Tuesday, October 11

The House of the Seven Gables + Salem Witch Trials

In seventeenth-century New England, Cotton Mather preached against the "wonders of the invisible world" as part of the Puritan movement.  These wonders included witchcraft...

Prior to Salem, there was already a history of executing witches back in Europe.  From the 15th to 17th centuries, half a million people were accused and executed. It should be noted that 'burning at the stake,' while something that occurred in Europe, did not occur in the village of Salem.

A renewal of hysteria and accusations flared in 1692, beginning in the village of Salem.  It spread to many other nearby communities, and was the worst and most dramatic episode of witch hunting in colonial America. When it was over, twenty people had been executed-nineteen hanged and one pressed to death. Additionally, more than a hundred people had been jailed because of accusations, and several died during their imprisonment.

The Salem witchcraft hysteria is significant because it was the last time in American history that accusations of witchcraft would lead to execution, signifying a turning point in world history. It also marked the end of Puritan authority in New England. It would not be the last time, however, that America was plagued by hysteria.  (See The Red Menace unit study.)

One of the most vocal participants during the Salem Witch Trials was Judge John Hathorne.  If the name sounds familiar, Hathorne’s great-great grandson was Nathaniel Hawthorne, author of our spine novel. It is speculated that Nathaniel Hawthorne added the “w” to the family name as a means of distancing himself from the wrongdoing of his great-great-grandfather. It is equally possible this change was merely the result of a fashion of the period, as many families were altering their names to reflect the original English spelling. Hawthorne shows disdain for his ancestor in the story, having Judge Hathorne appear as the antagonist Judge Pyncheon.

From Hathorne's first questioning of Tituba, during which he attempted to force her to confess to witchcraft (which she finally did under his relentless pressure), to the end of the trials, he played a starring role in the witchcraft events. He presumed guilt, took a lead in questioning, backed the accusers, believed in the “touch test” and spectral evidence, and was a crucial figure in the execution of 20 innocent individuals. He so firmly believed he was doing the right thing, ridding the colony of the Devil, that he even sent the 4-year-old Dorothy Good to jail. When others began to question the use of spectral evidence, and suggested the Devil could take on anyone’s likeness, Hathorne sternly replied, “not without their consent.”  (Salem Witch Museum)

Our spine read for this unit is 
The House of the Seven Gables (Nathaniel Hawthorne)

Get the entire unit in the World History Bundle!

Includes ten unit studies (plus a bonus!) covering World History. Each unit addresses a new topic, spanning from Ancient Hawaii to modern-day. There is also a study of archaeological concepts. Each unit has introductory text, which will give the student basic background information about the topic at hand.
  • There are photographs and illustrations, and we have also included primary documents when available.
  • After this text, there are featured videos, which augment the background information and help make the topic more accessible for more visual students.
  • You will also find a short list of reading books, including a featured novel that the unit builds upon.
  • There are vocabulary words, places, and people to identify.
  • Reading comprehension, critical thinking questions, and writing assignments are included.
  • We add fun with hands-on activities and extra videos to watch that will bring the era to life.
These studies are directed toward upper grades students, but some have resources for younger students so that the whole family can work together. Our family has used unit studies as curriculum for many years, and we hope that your family will enjoy these, too!

Product samples:   Motel of the Mysteries & Encounter

  • Motel of the Mysteries
  • Island Boy
  • Encounter
  • The Odyssey
  • A Loyal Foe
  • Indigo Girl
  • Gold Rush Girl
  • Around the World in 80 Days
  • Number the Stars
  • To Kill a Mockingbird
  • House of the Seven Gables (bonus)

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