Heather Elizabeth Gagnon
Master's Thesis submitted to the Faculty of the Virginia Tech in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of
Master of Arts
Dr. Ronald J. Nurse
May 21, 1997
Scandalous Beginnings: Witch Trials to Witch City by: Heather Elizabeth Gagnon; Committee Chair: Dr. Ronald J. Nurse; History Department; ABSTRACT: On June 10, 1692, Bridget Bishop was hung as a witch in the community of Salem Village of the Massachusetts colony. Bishop was the first of twenty that died, all of whom professed their innocence. By the end of the madness, more than two hundred persons stood accused of witchcraft. They attempted to prove their innocence or they falsely admitted guilt in order to save their own lives. Citizens did not discuss the episode for many years after the trials were ended. The whole episode was an embarrassing blemish on the history of the state, and there was little atonement for the unjust hangings of those who had proclaimed their innocence. Three hundred years later, Salem, Massachusetts is very different. The image of the witch on a broomstick has been commercialized, and the city has become known as the “Witch City.” The city makes over $25 million a year in tourism and is one of the largest tourist attractions in all of New England. This change raises some very important questions, such as how did this change occur? Why did it occur? Is Salem unique? How did perceptions change over time, and why? This thesis attempts to answer these questions by examining a variety of sources. This thesis strives to explain how a tiny New England town that experienced the tragic phenomenon of the witch trials and hangings, evolved into the present-day Witch City.
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