The Salem Witch Trials were undoubtedly a tragic and dark period of American history. Be it genuine fear that inspired the literal witch hunt or perhaps something worse, the fact remains that many innocent women were killed because of unfounded suspicions.
Centuries later, and Salem, Massachusetts, is a lovely town that has managed to move on from its puritanical history. Still, the people who live there certainly haven’t forgotten their community’s roots.
That’s why they still maintain the Jonathan Corwin House. Also known as the Witch House, this is the last remaining building with direct ties to the Salem Witch Trials… and everything about it is frighteningly fascinating.
Judge Jonathan Corwin, who was born in 1640 and died in 1718, resided in what came to be known as the “Witch House” in Salem, Massachusetts. Officially called the Jonathan Corwin House, it will forever be remembered as the only remaining building with a direct link to the infamous 1692 Salem Witch Trials.
Nick Ares / Flickr
After being built sometime between 1620 and 1642, it was purchased by then-35-year-old Judge Corwin in 1675. He lived at the residence for more than 40 years; after his death, he was buried nearby at the Broad Street Cemetery, where his body lies to this day…
Up until the 1800s, the house had been passed down from generation to generation of the Corwin family. Nonetheless, Jonathan Corwin will likely always be its most infamous resident, as he was a civic leader and local magistrate who was responsible for investigating the supposed rise in witchcraft. What he condoned will
Nineteen individuals were hung in the gallows during Corwin’s time serving on the Court of Oyer and Terminer. They all vehemently denied being witches, and they insisted that they were completely innocent—but that didn’t stop Corwin.
Scewing / Wikimedia Commons
The Salem Witch Trials are still considered a particularly shameful chapter in American history for this reason. In the modern day, it is agreed upon by scholars and historians that the supposed “witches” were killed because of the puritanical society’s rampant sexism, mass hysteria, and culture of mistrust—and not because they were truly involved in witchcraft.
Ogram / Wikimedia Commons
Despite the fact that no actual trials or interrogations were proven to be conducted there, the Witch House stood as a reminder of the needless horror that took place around it. Without knowing its owner’s history, it would simply be just a beautiful example of 17th-century architecture!
Jjandames / Flickr
There was also no documentation that any alleged witch was ever sentenced inside of Corwin’s house. It would have been quite unusual for legal proceedings to be conducted in a judge’s own home! Still, some rumors suggested that much of the drama surrounding the witch trials took place under this roof.
jjandames / Flickr
While interrogations were conducted in either Ingersall’s Tavern or the Old Meetinghouse in Salem, Judge Corwin played an extremely important role in the proceedings. Many innocent women died because of his rulings, after all.
Blight55 / Wikimedia Commons
Interestingly, in the 1940s, the house was moved 35 feet to accommodate the widening of an adjacent street. Even so, most of the house remained intact, and what can be seen of it today is remarkably similar to how it looked in the 17th century.
Granted, that has a lot to do with the fact that during the 1940s, the house was restored in such a way that it would more closely resemble its original 17th century construction. Today, it’s a seasonal attraction run by the City of Salem as a museum, so it’s more than worth a visit!
Ogram / Wikimedia Commons
As with so many other relics of unfortunate times in history, hopefully we can all learn a lesson from the Witch House about what can happen when people’s suspicions get the better of them.
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