NEIGHBORS (GOSSIP/RUMOR) (with Peter McLean). 1992.


After blood ties of immediate family and the often complicated relations caused by re-marriage, neighbors formed the next level of social connection and cohesion in the community. Of course in small towns almost everyone could be considered a neighbor. Hundreds of tasks, human support, and cooperative governance depended on the good will of neighbors. Building common structures, clearing land, haying, and care of the ill and children joined neighbors in common purpose and common values; as did duties in the church, town governance, trade, travel and the protective roles of town militia.

Naturally, neighborly relations are not always amicable or productive. Human nature insures that jealousy, spite and antagonism appear in relationships from time to time; and with the growing pressures of the witchcraft epidemic, these qualities, fanned by rumor, exploded to destroy many of the strong social bonds of Salem and her neighboring towns. Many neighbors signed petitions for the innocence of the accused, but many others turned against them in fear and hatred, blaming all of their problems on the supposed witches. The “crying out” of the young girls, the testimony and exaggerated accusations of neighbors, and thousands of extraordinary reports of specter visitation swung the court toward a verdict of guilty in the case of almost every suspect brought before them.

The “NEIGHBORS” chairs are placed back to back and are separated by a gate which cannot be opened. They each have a “gossip hole” through which things can be whispered and overheard.