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Archive for the ‘Salem Massachusetts History’ Category


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This week’s “peek” into the world of NOVEMBER IN SALEM is a look at old Salem Village.  Although it’s now called Danvers, the original site of the Salem Witch Trials has not been forgotten by many in this coastal Massachusetts city.  Modern day Danvers is a bustling place, and the old Danvers State Hospital (the basis for the asylum in my novel) has been partially demolished and remodeled into a luxury condominium complex

But it was not always so scenic. The original hospital once sat on over 500 acres. It was built in the late 19th century as a place for those with “mental afflictions” to spend their days in a beautiful and peaceful setting. But as sometimes happens, over the years the asylum became a repository for the poor and indigent. Family members who no longer could care for, or who wanted nothing more to do with that member of the family who was “odd,” placed them into the state-run facility to be forgotten. In fact, there were so many “forgotten” that the patient population ceased to exit. They lost their identity and became simply an assigned number. It is easier to dismiss a number. No need to show mercy to a statistic on a spreadsheet. And the population of Danvers Hospital remained thus even after death. Behind the great buildings, far back into the wooded grounds there lay oddly shaped markers with numbers on them. Hundreds of them. They are the only reminder of those whose lives held so little meaning they were buried in graves behind the hospital like so much refuse.  The asylum  closed in 1992 and for more than two decades the moody old buildings sat grinding their bones as vandals and urban explorers crawled through their veins and underground labyrinths.  It was to this that I was drawn. The grim old buildings, the spacious grounds, once so carefully tended–now overgrown with weeds. And the lonely graves sitting on the windswept hill. The Hill of Hathorne. The hill that once witnessed the hanging of more than 17 people accused of witchcraft in 1692.  The ghosts of all of those who linger –  watching and waiting.

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