Spot Where Salem 'Witches' Were Hanged Identified

Proctor's Ledge is the fateful spot
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 14, 2016 7:29 AM CST
Spot Where Salem 'Witches' Were Hanged Identified
"The witch no. 1" lithograph by Joseph E. Baker, ca. 1837-1914.   (Wikimedia Commons / Library of Congress)

Nearly a century ago, historian Sidney Perley identified the place in Salem, Mass., where 19 accused witches met their end in 1692; now, finally, confirmation. The Salem News reports that the seven scholars who compose the Gallows Hill Project have after a five-year effort definitively determined that Proctor's Ledge was where the executions took place. One of those scholars, Emerson Baker, writes in the Oxford University Press blog that the hangings had "broadly" been considered to have taken place on Gallows Hill, which comprises many acres. Perley had zeroed in on the Proctor's Ledge location near the hill's base, with the city in 1936 even dubbing a small part of the area there "Witch Memorial Land."

But Baker explains that land went unmarked, and the belief that the hill's summit was the infamous spot returned. Though there is a dearth of eyewitness accounts of the hangings, one big clue came via the witch trials court record dated Aug. 19 of that fateful year. Accused witch Rebecca Eames traveled to the court via the Boston Road; when asked whether she'd passed an execution that morning, she answered that she saw some "folks" there while at the "house below the hill," which the scholars ultimately identified as one of a few homes on Boston Street. A " view-shed analysis" revealed it was possible to plainly see the top of Proctor's Ledge, but not the top of Gallows Hill, from this location. Today the wooded area overlooks a Walgreens, notes the Boston Globe, which adds the city plans to mark the location with a "modest" memorial. (A modern-day Salem witch saw her prediction come true in court in October.)

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