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Site of 1692 Witch Executions Potentially Identified


In January of 2016, a team of individuals known as the Gallows Hill Project identified the location, known as Proctor's Ledge, believed to be where 19 innocent people were executed during the 1692 Witch Hysteria. For many years there has been a lot of debate about where this execution site was located, but new technology allowed the researchers to seemingly put the debate to rest. As a former resident of the city, I had always heard the site was located by Salem Heights Apartments and this newly identified location is directly across the street. This had been contrary to the Gallows Hill Park location, formerly believed to be the execution site. Gallows Hill Park had been set aside by the city as "witch land" to be used as a park and as a sort of memorial. According to the Gallows Hill Project, they determined Proctor's Ledge "to be rocky ledge much closer to Boston Street (away from Gallows Hill Park), basing its conclusions on the early 20th century research of historian Sidney Perley, eye-witness reference to an execution from the witch trial papers, maps from different periods, ground-penetrating radar and high-tech aerial photography.

This Salem News article does a great job of reporting details of the historical and scientific findings directly from the Gallows Hill Project members. Looking through the article, there is insurmountable evidence that the Pope Street site is the location of the executions. Time will tell, but as for now it seems to check off all the boxes for the right location. As reported in Salem News, "the Gallows Hill Project members include Emerson Baker, a history professor at Salem State University; Elizabeth Peterson, director of Salem’s Corwin House (The Witch House); Tom Phillips, who directed and produced “Salem Witch Trials: Examine the Evidence”; Marilynne Roach, a witch trials author and historian; Peter Sablock, a Salem State geology professor; Benjamin Ray, a religion professor at the University of Virginia; and Shelby Hypes, chairwoman of the Salem Award Foundation."

On July 19th, 2017, a memorial was dedicated at the site of Proctor's Ledge where three mass executions are believed to have taken place including one on July 19th, 1692. The memorial is very nicely done, a wall of stone with individual engraved stones for the victims set inside the wall. The hill is landscaped up to a fenced in area (see photos below). Although I did not see any older looking trees (potential "gallows"), I will go back in the winter when the area is bare of its leafage to get a better look. If you visit Proctor's Ledge (7 Pope Street), please remember it is in a residential neighborhood. Be quiet and respectful. Make sure to visit during daylight hours and do not to climb up on the hill.

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