Cultural depictions of the Salem witch trials

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Fanciful representation of the Salem witch trials, lithograph from 1892.

Cultural depictions of the Salem witch trials abound in art, literature and popular media in the United States, from the early 19th century to the present day. The literary and dramatic depictions are discussed in Marion Gibson's Witchcraft Myths in American Culture (New York: Routledge, 2007) and see also Bernard Rosenthal's Salem Story: Reading the Witch Trials of 1692

In literature[edit]

Pauline Bradford Mackie

In popular culture and media[edit]


Television and radio[edit]

  • And early episode of the CBS radio program You Are There dramatized key events of the Witch Trials (1947).
  • The television series Bewitched (1964–1972) includes six episodes in Season 7 (1970) that were filmed on location in Salem, with a plot that includes time travel to 1692.
  • Leonard Nimoy's television series In Search of... (1977–1982) aired Season 5, Episode 109: "Salem Witches" (1980)
  • In episode four, "Agents of Satan" (which first aired on October 31, 1982), of the science-fiction TV show Voyagers!, the main characters, Bogg and Jeff, help save Abiah Folger, the mother of Benjamin Franklin, from being burned at the stake during the Salem witch trials.
  • A television mini-series Three Sovereigns for Sarah, starring Vanessa Redgrave, Kim Hunter and Will Lyman, first aired on PBS on May 27, 1985.
  • In The Simpsons animated television comedy series (1989–present), a segment of the 1997 Halloween special episode "Treehouse of Horror VIII" is based on the Salem witch trials.
  • Episode 348 of Season 19 of the sketch comedy series Saturday Night Live (first aired October 2, 1993) contained a skit depicting the "Salem Bitch Trials" in which Abigail Wolcott, played by Shannen Doherty (who played Betty Parris in the aforementioned Voyagers! episode and the witch Prue Halliwell in the TV series Charmed, see below), is examined by Deputy Governor Danforth, played by Phil Hartman, on charges of "bitchcraft."[20]
  • In Season 3, Episode 4 of The Scooby-Doo Show, the main cast of characters arrives in Salem to investigate a "witch" (who turns out to be a human covering up her crimes in a witch costume) haunting the town.
  • In the television series Sabrina the Teenage Witch (1996–2000), in Season 1, Episode 23 (1997), "The Crucible," a class field trip goes to Salem to re-enact the trials.
  • In Histeria!, an animated television series for children (1998–2001), episode 36, "When America Was Young", included a People's Court-style sketch based upon the trials. View episode:
  • The History Channel's In Search of History (1996–2000) television series aired the episode "Salem Witch Trials" (1998).
  • In the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "Gingerbread", Buffy Summers, Willow Rosenberg and Amy Madison are sentenced to burn at the stake after the apparent sacrifice of two children in an occult ritual.
  • In Charmed, a television series (1998–2006), part of the fictional background is that Melinda Warren, an ancestor of the three fictional protagonists, was burned at the stake in the Salem witch trials. See Season 1, Episode 9, "The Witch Is Back" (1998) and Season 3, Episode 4, "All Halliwell's Eve" (2000)
  • PBS's television series Secrets of the Dead (2000— ) aired Season 2, Episode 1: "Witches' Curse" (2002), featuring Linnda R. Caporael
  • The History Channel aired a documentary, Witch Hunt (2002).
  • Salem Witch Trials (2002), a mini-series directed by Joseph Sargent and written by Maria Nation, starring Kirstie Alley, Henry Czerny, Gloria Reuben, Jay O. Sanders and Alan Bates, with appearances by Shirley MacLaine and Peter Ustinov, aired in the US on CBS in two parts,[21] in the UK as four parts.
  • The Discovery Channel's Unsolved History series (2002–2005) included Episode 23, "Salem Witch Trials" (2003).
  • Ghost Hunters, Season 3, Episode 17: "Salem Witch", October 24, 2007, explores the haunting of the Hawthorne Hotel by the spirit of Bridget Bishop, one of the people executed in 1692.
  • In The Vampire Diaries, Bonnie Bennett's ancestors were Salem witches, who fled Salem in 1692.
  • The BBC and the National Geographic Channel aired a documentary about Salem in 2011, hosted by novelist Katherine Howe, called Salem Witch Trial Conspiracy in Great Britain (, and Salem: Unmasking the Devil;; in the US (, with British and American narrators respectively.
  • In Bones season 5, episode 20: "The Witch in the Wardrobe" references to the occult and the Salem Witch Trials for the basis for the plot.
  • Aidan from Being Human on the Syfy channel has an encounter with a witch. Aidan: "Let me guess, Salem?" Ms. Gilchrist: "Andover. But Salem got all the press."
  • In the television series The Secret Circle, which aired on The CW between 2011 and 2012, the ancestors of the main characters and the witch families in Chance Harbor, are all descendants of six of the eighteen witch families who escaped from Salem in 1692.
  • The third season of the series American Horror Story: Coven (2013) primarily follows the antics of a coven of Salem descendants who reside in a boarding school, Miss Robichaux's Academy, in New Orleans, Louisiana.
  • Salem is an American historical drama television series created by Adam Simon and Brannon Braga; it aired on WGN America beginning April 20, 2014 as its first original-scripted series. Starring Janet Montgomery and Shane West, it was said to be based on the Salem witch trials in the 17th century, with a "twist": the witches were real and in charge of the trials.
  • In the 6th episode of season 9 of Criminal Minds the fictional BAU is hunting an unsub who is recreating the trials.
  • The season 2 episode "The Salem Witch Hunt" of the NBC series Timeless takes place on September 22, 1692 during the Salem Which Trials. In the episode, Lucy, Rufus, and Garcia Flynn try to save Abiah Franklin, the future mother of Benjamin Franklin, from being hung in the trials after she is accused of Witchcraft.
  • The Salem Witch Trials were depicted in the Legends of Tomorrow episode "Witch Hunt."
  • T+E aired a 4-Part mini series in October-November 2019 called Witches of Salem which serves as a dramatized historical documentary which shows what befell Salem in 1692 during the trials.
  • Motherland: Fort Salem is a TV series that takes place in an alternate reality some 300 years after the trials in which the witches made a deal with the US Government to allow them to live in return for helping them with their powers.
  • The eighth episode of the Disney+ miniseries WandaVision, titled "Previously On", is briefly set during the Salem witch trials of 1693, where the witch Agatha Harkness is accused by her fellow witches of practicing black magic and betraying her coven. She is nearly executed while held against a wooden post before retaliating and killing every member of her coven.

Comic books[edit]

  • Issue No. 29 of Black Cat Mystery Comics, from June 1946, includes the cover story, "Black Cat Battles the Salem Witch."
  • "The Salem Terror" was a story published in Wanted Comics No. 13 in 1948. It was drawn by Maurice del Bourgo. The entire story has been scanned at Pappy's Gold Age Comics Blog, No. 920, March 28, 2011.
  • Issue No. 18 in September 1962 of Unknown Worlds, from American Comics Group, contained an 11-page story called "Witch Hunter of Salem", depicted on the cover, in which the minister who was hunting witches in Salem turned out to be one. Zev Zimmer (Script), C. C. Beck (Pencils), Pete Costanza (Inks); Cover by Ogden Whitney.
  • Marvel Team-Up in 1976, included a 4-part serialized story-line (Issues Nos. 41–44) in which Spider-Man, Vision and the Scarlet Witch travel through time to Salem, 1692, to battle Dr. Doom —- who has enlisted the help of Cotton Mather – get entangled in the witchcraft accusations. Pages 11–16 in particular in issue No. 42, "Visions of Hate!," depict the historical episode.
  • In Marvel's Fantastic Four vol. 1 #185, published in August 1977, the titular super-hero team discovers a hidden town in Colorado called New Salem in which the inhabitants are witches and warlocks, descendants of those who survived the Salem Trials. The inhabitants include Agatha Harkness, Nicholas Scratch and the Salem's Seven.
  • Salem: Queen of Thorns is a 5-issue comic (Nos. 0–4), the first issue published in 2006 and the rest in 2008 by Boom! The entire series was later compiled into a single volume: Salem: Queen of Thorns in February 2009 (ISBN 1-934506-46-X).


  • The 1962 opera The Crucible with music by Robert Ward and a libretto adapted lightly from Miller's play.
  • The second album by the indie rock band Liars, They Were Wrong, So We Drowned, is a concept album about the trials.
  • Rob Zombie's album Educated Horses (2006) contains many references to the trials, mainly in the song "American Witch". His song, entitled "Lords of Salem", also was based on this.
  • Jello Biafra had a side-project entitled The Witch Trials, and his work with the Dead Kennedys made a few references to them.
  • Canadian progressive rock band Rush's song "Witch Hunt" (from 1981's Moving Pictures) is about how manipulators can use fear to "possess" the "ignorant" masses to their liking, much like the Salem townspeople during the Witch Hunts.
  • American punk-rock band AFI has a song "Malleus Maleficarum" on their album Art of Drowning; the title is based on a book of the same name.
  • American ska-punk band Big D and the Kids Table released an EP in 2005 titled Salem Girls, which contains the titular song that documents one of the trials.
  • Neal Peterson mentions Alice Parker in his song "I wind my clocks / OneSixNineTwo". Peterson is a descendant of Parker.
  • American death metal band Ishia have a song called "Witch Hunting in Salem".
  • American metalcore band Unearth wrote a song about Giles Corey named "Giles" for their album III: In the Eyes of Fire.
  • American black metal band Ceremonial Castings's 2008 album Salem 1692 is based on the events and two members of the band are direct descendants of Judge John Hathorne.
  • Abigail Williams, an American symphonic black metal band from Phoenix, AZ, take their name from one of the accusers in the trials.
  • "Hunting For Witches" by Bloc Party references the hysteria about witches in Salem and uses it as a metaphor for hysteria about immigration in contemporary Britain.
  • "Burn the Witch" by Queens of the Stone Age is about the Salem Witch Trials.
  • "The Dead Can't Testify" a song by Canadian rock group Billy Talent based on the Salem witch trials.
  • "Under a Killing Moon" a song by the rock band Thrice talks about Salem Witch Trials and the innocent people burned in them.
  • Swedish heavy metal band Wolf wrote a song called "Curse You, Salem", a song about the trials.
  • Metalcore band Motionless in White released a song titled "Abigail" on their album Creatures about Abigail Williams and the Salem Witch Trials.
  • The Clutch album Blast Tyrant contains the track "(Notes from the Trial of) La Curandera" which is, as stated, notes from a witch trial, and how she exacted her revenge
  • The One-Eyed Doll concept album Witches is based on the trials.
  • Melodic metalcore band The Raven Age released a song titled "Salem's Fate" on their debut album Darkness Will Rise.
  • Texas rock Band Nothing More released the song "Salem", featured on their third studio album The Few Not Fleeting.
  • Connecticut musician Dan Barrett from Have a Nice Life released music under the pseudonym "Giles Corey", including an album of the same name.
  • Taylor Swift released a song "Mad Woman" about female rage, on her lockdown album Folklore referencing hunting witches. Swift also had a lyric on "I Did Something Bad" from her 2017 album Reputation also referencing hunting witches.
  • The Boston Crusaders Drum and Bugle Corps 2017 production, "Wicked Games", was based on the trials.

Video games[edit]

  • The 1997 game Castlevania: Symphony of the Night has an enemy called Salem Witch that sometimes drops Shortcake, possibly a reference to Witch cake.
  • The 2013 game Murdered: Soul Suspect features the Salem Witch Trials as the motivation for a modern serial killer
  • The 2014 online multiplayer strategy game Town of Salem is a more comical version of the Salem Witch Trials, set primarily to the theme of the "Mafia" party game.
  • The 2015 video game Fallout 4, which depicts an alternate future of a post-apocalyptic Boston (referred to in-game as "The Commonwealth"), contains a reimagined version of the town of Salem, including a "Salem Museum of Witchcraft".
  • Salem is one of "Epic of Remnant" chapter in Fate/Grand Order smartphone mobile game, briefly based on Salem, Massachusetts of the year 1692.
  • The 2020 game The Dark Pictures Anthology: Little Hope takes place in the fictional town of Little Hope, which also had witch-burnings like Salem.


  • In the web series RWBY, the character Salem, who is both the narrator and one of the main villains, is named after the town.
  • "The Haunting of the Salem Witch Trials", released on May 26, 2017, is episode 8 of season 2 of BuzzFeed web series, BuzzFeed Unsolved: Supernatural, in which the trials and the theories that surround them are discussed, and the possible ghosts of Salem as a result of the trails are investigated.


Advertisement circa 1891 for Daniel Low, Salem, MA
  • Daniel Low, a jeweler in Salem, Massachusetts, began selling souvenir sterling "Witch" spoons in 1890, using two different patterns, the first with three pins, the word "Salem", and a witch on a broom. (See right)

19th century illustrations depicting the episode[edit]

The story of Salem featured prominently in many publications in the 19th century about the 17th century colonial foundations of the United States. The illustrations continue to be reproduced widely in 20th and 21st century publications, in many cases without accurate attribution or reference to the century in which the illustrations were created. This gallery includes their citations and the names, where known, of the artists who created them.

19th and 20th century photographs of 17th century buildings related to the episode[edit]

Although a few of the houses that belonged to the participants in the Salem witch trials are still standing, many of these buildings have been lost. This gallery includes photographs take in the 19th century and early 20th century that preserve the visual record of these homes.

References and notes[edit]

  1. ^ Neal, John (1996). Rachel Dyer. Prometheus Books. ISBN 978-1-57392-049-0.
  2. ^ Whittier, John Greenleaf (1965). Legends of New England, 1831: A Facsim. Reproduction, with an Introd. by John B. Pickard. Scholar's Facsimiles & Reprints.
  3. ^ "Calef In Boston (John Greenleaf Whittier)". Retrieved December 16, 2020.
  4. ^ "The Project Gutenberg E-text of Mosses from an Old Manse and Other Stories, by Nathaniel Hawthorne". Retrieved December 16, 2020.
  5. ^ Forest, John William De (1967). Witching Times. College & University Press.
  6. ^ "Lois the Witch". Retrieved December 16, 2020.
  7. ^ Longfellow, Henry Wadsworth (1900). Giles Corey of the Salem farms. Boston, New York etc.: Houghton, Mifflin & co.
  8. ^ Freeman, Mary Eleanor Wilkins; Shaw, Thomas Shuler (1893). Giles Corey, yeoman: a play. Harper's black and white series. New York: Harper & Bros.
  9. ^ Lovece, Joseph A.; Montgomery, Richard R. (March 5, 2015). The Witch Hunter's Wards Or, the Hunted Orphans of Salem. Createspace Independent Pub. ISBN 978-1-5084-4004-8.
  10. ^ Peterson, Henry; Pyle, Howard (February 11, 2007). Dulcibel: A Tale of Old Salem.
  11. ^ ""The Dreams in the Witch House" by H. P. Lovecraft". Retrieved December 16, 2020.
  12. ^ Cadman, Charles Wakefield (1926). A Witch of Salem: Grand Opera in Two Acts. O. Ditson Company.
  13. ^ Forbes, Esther (1928). A Mirror for Witches. Houghton Mifflin. ISBN 978-0-8488-0050-5.
  14. ^ Hammand, Esther Barstow (1940). Road to Endor. Farrar & Rinehart.
  15. ^ Miller, Arthur (October 14, 1996). "Why I Wrote "The Crucible"". The New Yorker.
  16. ^ Petry, Ann (September 8, 2015). Tituba of Salem Village. Open Road Media. ISBN 978-1-5040-1987-3.
  17. ^ Jackson, Shirley (1956). The Witchcraft of Salem Village. Random House. ISBN 978-0-394-89176-7.
  18. ^ Schonberg, Harold C. (October 27, 1961). "Opera: Robert Ward's 'The Crucible'; Work Based on Miller Play at City Center (Published 1961)". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved December 16, 2020.
  19. ^ Jalalzai, Zubeda (Summer–Fall 2009). "Historical Fiction and Maryse Condé's "I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem"". African American Review. 43 (2–3): 413–425. doi:10.1353/afa.2009.0009 – via JSTOR.
  20. ^ Salem Bitch Trial
  21. ^ Fries, Laura (February 27, 2003). "Salem Witch Trials". Variety. Retrieved November 24, 2018.