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Marilynne K. Roach

“Thrown into the 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.” More recent popular accounts and all too many walking tours of Salem enlarge on the more gruesome aspects of the 1692 witch trials tragedy with tales of bodies carelessly dumped 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

Marilynne K. Roach is the author of The Salem Witch Trials: a Day-by-Day Chronicle of a Community Under Siege, and the biographical Six Women of Salem, among other titles. She has also contributed to the definitive collection of court documents, Records of the Salem Witch-Hunt.