SALEM — Twenty years after its original dedication, hundreds gathered yesterday to rededicate the Salem Witch Trials Memorial.
The event followed a careful restoration of the simple but moving enclosure, a stone wall graced with 20 benches, marked with the names of each of those executed during the witchcraft madness of 1692.
The entrance of the space includes, carved into stones on the ground, the words of the victims professing their innocence, words often deliberately cut off to signify the injustice of trials. Each was convicted of having made common cause with the devil.
“Oh Lord help me,” said Rebecca Nurse of Danvers. “It is false.”
The elderly Nurse, like all but one of the condemned, was hanged. Giles Corey was pressed to death.
“The memorial represents the least we can do to honor and pay tribute to those who lost their lives,” Mayor Kim Driscoll said.
The mayor alluded to those who now come to Salem seeking the occult shops and attractions that have sprung up as a result of the city’s association with witchcraft. Likewise, she noted that the name Salem brings winking recognition all over the world.
But this space offers a place for reflection and a much deeper sense of what the trails mean, Driscoll said. She warned against “the terrible events that can occur when a small number of people are allowed to dominate and oppress the others.”
The memorial is off Charter Street and adjacent to the cemetery containing the remains of John Hathorne, one of the judges. After an estimated 6 million visitors, it had begun to show signs of age. A $120,000 restoration was begun last June, led by the original stonemason, Hayden Hillsgrove, who attended.
Some additional work is slated to continue over the winter months.
Yesterday’s gathering took place under an enormous tent in the nearby parking lot. Organizer Patty MacLeod, one of those who got the memorial built in the first place, celebrated the clear blue skies.