Visiting the Old Burying Point and Salem Witch Trials Memorial Header

The Old Burying Point & Salem Witch Trials Memorial

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. Please see my Privacy Policy for more information.

In the Old Burying Point Cemetery is a dark head stone of a grave, the stone has an engraving of a skull with weathered white marks in various places on the stone.

The Old Burying Point Cemetery also referred to as the Charter Street Cemetery, is located right next to the Salem Witch Trials Memorial. Teeming with a history that overflows between the weathered tombstones that are collapsing due to the ravages of time. The Old Burying Point is Salem’s oldest graveyard and one of the three cemeteries with ties to the Salem Witch Trials.

The cemetery is occupied by several notable residents from Salem, such as Captain Richard More, a Mayflower Pilgrim and Captain John Turner who built the House of the Seven Gables. However, the graveyard is also the final resting place of accusers who were directly responsible for the horrific deaths of suspected witches who lost their lives in the 1692 Salem Witch Trials.

Justice John Hathorne of the Witchcraft Court

Salem Witch Trials Memorial Witch Quotes located just outside the Old Burying Point. The cement has I AM WRONGED and I AM INNOCENT written.

One such resident of the graveyard is Justice John Hathorne of the Witchcraft Court. John Hathorne was known for his combative prosecution techniques, based heavily on spectral evidence, and claimed that those who practiced witchcraft were associating with the Devil.

John Hathorne is the ancestor of American novelist Nathanial Hawthorne, who wrote classics such as “The Scarlet Letter” and “The House of the Seven Gables” (which is a real house in Salem that you can visit!) Nathanial Hawthorne often includes family members in his novels — the ruthless Judge Pyncheon in “The House of the Seven Gables” was based on John Hathorne. While Nathanial Hawthorne included the character in his novel, he’s not proud of his ancestry. He added the “W” to his surname to distance himself from his cruel predecessor and his ties with the Salem Witch Trials.

The Old Burying Ground Cemetery

Hundreds of old weathered and aged from time cemetery stones in the Old Burying Point Cemetery

I visited the cemetery at 5 am when the sun was rising as the rest of Salem slept. The beams of sunlight shone brightly through the gaps between scattered gravestones, offering a peaceful and calming atmosphere. I could fully respect the history buried within the graveyard and took in all the memories and words of those who died during the 1692 witch trials.

As I approached the graveyard from the entrance next to the Salem Witch Trials Memorial, I was greeted by direct quotes from trials that had been cut short, symbolizing the early deaths of those who were tried as witches. One of the Salem Witch Trials Memorial quotes that stood out to me was from Bridget Bishops, the first victim to be executed, and simply read: “I am innocent”.

At the Salem Witch Trials Memorial by the Old Burying Point Cemetery Bridget Bishop memorial bench at the Salem Witch Trials Memorial. Stone bench with Bridget Bishop Hanged engraved on the stone. There are several bunches of yellow sunflowers sitting on top of her stone.

Part of the evidence used against Bridget was that workmen found poppets (small human-like dolls now associated with witchcraft) buried within the walls of her home. However, for centuries people had been placing items such as dolls, bones, clothing and shoes underneath the floorboards and behind the walls in their homes as a blessing and to protect all who lived there from bad spirits. However, this was deemed as sufficient evidence for the cruel witchcraft judges in Salem to condemn Bridget.

Salem Witch Trials Memorial

Stone bench with the engraving Giles Corey Pressed to Death Sept 19 1692. Above the engraving is a bunch of orange and yellow sunflowers honoring Giles memory. Salem Witch Trials Memorial.

The Salem Witch Trials Memorial is a small space dedicated to the victims of the Salem Witch Trials. The commemorative area is made up of a low stone wall that surrounds 20 granite benches, each carved with the name of a victim who lost their lives during the trials and the date of their execution.

As well as acting as memorials, the benches also signify the immense weight of the rocks used to crush Giles Corey to death during the trials. The Salem Witch Trials Memorial also houses six black locust trees, the tree species some victims were believed to have been hanged from, acting as a memory for the injustice that occurred during the trails.

After a respectful viewing of the Salem Witch Trial Memorial, I made my way toward the gate that led to the back of the graveyard. As I was the first visitor of the day, I opened the metal gate that sealed the cemetery off from the rest of Salem and took my first step onto the soil path toward the aged gravestones.

Within the graveyard, I discovered gravestones of various sizes. There was usually one large headstone paired with a smaller footstone used to mark the foot end of the person buried below. I spotted several headstones with markings that grew more intricate as the years progressed. What looked like a skull in the center of the headstone from a distance would resemble an angelic-looking person on the newer headstones. This made it easy to tell the age of the headstone without reading the date engraved in the granite.

As I continued walking along the quiet path, I approached a tree crowded by fragile, worn gravestones. Many were pushed together due to the tree’s massive roots which crammed the stones into smaller and smaller spaces as they grew.

The Grimshawe House

Grimshawe House next to the Old Point Cemetery - Massive house with yellow chipped paint, boarded up windows and a construction piece of wood covering the area where there was once a door

Located directly next to the Old Burying Ground Cemetery, close to the main entrance on Charter Street, is a yellow house (from age) that appears to be abandoned and falling apart. The house is currently showing signs of being under renovation. But when I visited, it was almost as though the renovations had also been abandoned. I snapped tons of photos of this beautiful dilapidated building, wondering what it was for and why it sat so close to the edge of the cemetery.

The copper plaque, located along the path from the main entrance of the graveyard answered my question. It read, “The Grimshawe House” — a residence with its own important history as the former home of Nathanial and Elizabeth Peabody who had three children including Sophia Peabody. Sophia was a woman who had many health issues following being given a rattle made of mercury when she was a baby. Spending years living as an invalid, Sophie met and married Nathanial Hawthorne. Read more about the Grimshawe House’s intriguing history here. (Coming soon)

The best thing about the Salem Witch Trials Memorial being next to the Old Burying Point Cemetery? The fact that callous accusers and judges who are buried in the graveyard are overshadowed by the innocent men and women who lost their lives during the trials.

Grave Robbing in Salem cemeteries

At the Old Burying Point Cemetery Small gravestone with the name Sarah Higginson engraved with a slightly larger headstone right behind Sarahs gravestone.

Just like in Europe, graverobbing was common in Massachusetts. As many graves were marked with both headstones and footstones, grave robbers knew the exact position of the body so they could dig it up quickly and accurately.

To combat these body snatchers, the Old Burying Point built tabletop tombs above the buried remains of important figures, such as Bartholomew Gedney, another Salem Witch Trials judge. There were several other specially crafted tombs that protected entire buried families from the prying hands of robbers.

Related Post: Dark Tourism Travels

Where are the Salem Witches Buried?

If none of the witches were buried in the cemeteries in Salem, what happened to their bodies? The Puritans believed suspected witches weren’t worthy of Christian burial and were doomed to hell. This is where the term “Witch Pits” comes in. The witches of Salem were buried in pits so shallow their limbs were poking through the ground.

Once the trials were over, the families of those buried in shallow graves were able to dig up the bodies and give them proper burials in their family plots and private gravesites.

Visiting the Old Burying Point Cemetery

The Old Burying Point Cemetery is a Large thin headstone with an engraving of a skull at the top in the center of the stone. The gravestone is for Mary Higginson.

The Old Burying Point Cemetery is open from dawn until dusk and is free to enter. Ghost tours and historical walking tours also pass through the graveyard, recounting tales of the past and teaching you all about the history of the cemetery and its residents.

The Old Burying Point is located behind the Peabody Essex Museum on Charter Street, directly next to the Witch Trials Memorial.

Like this post? Share these pins on Pinterest!

Sharing is caring!

Comments 8

  1. This was so interesting. It must have been so serene to be there in the early morning and reflect. It was cool to learn a little bit about the memorial and burial sites. I can’t imagine how hard it was for the families of the witch trial victims to have to witness their family members wrongfully tried and executed.

    1. Post
      Author

      It was! It was so quiet and looked so beautiful with the sunrise. I can’t speak for all of the families as I am sure they were very horrified and sad by the loss of their loved once…but some of their families were responsible for the accusations! I will write a blog focusing specifically on the trials soon.

    1. Post
      Author

      It really is. All of the witch trials over the world have been so tragic. I guess that is why memorials have been set up in these places to honor the lives lost.

  2. 5am is true dedication. I doubt I could do it…

    I’m glad they’ve turned some of these into memorials. It’s amazing how haunting it can be to just list how someone died. I remember reading about how Giles Corey was pressed to death when I was in school. Such a terrifying way to go! Bridget Bishop’s “I am innocent” quote is very striking, as well.

    I didn’t know about the shallow witch pits. Absolutely disgusting. It makes me so angry that even if death they weren’t given any dignity.

    1. Post
      Author

      Thank you! It was hard but worth the trek out that early. It’s a true testament to how much I enjoy solitude. The memorials were a great idea and it really does honour those who lost their lives in such a horrific way. I think the Giles Corey story of his death has got to be one of the worst and most brutal ways to die. That poor man!

  3. This is so interesting! Thanks for educating me on this place! I cannot wait to visit in October!

    I love that you included such great photos of the tombstones! I can’t believe that people dig up the dead bodies, how gruesome.

    1. Post
      Author

      Thanks, friend! I hope you love it! Although I hear they not allow access to the Old Burying Point during the month of October to prevent any further damage to it. However, the walls and fencing around the graveyard are pretty low so you will still be able to see how cool it is! Also, about digging up bodies – guess anything for a dollar, right?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *