Salem, Massachusetts is a lovely town. My local RWA chapter held our regional conference there last spring and will be back there again next April. (If you’re a writer, I encourage you to check out the 2012 Let your Imagination Take Flight Conference). But I’ve been warned against visiting Salem during October. Wicked traffic near Halloween seems to be the witches’ revenge.
The Salem Witch Trials of 1692 hold a special fascination for me since one of my ancestors was among the accused. (See my post about Sarah Town Cloyce for more about her story.) Of course, the likelihood that any of the 19 people who were hanged for witchcraft were actually familiars of the devil is exceedingly slim. Most of them were simply unlucky.
The first three to be accused were Tituba (a slave from Barbados), Sarah Good (a homeless beggar), and Sarah Osborn (a fussy old woman who hadn’t been to church in a year.) Since all of them were fairly powerless members of the society, it seems as if the accusers (a hysterical group of teenaged girls) were testing the waters to see how far they could take their claims. Think of them as Puritan bullies.
One of the accused witches was Giles Corey, a tough-minded octagenarian. He didn’t meet his end on the hangman’s scaffold. Because he knew he’d be convicted if he went to trial and all his land would be forfeit, he refused to stand trial. In so doing, he assured that his land would go to his sons-in-law and their families. Punishment for his refusal to stand trial was “heavy persuasion.” Corey was stripped, a board placed on his chest and heavy stones piled on. Rather than plead for his life, or confess to witchcraft and save it, all he would say is, “More weight.”
Giles Corey is a hero to me. He refused to buckle to a proceeding he criticized as corrupt. He sacrificed himself for the sake of his family.
Of course, if I was writing the story, he’d have been willing to sacrifice himself but I’d have figured out a way for him to triumph and live instead. Unfortunately, history doesn’t guarantee a “happily ever after” like a romance novel does.
One of the main reasons I’m drawn to romance is the sense of balanced scales. I love the fact that no matter how bleak things look, somehow everything will turn out for the best–the wrongs will be righted, the good rewarded, the evil punished.
Unfortunately, life doesn’t have that sort of guarantee. But if you visit Salem in October, you’ll be convinced that in the long run, the witches triumphed.
Do you have a favorite historical person you think has what it takes to be named a hero?
What would you do for the sake of a child?
My heroine in A Duke for All Seasons is faced with a terrible choice in order to protect hers. Arabella St. George is blackmailed into helping the French. When she gives the envelope intended for an assassin to the Duke of Winterhaven by mistake, she’ll do anything to retrieve it.
But the duke has plans of his own…
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