How many innocents were burned at the stake in Salem?

On his recent trip to Germany Sec. John Kerry told German reporters:

“It turned out that in Massachusetts, they weren’t as tolerant as they thought they were going to be. They had witch hunts in Salem, Mass., and they burned people at the stake.” -


Say it isn’t so, John!!!  In Salem they hang ‘em or crush ‘em…but never burn anyone at the stake!  1690′s: 19 hung, 1 crushed, 0 burned at stake.  No witches, just innocent victims.

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28 Comments . Leave a comment below.
  1. Oops!

    I wonder if Secretary Kerry is one of those who can’t tell the difference between a Pilgrim and a Puritan.

    • Clearly

      Our former Senator’s grandma didn’t grow up on gallows hill and was not dragged to the Salem Wax Museum, Salem Witch Museum, and pioneer village as a youth like me.

  2. It Is Really Too Bad that when this happens...

    He isn’t forced to look into the camera and say, “While I might be Secretary of State, I am not Smarter Than A Fifth Grader.

  3. Hanged

    Pictures are hung, people are hanged. One of my pet peeves.

    sabutai   @   Wed 27 Feb 6:43 PM
    • Apparently, you do not visit the right kind of bars...

      All I know is, I have seen many people who were well hung indeed, nudge, nudge, wink, wink.

    • What are you

      Some kind of teacher? ;)

    • Really?

      It’s examples like hanged vs. hung that gives the English language a bad name. It’s this kind of nonsensical irregularity that would seem utterly ridiculous to anyone learning the English language and would present a real barrier.

      Hanged and hung are, simply put, both the same thing: the past tense of hang. “Hanged” is so irregular and nonsensical that not only does it only apply to people, but it only applies to people who were killed. Hung applies to everything else — including someone who was hung, but didn’t die.

      Does that really make any sense whatsoever, to anyone at all? Do we really need two different words here, when context should more than suffice? And should we really get “peeved” about it?

      I’m sorry, but this one belongs with Thee and Thou in the dustbin of history.

      RyansTake   @   Wed 27 Feb 11:25 PM
      • As I said

        All languages have peculiarities. The Romance languages all insist that my remote control has a gender, as does a head of lettuce. German might decide that a muffle is feminine, masculine, or neuter. Chinese has tonal meaning, and all natural languages have irregular verbs.

        Although I will admit the legal use of “pleaded” still grates on my ears. But I love the idiosyncrasies of language.

        sabutai   @   Thu 28 Feb 6:19 PM
        • No one's pet peeves

          should hang on what ultimately amounts to a tiny footnote of an asterisk in the English language, particularly when those footnotes and asterisks are largely derived from the fact that there were no common usage standards in the English language for so long.

          Hanged or hung, both derived from the same word and meaning almost the same thing, should be absolutely fine. Were a teacher to, say, mark a student off for such a thing, that teacher would be missing the forest for the trees.

          We need an communicable language, that is easily understood and efficient to learn at its base. Ideosyncrasies for the sake of ideosyncrasies at the very margins of our language actually takes away from that. Some are obviously necessary, because it would take too much to change them, but others are easily dropped — in this case, simply by accepting either hanged or hung to refer to things we hang in the past tense.

          Sorry to get so serious about something so silly, but at its base a language is about communicating and I don’t think we should allow anything to get in the way of that… including arcane and mostly forgotten rules that haven’t caught up with the times yet.

          RyansTake   @   Thu 28 Feb 11:10 PM
          • Hanged should probably be standard then...

            …since that is the regular form. In this case I see them as different enough words since one is a neutral mounting something to a prop and the other is to execute by breaking one’s next. I am one of those teachers who would point out the error (actually marking down or not would depend on context) in the course of proofreading, because those are the rules, which when it comes to language that is important to me at least in formal writing.

            • it's about as much of a rule

              as the law that states mourners can’t eat more than three sandwiches at a wake.

              (Sab — think we should keep that ideosyncrasy, too? I mean, you’re such a fan of them, and all.)

              RyansTake   @   Fri 1 Mar 4:33 AM
              • Not sure how those are related.

                I’m much more interested in proper language than funeral etiquette. I don’t believe I’ve ever eaten at an actual wake, though certainly a collation following a funeral service.

                • They're both arcane rules

                  that are completely arbitrary and nonsensical from the distant past, and should both be roundly ignored or laughed at, then left in the dustbins of history.

                  RyansTake   @   Fri 1 Mar 7:15 PM
                  • You don't just rewrite language on the fly...

                    …and it “ain’t broke” (fun fact: ain’t was once the legitimate contraction for “am not”) You remind me of Tony Blair. I liked most of his policies, but when it came to tradition his attitude seemed to be if it’s old it must automatically be bad, but I like tradition, be it this, Governors Council, or our recent exchange on monarchy.

                    • rules and standards change every year

                      there’s nothing on the fly about it. We have a living and breathing language. That’s what makes it so good, and we shouldn’t hold it back.

                      when it came to tradition his attitude seemed to be if it’s old it must automatically be bad

                      I can’t speak for Tony Blair or your interpretation of him, but my thoughts on “tradition” can be summed up as thus: if it makes sense, great. If it doesn’t, it essentially belongs in a museum… where it can be appreciated while not interfering.

                      The English language has literally millions of museums. They’re called books, journals and magazines. It’s not like if the language changes, we don’t have anything to remember it. No one says “thou” anymore, but they always can simply by picking up an old book.

                      RyansTake   @   Sat 2 Mar 12:27 AM
                    • I try not to

                      You don’t just rewrite language on the fly…

                      I certainly try not to, but huge numbers of other people totally do. See that? If I wrote that twenty years ago, it would have looked wicked strange, because nobody used ‘totally’ that way. That change was on the fly, unless you can show that some committee sat down and decided to use the word that way. Being a prescriptivist about language is a losing game.

            • Peeves make terrible pets

              Most of the time, they just lie around and do nothing. When they do something, it’s upsetting. You can’t even pet them. They’re always underfoot, and if you’re not careful, you can trip and break your next.

        • Hmmm... I posted this to Christopher, but

          didn’t want you to miss it… since you’re a fan of old ideosyncrasies, and all.

          RyansTake   @   Fri 1 Mar 4:35 AM
    • Oops...Sorry about that...

      They were hanged, indeed.

  4. Crushed? Yikes.

    You learn something morbid every day.

    • Giles Corey was crushed.

      If you pled not guilty you hanged. If you pled guilty and confessed (and named names) you were spared to prison, and released when the royal Governor put a stop to the nonsense. If you refused to plea you were crushed with boulders until you cried uncle and said something. Giles Corey refused to talk, except that his last words were supposedly, “More weight!”

      • He was also in his 80s

        And was thus a bit of a badass for taking that much punishment. Its actually somewhat shameful that Salem has the Elizabeth Montgomery statue and profits off this notoriety, I don’t think you see parts of Spain having Inquisition festivals or the inquisitor on its police vehicles or football team. My uncles both played football for Salem and not only was the program notoriously awful (I think they have the worst Thanksgiving record against Beverly, though Cambridge usually lost to Everett) but they would always get made fun of for being witches.

        • Salem knows how to play tourist trap.

          Much of that story actually took place in Salem Village, which goes by the modern name of Danvers, rather than Salem proper though the courthouse was in Salem and some victims were from other parts of Essex County. At some point Danvers decided it didn’t want to promote that aspect of its history. It is, I think, an important story to be told, but I wish the National Park Service would take responsibility for its telling because they are respectful of their subject matter and not consumed by the gaudiness that has taken over downtown Salem.

    • To avoid entering a plea

      Under the legal doctrines of the time someone couldn’t be brought to trial unless they entered a plea, either guilty or innocent. If an accused person refused to plea, the placed under greater and greater weight of stones until they acquiesced.

      The main benefit of doing so, is that your heirs would not be disinherited if you died under weight, as could happen if you were convicted.

  5. They burned people at the stake in NYC

    Always a harsh place.

  6. yawn...



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