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Finding Gallows Hill

Bishop Fenwick High School     March,1976

It was a cool and sunny spring morning; another school day at Bishop Fenwick. I had dropped a hit of purple microdot the previous afternoon and was still feeling the effects. I was not feeling up to sitting in a classroom that morning. I walked up to Margin Street and started heading east toward Salem. My first thought was to go watch the freight trains pass until I could collect myself. I stuck out my thumb and continued walking. A car pulled over and the driver rolled down the window.  I saw it was my classmate Ellen Terra, her long reddish brown hair falling in her eyes.  “Hey Paul-where ya headed?” she asked. “I don’t know, Ellen. Not up to going to class this morning. Figured I’d go to Salem and get some fresh air.”  Ellen smiled. “I’m doing a project. I have to find Gallows Hill…you know where they hung the witches….you wanna come with me?” This seemed like a godsend. I was still coming down from the mescaline and while I was lucid and functional my thought process was slow and I felt vulnerable. Normally I would have been nervous being around Ellen, she was one of the prettiest girls in our school- I had never talked with her outside of Jaworski’s Social Studies class. We were driving around Salem; talking about local history…two kids on a quest. Eventually we pulled up to a dilipidated  little field facing a water tower. “This is it?” I asked, conjuring images of jeering puritans paying witness to the sad demise of these unfortunate women. I felt like a place of this historical significance deserved more than a shabby playground full of broken beer bottles and an old water tower.  “There should be a memorial or something…” I said. “Maybe they could write something on the water tower? Here our ancestors executed 19 men & women & 5 dogs for being different Never forget…”

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    • In tbe past two years scholars have come to believe that the site known as Gallows Hill wasn’t the actual place of tbe hangings. Tbey day that Proctor’s Ledge, about a quarter of a mile east of Gallows Hill is more likely to be tbe site, based on eye witness accounts and journals discovered of people who lived on what is now Federal Street in Salem who stated they could see the hangings from their homes. That would not have been possible if the hangings took place at what is called Gallows Hill, but would have been from the closer Proctor’s Ledge site. Salem is planning to place a memorial plaque there

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