Marilynne Roach

“Thrown into pits”: How were the bodies of the nineteen hanged Salem “witches” really treated

Nineteenth century historian Charles Upham stated that the deceased were “undoubtedly all thrown into pits dug among the rocks” after the hangings. More recent popular accounts and all too many walking tours of Salem tend to enlarge on the more gruesome aspects of the 1692 witch trials tragedy with tales of bodies carelessly disposed of far from consecrated ground, but what really happened? Does contemporary evidence prove a different fate? Family lore strongly suggests that at least three of the dead were removed to home ground under cover of night for proper burial, but family lore isn’t always dependable. A closer examination of the court records may disprove the usual assumptions.

Marilynne K. Roach ( independent researcher, is the author of The Salem Witch Trials: A Day-by-Day Chronicle of a Community Under Siege, and Six Women of Salem, and is a member of the Gallows Hill Group that verified the site of the 1692 hangings.