidence of the woman's guilt, Mary Sibley made a spell on Mercy Lewis so that the girls vomit blood on the midwife during the trial (The Stone Child).

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The Barkers are burned alive

The death of Bridget Bishop throws despair among the citizens of Salem because she was a woman respected by the community, and Mary Sibley is obliged to instill in Cotton Mather the fervor to hunt other "witches." Since Mercy Lewis became an apprentice witch under the protection of the Essex Hive, she is solicited by Mary Sibley to use the dark arts and casts a spell on her friend Dollie Trask so that during one evening with her future husband and his family, Dollie is the prey of sinister visions . The fight that broke out between the Barker family and the Trask family that takes place the following day in front of the eyes of the citizens, offers the witches a new pretext to shed blood. Mercy Lewis, then, kills Mrs. Trask by making the blame on the Barkers, which are later attacked by the crowd. Despite Cotton Mather and magistrate Hale are able to calm down the crowd, since there is insufficient evidence to support the charge, Increase Mather, just arrived in town, incites the crowd and condemns the Barker family to be burned alive (Our Own Private America).

The arrival of Increase does that makes it even more hostile the witch hunt, becoming a danger even for real witches since the man is a formidable "witchfinder". Indeed, in a short time, he manages to unmask the madame of the brothel, Mab, as a witch. Tied to a chair attached to a lever, the woman is totally immersed in a lake several times, until she confesses to being a witch and reveals the names of her coven fellows. The charges fall on Gloriana Embry, another prostitute and Cotton Mather's lover, which is too processed. deemed innocent of the crime of witchcraft but not of fornication and prostitution, she is banished from Salem (Departures).

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Tituba facing her interrogation

The reign of terror of Increase Mather reaches its peak with the transformation of the brothel as his headquarters, called by the citizens "The House of Pain". Here Increase tortures and interrogates Tituba, accused by Mercy Lewis of having fed a familiar. The slave undergoes many ordeals with instruments that terrorize the same Cotton Mather. She then accuses John Alden and Mercy Lewis as witches, for revenge (The House of Pain).

The girls who had joined Mercy Lewis to practice spells and rituals are arrested and tortured, deprived of sleep and burned by boiling water until they confess their wrongdoings. However, the girls do not confess the hiding of their mistress Marcy Lewis, they claim to have been raped by John Alden (Cat and Mouse).

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Cotton shows a typical torture device employed by hunters

John Alden, who was arrested by the militia commanded by Mather senior, is accused of having had depraved sexual intercourse with young women of Salem, staining their innocent soul.

Emily Hopkins along with other companions moves charges against Alden, but such accusations are undermined by Cotton Mather, which challenges even the interrogation methods of his father, showing the crowd assembled in the church the bloody tools of torture used by Increase. The allegations of Alden are dropped, but despite all the girls are hanged as the seed of evil had already crept into their hearts. (Ashes, Ashes).

Increase Mather's death is a fact that attracts the serious attention of the Boston's council of puritan elders who interrogate Cotton Mather, accusing him of not having been able to handle a simple case of possession, but had instead caused a mass with-panic hysteria, causing the death by hanging of dozens of people in just six weeks (Cry Havoc).

Countess Von Marburg, in anger toward Mary Sibley who wants to break off the Grand Rite, tells of how for centuries has witnessed the destruction of temples and breathed the smell of burning flesh of those persecuted by the church (Til Death Do Us Part).

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Rebecca Nurse is led to the gallows by the militia men

Following the tribulations suffered at the hands of the Dark Lord during the Reckoning ritual that eradicated her witch powers from her body, Mary Sibley fell victim to terrifying visions while her body tried to recover from the violence she suffered. During one of her hallucinations, Mary witnessed one of the executions secretly roared by Mary herself when the witches were behind the Salem Witch Trials. One of the innocent victims, a woman named Rebecca Nurse, heavily accused Mary of being cause not only of her misfortunes but of all the innocent blood spilled. Subconsciously, Mary was hanged alongside Rebecca Nurse, having to suffer the same fate as one of the many innocent sentenced to an untimely death by her thirst for revenge against the Puritans, until The Sentinel awakened her from the daydream. (Night's Black Agents)

Following the defeat of the Dark Lord and his Great Terror, and the death of almost all the witches that shamelessly had lorded over Salem for years, Anne Hale spoke up during a meeting at the meetinghouse, revealing how the town had been governed by witches from the very top, thus finally discovering the charts on how the Salem Witch Trials had been orchestrated by the real witches. Anne Hale, therefore, promised to implement a new policy, though she was actually intentioned of performing the Grand Rite all over again. (Black Sunday)

Memorable Quotes

Magistrate Hale: "Are we to take three people hung as the measure of Mather junior's caution? There could be nothing worse for Salem, for the country, than a witch hunt!?"
George Sibley: [Murmurs] "Witches..."
Mary Sibley: "Indeed. As my beloved husband, the head of your selectmen, reminds me, there is something worse than a witch hunt... A witch!"
The Vow
Cotton Mather: "Be reasonable, man. I have the power to press you for an answer. All you have to do is say the words "guilty" or "not guilty," and we can stop all of this."
Giles Corey: "If I say "guilty" you'll hang me before dawn. And if I say not, my fate is still in the hands of you bastards. I'll hold my peace and trust in the Lord!"
The Vow
Mary Sibley (to George Sibley): "There's no turning back. The witch hunt has begun, and we will be running the trials. You understand that, don't you, George? You best of all. We will use the trials to turn the Puritans against each other. They will hunt and kill and drown in their very own blood till there's no Puritan left standing and Salem is ours."
The Vow
Increase Mather (to Cotton Mather): "When hunting witches, far better a hundred innocents die than a single solitary witch walks free!"
Our Own Private America
Mr. Eliot (to Cotton Mather): "Sent to Salem to see to the matter of a single, disturbed girl, you return here to Boston six weeks later leaving in your wake a full-blown witch panic, more than a dozen hangings, and apparently unbeknownst to you, the murder of your own father!"
Cry Havoc
Anne Hale (to Salem's congregation): "But I am not just here to remind us of the glories to come. But to warn you all of what I now know to be the awful truth. We have been ruled by witches all along. And not, as we thought, from the outside, but in the very worst way. From within. Witches ruled Salem from the very top. Names like Sibley and Marburg turned out to be masks for the most notorious witches. Witches who very nearly succeeded in turning Salem into Hell on earth and handing our entire new country over to the Devil himself. But I promise you, I promise you now, we will do whatever is necessary to cleanse our town of every last of Satan's whores and make sure that Salem is never again ruled by witches."
Black Sunday




  • Actually, no one was burned alive in Salem; only hangings and a death by pressing occurred.
  • The Salem Witch Trials are the most famous witch trials on American soil, but not the first. They became the best known thanks to the vast literary and film production over the years such as Arthur Miller's The Crucible (1953), Stephen King's Salem's Lot (1975), L.J. Smith's The Secret Circle (1992), and the TV series American Horror Story - Coven (2013).
  • In popular culture Salem has become synonymous with witchcraft, although the city is not exactly an esoteric center with the exception of 1962 witch trials.
  • Adam Simon, co-creator of the show, has released in several interviews on the third season clues that might suggest that the trials will be dealt again, as:

"We have a lot more story to tell — that's for sure. The events are still true Salem only in their first months in our show — the most important events have not even happened yet — and they continued for nearly two years! And beyond that we're excited about a whole supernatural twist on American history, even beyond the events at Salem, so fingers crossed there will be much, much more to come... " [1]

  • Unfortunately, due to production issues, the authors had to make changes to events narrated in the third season, anticipating, cutting and modifying some elements to fit into the third season as the closing season. This is the case of William Stoughton, a major historical figure in Salem Witch Trials reduced to guest character without the slightest legal involvement; Rebecca Nurse briefly showed in flashback/vision, etc.


  1. Salem - Adam Simon Exclusive Interview: Co-Creator Talks Season 2 Finale, Will There Be a Season 3 & So Much More!

See Also