Many of you will remember Tim Kendall as the expert for the information about the noted holy site, Jebel Barkal, in Satan’s Chamber. Tinsley and Hubbard, authors of the thriller that launched Fuze Publishing, relied on archaeologist Kendall’s discoveries at the pyramid ancient temple ruins to imagine the setting for their book.
More recently, Kendall, who lives in Salem, MA, turned his research expertise to matters closer to home to craft The 2013 Salem Witch Trials Calendar: a month by month guide to the tragedy of 1692. Fuze interviewed Kendall about his project.
How did you become interested in the Salem Witch Trials?
I moved to Salem in 2004 to discover the city reeks with history. My house, for example, is in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s neighborhood, a setting he used for The House of the Seven Gables.
About two years ago, I developed an active interest in “witch history,” when I discovered by chance that in 1692, only five doors east of my house, there had stood a tavern where the Salem magistrates had held some of the pre-trial witch hearings. I was stunned, since the site–like so many others in Salem–was completely unmarked! This led me to study the town’s early land records to try to discover other sites connected with the witch crisis–and I located the house sites of several accused “witches,” their accusers, the judges who convicted them, the ministers who excommunicated them, the constables and sheriff who arrested them and carried out their executions, all in addition to the sites of the original court house, the jail, and the places of execution–89 sites in all. Most today have been erased by urban sprawl. It was then that I got the idea of mapping the witch trials and creating a guide book.
Your book is in a unique format—a calendar. Can you talk more about why you chose that format and what it offers readers?
The Salem witch hysteria began in January 1692 and it lasted nearly twelve months–an entire year! I thought if I designed the book as a calendar it would allow people to follow the story in real time, month by month. Plus, they could actually use it as a 2013 calendar. Here each month is contrasted with the same month in 1692, in which events are presented in day-by-day diary style. The pages are also illustrated with 67 color photographs of important sites and landmarks, gravestones and contemporary portraits of the leading figures, and important documents.
What was it like to discover, during the course of your research, that some of your ancestors were involved in the trials?
Anyone whose ancestors settled in northeastern Massachusetts before 1692 is almost certain to be related to someone who played some direct or indirect role in the witch trials. Over 114 people from 26 different towns were accused of witchcraft, and hundreds of others were involved as accusers and witnesses in various capacities. Since some of my ancestors settled in Massachusetts in the early 17th century, I found several who were involved: one alleged “witch” who was sentenced to death (but who was sprung from jail by powerful friends), a man who served as a stenographer in several of the trials, another who was a spectator at one of the hangings (and who reported back to one of the trial judges his opinion that all five of the victims had been innocent), and another, a notorious minister of Salem, who was one of the most energetic of the witch persecutors and attended all the hangings. All this made me wonder how I would have behaved under similar circumstances.
What was the most interesting story you unearthed?
Believe it or not, there is still a living witness to the witch trials! In 1632 John Endicott, first colonial governor of Massachusetts Bay, planted an orchard of fruit trees, with seeds imported from England. He put the trees on his farm three miles north of downtown Salem, in what is now Danvers, Mass. This farm was situated along Endicott Street, which is now an avenue of industrial buildings and shopping malls. Behind the parking lot of the Osram Sylvania Plant, surrounded by a black iron fence, stands a lone ancient pear tree, the last survivor of the governor’s orchard, now 380 years old and still bearing fruit. The tree would have been fully grown when owned and tended by the governor’s sons and grandsons, most of whom played roles as witnesses and accusers at the witch trials. The tree is the “oldest living fruit tree in America.”
Editor’s Note: I received a copy of Kendall’s calendar, and after flipping through a few pages, found myself immersed for several hours. It is both visually appealing, with photos of houses and public buildings relevant to the trials, as well as historically accurate. (Imagine living in a building with such intense history; could you stand it?) It is much more than a calendar, to be read and referred to, beyond 2013, as much for its thrilling story as precise details.