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Friday, August 17, 2012

Haunted Places that I'd like to visit including Salem, Massachusetts

   In 1692, Salem, Mass. became the sight of a series of infamous trials after three local women were accused of using witchcraft to terrorize a trio of young girls; thus beginning the Salem Witch Trials.  They were started by gossipy, lying girls who pretended the "the witch" was casting spells on them and controlling them. But they didn't find this out until it was too late. People were caught up in the literal "Witch Hunt.", anyone who exhibited strange behavior or any other minor offense, sometimes nothing at all, would be accused of witchcraft. The ignorance spread, as it tends to do, and the "trials" soon escalated as towns people, scared and angry, started accusing  neighbors and acquaintances, almost all of them unmarried women, of being witches. They would torture these poor accused people. They were probably innocent and just the victims of ignorance and hysteria, as often occurs throughout history and even today.
    There were many ways they "tested" to see if someone was a witch. Their methods were not only highly unintelligent, inaccurate, but barbaric. Had they really learned nothing from centuries before of violence and madness? Apparently we still haven't learned too much in those areas. The accusers would tie up the accused and dunk them in a river or a pond. If the accused floated, they were considered to be in collusion with Satan, a Witch. But if they sank, they were cleared of the charges of witchcraft. That seems pointless in my mind. It makes me want to go back and ask, "Really? I mean really? Guess what, people float, the world isn't flat and gossipy people love to make trouble."  Also, a method not as written about, they would make "Witch Cakes", from human urine mixed with rye flour and once the cake was baked a dog was brought in and fed the cake. If the dog ate it the accusers assumed that each bite the dog took would send the so-called witch accused into great pain and groans and howling. Most dogs will eat anything, including their own feces. So why wouldn't they eat a nasty Witch Cake? 1 of the 6 men Giles Cory who was 80 years old refused to condemn any women in the village of witchcraft and refused to admit he too was a witch so they laid him out in a field and piled heavy stones on him hoping that he would admit to being a witch. He did not and he died. But you have to respect him for trying to do the right thing, even though it didn't work out for him too well at the time, perhaps he is one of the few souls at rest, since he did the right thing. Over 150 people were arrested and charged, and as many as 19 were eventually executed by hanging.
     Given the conditions, the idea that the Salem witch trials may have been fuelled by ergot poisoning is quite plausible. Salem, like many other communities in the past and present, harvested rye and it was a staple in their diet. But it turns out that rye grass is susceptible to a particular fungus called Claviceps purpurea which infects the edible portions of the plant. During the ergot stage of this fungus’ development, a combination of interesting alkaloids are present which will cause problems with circulation and neurotransmission when ingested by humans. Ergot poisoning, or ergotism, can cause a distressing array of side effects. The initial symptoms are gastrointestinal, then it reaps havoc on the central nervous system. These usually start with relatively benign sensations such as headaches, “pins and needles,” and burning/itching sensations on the skin; but then it escalates into spasms, convulsions, unconsciousness, hallucinations, and psychosis. In severe cases, the body tissues experience physical side effects such as loss of peripheral sensation, swelling, blisters, dry gangrene, and sometimes death. The ergot poisoning in Salem could not have been severe, however, otherwise more dramatic side effects would have occurred. Salem was a community stricken with inequality, fear of the native Indians, bitter disputes over land, sexual repression and apparently ignorance. It is likely that Ergot of Rye was merely a catalyst in an already volatile situation, and mass hysteria took care of the rest.
     Today, the town of Salem encourages its reputation as “Witch City, USA” and has one of the biggest Halloween celebrations in the country. Alongside the tourist shops and museums, though, stand several infamous ghostly locations related to the witch trials. One of particular concern is Gallows Hill, the site of several hangings, which is said to be haunted by the spirits of the 19 people lynched for being witches.It very much reflects the mentality of people, especially back then. Mass hysteria caused by ignorance, and people's inability to accept things they can't understand. To this day people continue to do that, all of the time.
     One of the ghosts haunting Salem may be The Joshua Ward House, on Washington Street. It was the home of Sheriff George Corwin and was also his grave, though his remains have been moved. He was so hated by the victims and their families, that his family was afraid of his grave being desecrated, understandably. Considering the things he'd done, he should consider himself lucky if grave decimation was the worst thing to happen to him after his death. Corwin was known as "The Strangler", because of his gruesome torture methods; which included tying his victim's necks to their ankles until the blood ran from their noses. He also was in charge of the "pressing" murder of Giles Corey. In the mid 1980s, the house was owned by a realtor who used the building as a business office. Employees and clients reported choking or suffocating sensations while in the building. Was that Corwin's hands of death? There was also a woman with dark hair and a long coat spotted in a photo, when she wasn't physically there. Was she murdered by Corwin as well?There have been many alleged hauntings in Salem even to this very day. There are more than a 100,000 visitors each year and many report strange encounters, including a rocking chair rocking by itself. And there are many other haunted sites where people have reported seeing ghosts.
  In conclusion, what a great place to visit!


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