Salem witch trial document sells for $31,200 at NY auction
Hanged for 'witchcraft and sorceries', this document is a chilling reminder of the 1692 Salem witch trials
Paul Fraser Collectibles, Friday 16 March 2012
A disturbing document from the 17th century Salem witch trials has sold for $31,200 at auction in New York.
The court indictment of Margaret Scott, convicted of witchcraft, had arrived at the March 15 auction with a $25,000-35,000 estimate.
20 men and one woman were hanged or pressed to death for witchcraft in the Massachusetts town during 1692.
One of the last to be convicted was the elderly Scott, for "certaine detestable arts called Witchcraft and Sorceries", which she "wickedly, mallitiously and felloniously hath used, practised and exercised", according to the indictment.
Her accuser was Mary Daniel, a teenager at the time, who claimed that Scott had inflicted "spectral torture" upon her.
Scott was hanged just five days after the verdict.
The item's high value can be attributed to the fact it was the first time a document from the trials had appeared at auction since 1983. It was one of very few that remained in private hands.
Richard Trask, an expert on the witch trials, told local newspaper Newburyport News: "I've only seen witchcraft documents sold twice during my professional life.
"They are very valuable, and this is an indictment — it's an important document."
Hysteria gripped Salem throughout 1692, when young girls began to have fits and blaspheme. When no medical cause could be found, the idea of witchcraft being to blame took hold.
The sale is a reminder of the value collectors attach to documents that record the early history of the US.
This Peter Force version of the Declaration of Independence, produced 150 years after the Salem witch trials, and currently available through Paul Fraser Collectibles, is equally fascinating.
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Images: Swann Auction Galleries