Saturday, June 14, 2008

Witch Dungeon Museum, Salem, MA

I was So excited to see this place after I heard that they do reenactments of the Salem Witch Trials!  This is perfect for teaching "The Crucible."  When we got there, it was everything I expected.  There were dummies propped up in a fake courtroom on the stage.  Judge Hathorne sat on the stand (Yes, Hathorne without a W, even though he is Nathaniel's ancestor!  Nathaniel Hawthorne was disgusted with his uncle's behavior during the witch trials and his subsequent REFUSAL to apologize for his ugly behavior.  Nathaniel supposedly added a W to his own name to distance himself from this guy, who is now commemorated on stage at the Witch Museums as a stuffed puppet-like animatron thing). 

Then, an actress comes on stage and sets the scene for us in the 1600's.  The audience is sitting in actual pews, just like a church, the setting where the trials did take place in the 1600s.  After the explanation, two more actresses come out.  One plays Elizabeth Proctor, an innocent woman in the town of Salem, known for her kindness and Christian ways, and the other plays Mary Warren, Ms. Proctor's servant who has now turned on Ms. Proctor, turning her in to the courts as a witch!  The two dramatically perform, using lines directly transcribed from the trials in the 1600's.  If you've read "The Crucible," you'll notice that Arthur Miller also stayed very accurate with his dialogue.  

This performance goes on for about 15 minutes.  Mary Warren enters spectral evidence into the trial, claiming that Ms. Proctor sent her spirit out in the court, in the form of a bird.  Mary starts screaming and covering herself, feigning protection from the bird.  Thankfully, because of these trials, spectral evidence was outlawed in U.S. trials. 

After the trial, the hostess took our group downstairs into the DUNGEON!  This was so cheesy but cool.  It was pitch black down there and there were actual cells set up with puppet/plaster prisoners.  There is, however, one wooden beam from the original Salem witch dungeons.  

The tour guide told us that prisoners would be chained down there next to each other for days.  They would get soar, tired and very dirty, since there was no opportunity to get up and use the toilet.  This explains why John (Daniel Day Lewis) and Elizabeth Proctor (Joan Allen) look so weary and run down when they got out of jail and are reunited.  My students got "grossed out" at this scene in the film version of the drama.  

The Witch Dungeon also had a Giles Corey cell set up and I took a picture of him getting pressed and, though there was no audio, we could hear him saying "No Weight."  He would rather die with honor than risk his soul and confess to false charges of witch craft.  

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