Posted on January 7, 2020
Salem, Massachusetts, home of the Salem Witch Trials, is a major destination for ghost-hunters and the curious. The Witch Trials will forever go down in history as one of the major catalysts that caused old America to take inventory of its actions.
Resulting in 19 completely unnecessary deaths, the Salem Witch Trials is the result of nothing more than mass hysteria run amok. Those accused and convicted of witchcraft in Salem were tortured and ridiculed, with most being executed by hanging.
The majority of their corpses were dumped around the Old Burying Point Cemetery. Read ahead to learn the reasoning for this heinous act and get a better understanding of the practices of Puritan New England times.
What is the Old Burying Point Cemetery?
Laid out in 1637, the Old Burying Point Cemetery not only is one of the oldest cemeteries in Salem, Massachusetts but the United States, as well. Also known as the Charter Street Cemetery, it is the final resting place of many of Salem’s most notable residents.
Originally called the Salem Street Burying Ground, it was a private cemetery of the Wade family, acquired by the town of Medford in May of 1717. As evidence of just how old this place is, the earliest headstone is dated 1683, with the latest marked 1881.
The cemetery and its surrounding area were settled as a plantation that was then-owned by Matthew Craddock, the first governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. For 45 years the land was used as a private farm and plantation.
How Old Burying Point Came to Be
The land’s second owner, Edward Collins, broke the land up into smaller tracts and sold them individually. Among those who purchased the land were the families of Tufts, Bradshaw, Willis, Wade, Brooks, Francis, and Whitmore, who became the founders of the town of Medford.
The largest farm in this area was owned by Jonathan Wade. When he died in 1689, he left the estate to his son, Dudley. It included a plot of land that Jonathan referred to as “that little pasture called the burying place”. By 1717, the Wade family plot had become the town’s burying ground.
Records show that some 600 people are buried there, yet there are only 485 markers to be found. There are several reasons known to account for this discrepancy. Firstly, at the time of the 17th century it was common practice to use one gravestone to show where an entire family was buried. The Wade family, for example, have a marker here that consists of four of its family members.
Secondly, there are numerous Revolutionary War soldiers laid to rest at Old Burying Point, many of whom are unknown. A large flagpole with a granite marker commemorates these fallen soldiers. And lastly, records further show that there are more than 50 slaves buried at the cemetery, as well. During these sad, unjust times it was common to decline a headstone for a slave.
For the most part, the majority of the markers at Old Burying Point are headstones, but there are some that have unconventional shapes to them. Most of these headstones seem to be made from granite.
Who is Buried at Old Burying Point?
Several notable figures are buried at Old Burying Point. Among them are Massachusetts Governor and Revolutionary War figure John Brooks, Sarah Bradlee Fulton, a Revolutionary War heroine, Judge John Hathorne, one of the most influential and hated judges of the Salem Witch Trials.
Also buried at Old Burying Point is Bartholomew Gedney, another judge from the Salem Witch Trials and physician by profession, Mary Corey, the second wife of Giles Corey, who was executed by Judge Hathorne during the Witch Trials.
Eleanor Hollingworth, mother of Mary English and mother-in-law of Philip English, one of Salem’s richest merchants, is buried in the cemetery, as well, along with Eleanor’s son and Mary English’s brother, William Hollingworth.
Other graves found here are those of Samuel Shattuck, a felt and hat maker, and his grandson, Samuel Shattuck Jr. It is believed that Reverend Nicholas Noyes, who was a minister during the Salem Witch Trials, is buried in the Old Burying Point, although his grave is unmarked. Simon Bradstreet, the last governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony is also laid to rest here.
Also found buried at Burying Point is Mary Higgins, the second wife of Salem’s Reverend John Higginson, as well as Nathaniel Mather, whose father was Reverend Increase Mather, along with the wife of John Chalcedony, identified only as Mrs. Chalcedony.
Given his cruelty toward those that he had hanged, it’s no wonder that many visitors of the Old Burying Point Cemetery claim to have captured the ghost of Judge John Hathorne in photographs taken of his grave.
Let’s face it; this guy had positively no remorse for the innocent folks he accused of witchcraft, which even included a 4-year-old girl. If anyone is cursed to wander aimlessly around their burial site, it’s Judge Hathorne.
Of course, shortly thereafter they were usually executed for doing so. Totally unfair circumstances that only serve to show how far we’ve come since these terrible times in our young nation’s (often embarrassing) history. It needs mentioning, however, that these practices were completely legal and legitimate during these times.
Due to the fact that it was considered unlawful – and unlucky – to touch the corpse of a witch, their deceased bodies were unceremoniously dumped around the grounds of Old Burying Point and therefore did not get a proper burial.
It is believed the lost spirits of these poor souls show up at the cemetery, as there have been multiple reports of voices, strange anomalies, odd orbs of lights, and sudden drops in temperature while walking through the grounds.
The history behind Old Burying Point Cemetery is wild and detailed. Most of it admittedly rather morbid, but perhaps these facts are what make ghost-hunters drawn to it. It is the final resting place of many who were involved in the Salem Witch Trials.
That alone would lend credence to its hauntings, but its ties to the Revolutionary War further help to give its haunted history weight. Some 6,800 Americans were killed during this war alone, with an additional 17,000 believed to have been killed from diseases during this time.
Since some of these dead are buried at Old Burying Point Cemetery, it’s little wonder as to why these burial grounds are considered one of the most haunted places in Salem, Massachusetts.
It’s even more frightening knowing that many of those dead here may never be identified, as burial methods were rather crude and thoughtless back in those days. It’s certainly possible that as technology progresses we might be able to help fix that.
But let’s face it, the bodies of those “witches” who were crudely dumped so many years ago will never be identified, as time has more than likely long since eliminated any chance of that.
We can, however, learn from our mistakes to ensure that travesties like the Salem Witch Trials never again occur. It’s important to educate each generation with what happened in our nation’s darker days so that we have a foundation on which we can build to become better.
And as sad as it is to think that we once savagely murdered innocent people all because we didn’t understand them, these events had to happen as we grew and adapted with the changing times. What was once considered normal practice (burning witches at the stake) is now absolutely absurd to even think about.
But through all of the heartache that came from the Witch Trials, we can have some bittersweet solace in knowing that the dastardly Judge John Hathorne seems to have been cursed to wander alongside some of the very people that he put to death. He was clearly one who only served to abuse his given power.
And if some of those witches are haunting the grounds of the Old Burying Point Cemetery, perhaps their only reason for doing so is to forever torment their killer, Judge John Hathorne.