SALEM (CBS) – After nearly three centuries of conflicting beliefs, the city of Salem confirms a team of scholars verified the site where 19 innocent people were hanged during the 1692 witch trials as Proctor’s Ledge. The historic site is an area located in between Proctor and Pope Streets in Salem, Massachusetts.
“We are happy to be able to bring years of debate to an end,” Salem State University Professor Emerson Baker told the city of Salem. “Our analysis draws upon multiple lines of research to confirm the location of the executions.”
City reps confirm to WBZ that a team of researchers used sonar technology combined with eyewitness testimonies from centuries-old documents dating back to the Salem Witch Trials.
The city of Salem acquired the strip of land near the base of Gallows Hill in 1936 “to be held forever as a public park” and called it “Witch Memorial Land.” As it was never marked, most people erroneously assumed the executions took place on the hill’s summit.
A group of researchers on the Salem witch trials called The Gallows Hill Project team, now identifies the site as a rocky ledge much closer to Boston Street, at the base of the hill, basing its conclusions on the early 20th century research of historian Sidney Perley, an eye-witness reference to an execution from the trial papers, maps from different periods, and newer technology not available previously.
“It’s a mix of emotions, confirmation and knowing the history is important but it definitely feels like something we make sure it’s something we honor. I think we are continually wanting to see ourselves as wanting to make up for what happened there,” said Salem Mayor Kimberley Driscoll. “It’s a pivotal part of American history. It’s informed our modern day judicial undertakings.”
Thomas Brophy grew up and lives next to the witch trial hangings site. “The family always said that they figured that this was the area but there was never a concrete proof until now,” said Brophy. “It was a very sad time for the city of Salem and it’s a shame that this happened but it did happen, it is history and I think we’re dealing with it in the right way with trying to memorialize those that passed away,” he added.
Members of the Gallows Hill Project Team include Salem State University Professor of History Emerson Baker, Salem Award Foundation Chair Shelby Hypes, Director, the city of Salem’s Corwin House (The Witch House) Elizabeth Peterson, Salem Witch Trials: Examine the Evidence Producer and Director Tom Phillips, University of Virginia Professor of Religion Benjamin Ray, Salem Witch Trials Historian and Author Marilynne Roach, and Salem State University Emeritus Professor of Geology Peter Sablock.
“It would be nice now to be able to show them the site with a plaque and with something to be able to take a picture of,” explained Brophy.
“It’s definitely a dark part of our history, an infamous time in Salem when people turned onto each other. I think we learned a lot of lessons and we’ve worked hard to overcome what happened in 1692,” said Mayor Driscoll.