Thursday, October 5, 2023

How Witch Hunts End

Beverly is a town just across the river from Salem, Massachusetts. I attended an event in Beverly today and decided to do some sightseeing afterward. About 20 years ago, I worked an outside sales job whose main office was in Beverly, so I would spend a lot of time there. For this job, we were often paired with another salesperson and go out and do 2 to 3 hour presentations daily, usually twice a day, in people's homes. By far the best salesman was a very odd 21 year old who lived in Beverly, who usually kept to himself and was sometimes privately mocked by others, but he made a lot of money and we all would hope to be paired with him, because of the greater chances of our making money.

One day I was paired with him and we went on an assignment at 7pm, and after making the sale we left by 10pm. We were talking after for about an hour, and we ended up getting along very well and became friends. One thing he liked to do was hunt game and do taxidermy, so that night he told me to follow him in his car to his house. We arrived, went inside, and his very welcoming family received me and gave me a tour. There were literally hundreds of animal heads, mainly deer, on the wall covering every room. I felt like I was in the Texas Chainsaw Massacre house. It made me wonder for a second, should I be fearing for my life? But my new friend and his family were the nicest most hospitable people, so I was able to quickly dispel such thoughts.

As I was about to leave, he said to follow him to his freezer. I gulped with a smile, and went. Inside the freezer was filled with deer meat. He grabbed a bunch of the "best meat", wrapped it up, and gave me as much as I could carry. He was odd, but boy he was so nice. I thanked him and left.

As I backed out of his house onto this very dark road with a very narrow driveway, I almost hit what looked liked a historical marker across the street. The marker said it was the location of the John Hale House, a local pastor from the Salem Witch Trials who participated in prosecuting "witches". As a history buff, I read the marker, and thought how funny it was that a game hunter of the 21st century lived right across from a witch hunter of the 17th century.

Today I visted the John Hale House again, since I was in the neighborhood and am now much better educated in the Salem Witch Trials. This time I visited knowing something I didn't know 20 years ago. You see, John Hale ended the Salem Witch Trials in Beverly. This was because his wife ended up being accused of being a witch, and knowing this was false, he prevented her execution and realized the accusers were making false accusations.

When the Salem Witch Trials ended, the wife of John Hale died soon after, but he lived, and as a Christian pastor he wanted to expose the falsehood, so he wrote a book giving an alternate explanation for why the accusers made false accusations.

Visiting today I recalled how 20 years ago I was invited into the home of an oddball hunter that lived across from someone who was once a witch hunter. My perception of the oddball changed by getting to know him better, John Hale's perception changed when the wrong person was falsely accused and his eyes opened to the truth.

This is how witch hunts end.

Originally written on July 16, 2023.