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Intersection Column | Shining a Light in Darkness


by Gabrielle Meyer

 

In October 2004, my husband and I took a trip to New England and stopped in Salem, Massachusetts. I was appalled at how the town had commercialized the tragedy of the witch trials and disappointed to realize that the truth of those events was buried under the Halloween festivities. We returned to Salem in 2018 and again in 2021. On both trips, I was discouraged to see people celebrating and glorifying darkness. But of one thing I was certain: the men and women who were executed in Salem were not witches.

 

I began to dig for answers. Part of my research took me to my own family genealogy—and I was stunned to realize that I am descended from people on both sides of the trials. I’m a descendent of the Proctors, who were accused, and the Putnams, who were some of the most powerful accusers. As soon as I learned this, I understood why I have always felt passionate about sharing the true history behind these tragic events.

 

In 2022, my family and I returned to Salem—but by that time, I had read several books and was deeply involved in the research for For a Lifetime, the third book in my TIMELESS series. Instead of going to Salem, we went to a nearby town called Danvers. In February 1692, when Danvers was known as Salem Village, the minister’s nine-year-old daughter, Betty, and eleven-year-old niece, Abigail, began to have strange fits that defied medical explanation. When the doctor suggested witchcraft as the cause, people were horrified—if the devil could work in the minister’s home, no one was safe.

 

The community was already on high alert because King William’s War was raging in Maine and the inhabitants of several towns had been massacred. Dozens of traumatized refugees, mostly young women, had fled to Salem Village. The town was also divided over religious matters. Half of the community supported Reverend Parris, and half did not, refusing to pay his wages or provide food and wood for his family. These stresses added to the anxiety plaguing Betty and Abigail.

 

Fear spread like cancer, and soon other girls were having fits. When pressed for the identity of their afflicters, the adolescent girls shouted three names: Tituba, the enslaved woman who lived with the minister’s family; Sarah Good, a cantankerous homeless woman; and Sarah Osborne, a bedridden woman embroiled in land dispute with the Putnams.

 

Under questioning, when Sarah Good and Sarah Osborne denied the charges, the afflicted girls suffered terrible fits. But when Tituba confessed to the charges, the afflicted girls calmed.

 

Many scholars believe that if Tituba had denied the accusations, the three women would have been executed and the hysteria would have ended. But Tituba claimed there were nine witches in Salem Village. This confession caused widespread panic and additional cases of mysterious fits.

 

By the end of the witch trials, over two hundred men, women, and children had been accused. Nineteen were hanged, one man was pressed to death, and five died in jail. Most of the accusers were teenage girls, some of them refugees from the war, and the Putnam family benefitted from putting their enemies on trial. Anyone who was accused of witchcraft and confessed survived. Anyone who professed innocence was put to death.

 

Though scholars have suggested several theories about why the witch trials happened, I believe the root causes were fear and greed. The witch trials were a senseless tragedy, but they ended the powerful and destructive rule of Puritan law. Afterward, it became illegal to hang anyone in America for witchcraft.

 

I enjoyed discovering and telling the real history of Salem in For a Lifetime because I’m passionate about bringing truth into the light so that we no longer glorify the darkness.


 

About the Author

Author Gabrielle Meyer first exploded onto the scene during the summer of 2022 with her debut novel, When the Day Comes, book one in her time crossing series, Timeless. Readers have been entranced by her signature blend of historical romance and fantastical intrigue ever since. Featuring a unique time-travel premise like no other, Meyer’s series—including second novel In This Moment (2023)—has proven her astounding ability to breathe life into the past. Now returning with even higher stakes, Meyer pens the highly anticipated third installment with For a Lifetime, book three in the Timeless series.

 

About the Book

Grace and Hope are identical twin sisters born with the ability to time-cross together between 1692 Salem, Massachusetts, and 1912 New York City. As their twenty-fifth birthday approaches, they will have to choose one life to keep and one to leave behind forever—no matter the cost.

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