GALLOWS (with Peter McLean). 1992.


Whether a gallows was built, or the convicted were strung upon the limbs of a large tree on a rocky ledge overlooking Salem and its estuary, the three hanging events of 1692 were hugely attended public affairs. Provincial leaders and masses of people came from as far as Boston to watch. This English and Colonial method of execution was both horrific and spectacular. The victims prayed, asked forgiveness, begged for Godís mercy, pointed to the mistakes of the court and restated their innocence while climbing the ladder to their fate. These supplications often affected their fellow citizens in the crowds, who reacted with sympathy and regret for inequity and miscarriage of justice. After being hanged, the victims were piled in a common shallow grave nearby, from which some relatives were able to retrieve their bodies and give them proper burial.

Thus the gallows, which it was hoped would end the invasion of evil and provide a catharsis for the community, was the ultimate tragedy of the time; a consequence of human error and foible, far from supernatural domains.