The best books about the 1692 “witch” hunts in Salem Village: the fear, horror, and execution of 19 innocent victims

Why am I passionate about this?

I write historical and biographical novels, and have had a fascination with the Salem witch trials since childhood. With my first visit to Salem, I felt a strong connection to my surroundings and its history. When I walked through the House of the Seven Gables for the first time, I felt I’d been there before. Three past-life regressions brought me back to 17th century Salem. In my biographical novel For The Love Of Hawthorne, I delved deeply into the soul of my favorite author, his devoted wife, and the shame his family suffered at the hand of his ancestor Judge Hathorne. The story came from my heart, as I lived their story along with them. 


I wrote...

For The Love Of Hawthorne

By Diana Rubino,

Book cover of For The Love Of Hawthorne

What is my book about?

Nathaniel Hawthorne’s courtship of Sophia Peabody lasted three years because he insisted on keeping it secret. But she knew they were destined for each other. When they married in 1842 “we became Adam and Eve in our Garden of Even” she wrote in her journal. But not all was paradise in their Eden—Nathaniel bore a burden that plagued his family since 1692. His ancestor Judge Hathorne condemned nineteen innocent victims to death during the Salem witch trials. His heinous deeds brought shame and guilt upon the family. In her last moments on earth, Sarah Good cursed the judge and his descendants from the hanging tree. Nathaniel’s belief in this curse haunted him until Sophia made it her quest to save him. 

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Down Salem Way

Diana Rubino Why did I love this book?

Down Salem Way is a journey back to the horrific Salem witch hysteria era. This book fascinated me because I will read anything connected to the Salem witch trials and the events that led to 19 innocent victims’ executions in 1692. Down Salem Way tells us the story in vivid detail through the eyes of John Wentworth and his beloved wife Elizabeth. They knew many of the condemned, and witnessed their horrific trials and executions. Rev. Nicholas Noyes and Judges Hathorne and Corwin were responsible for these atrocities, after witnessing the ‘afflicted’ (the young girls whose hysterical behavior led to the accusations). This book will take you back to 17th-century Salem and Boston, where the victims were held in another dungeon. 

The story moved me emotionally because I visit Salem all the time, and have always taken a keen interest in the witch trials. This book, although a novel, made me understand, more than the nonfiction books about the era, how these awful events traumatized people, especially those who lost innocent loved ones. I gained a greater understanding of what these people suffered, with this story as told by people who lived there.  

By Meredith Allard,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Down Salem Way as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Winner of the B.R.A.G. Medallion

How would you deal with the madness of the Salem witch hunts?

In 1690, James Wentworth arrives in Salem in the Massachusetts Bay Colony with his father, John, hoping to continue the success of John’s mercantile business. While in Salem, James falls in love with Elizabeth Jones, a farmer’s daughter. Though they are virtually strangers when they marry, the love between James and Elizabeth grows quickly into a passion that will transcend time.

But something evil lurks down Salem way. Soon many in Salem, town and village, are accused of practicing witchcraft and sending their…


Book cover of The Heretic's Daughter

Diana Rubino Why did I love this book?

I recommend this book because of my fascination with the Salem witch trials and how they affected innocent victims. I also recommend it because Kathleen Kent is a 10th generation descendant of Martha Carrier, one of the 19 victims to be executed. I believe her personal connection enabled her to capture the setting and the emotions of those involved so distinctly, as she’s writing about her own family members. The story is told by Sarah Carrier Chapman in a letter to her granddaughter, revealing that her mother, Martha, was condemned and hanged as witch in 1692. The Salem Village Sarah lived in was in the throes of simmering hostility, an ominous foreshadowing of the horror to come. This is a novel, but because these people actually lived, suffered, and grieved, and as I believe I have a spiritual connection to Salem during this time, it struck a chord deep within me.

By Kathleen Kent,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Heretic's Daughter as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A courageous woman fights to survive the darkest days of the Salem Witch Trials in this "heart-wrenching story of family love and sacrifice" (USA Today).  

Salem, 1752. Sarah Carrier Chapman, weak with infirmity, writes a letter to her granddaughter that reveals the secret she has closely guarded for six decades: how she survived the Salem Witch Trials when her mother did not.

Sarah's story begins more than a year before the trials, when she and her family arrive in a New England community already gripped by superstition and fear. As they witness neighbor pitted against neighbor, friend against friend, the…


Book cover of Death in Salem: The Private Lives Behind the 1692 Witch Hunt

Diana Rubino Why did I love this book?

Diane Foulds, a descendant of one of the victims condemned to death during the Salem Witch Trials, thoroughly researched many of the people involved in the events that led to the execution of 19 innocent victims. I am not a descendant, but these events have fascinated me since childhood, because they were so outlandish and led to such unnecessary tragedy. In this book you will learn about not only the victims, but the ‘afflicted’ young girls whose wild, unfounded accusations and theatrics during the trials convinced the judges that many people were witches. It is easy to connect with each individual, as the book centers on them, to understand why the entire episode was character-driven. It is even easier to sympathize with the victims and appreciate how they suffered. 

By Diane E. Foulds,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Death in Salem as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Salem witchcraft will always have a magnetic pull on the American psyche. During the 1692 witch trials, more than 150 people were arrested. An estimated 25 million Americans-including author Diane Foulds-are descended from the twenty individuals executed. What happened to our ancestors? Death in Salem is the first book to take a clear-eyed look at this complex time, by examining the lives of the witch trial participants from a personal perspective. Massachusetts settlers led difficult lives; every player in the Salem drama endured hardships barely imaginable today. Mercy Short, one of the "bewitched" girls, watched as Indians butchered her parents;…


Book cover of In the Shadow of Salem

Diana Rubino Why did I love this book?

Whatever your level of interest in the Salem Witch Trials of 1692—you will learn much, and be entertained at the same time. It captured my interest because I’ve always been fascinated with the Salem witch trials and Salem history. It is the true story of Mehitabel Braybrooke of Ipswich, an ancestor of Donna’s. She recreated Mehitabel’s difficult life in painstaking detail, after digging deep to retrieve authentic court records, facts about Mehitabel’s family life as the illegitimate daughter of an indentured servant, and serving time in the Ipswich jail on a witchcraft accusation. She eventually married the man she loved (a rarity in 1692 Salem and Ipswich) and had children, living into her 70s. This story brought me back there as if I’d been transported. Donna did a masterful job of writing authentic dialogue and showing (not telling) us how perilous life was in the 17th century, for these 19 innocent victims who were wrongly accused, imprisoned in dungeons under horrid conditions, and hanged (and one man pressed to death). 

It gave me a greater understanding, appreciation, and emotional connection to the era and place where I’ve had a strong spiritual connection to since childhood.

By Donna B. Gawell,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked In the Shadow of Salem as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In 1692, the residents in Salem and Ipswich live with stories of witchcraft, religious extremism, and false accusations. Mock trials lead to questionable convictions and speedy executions. Most of the condemned are women, all but one are hung. Others, including two infant children, die in prison.

For Mehitabel Braybrooke, life began as the illegitimate child of a prosperous landowner. Now her stepmother is convinced the girl is a pawn of the Devil. During a time when women have few rights and even fewer allies in the courts, what will become of the falsely accused?

Written for the General Market (G)…


Book cover of The Salem World of Nathaniel Hawthorne

Diana Rubino Why did I love this book?

I recommend this book because Nathaniel Hawthorne is my favorite author, a historical figure whose connections to his birthplace of Salem, Massachusetts influenced his religion, his politics, his writing and haunted him through life. His cousin Susannah Ingersoll lived in the House of the Seven Gables, my favorite house in the world, Salem’s most famous landmark, and the subject of Hawthorne’s most famous novel. I have always been fascinated with the Salem witch trials, and know that Hawthorne’s great-great-grandfather “Hanging” Judge John Hathorne condemned 19 innocent people to death on false accusations of witchcraft. Nathaniel added the ‘w’ to his name to distance himself from his notorious ancestor. You will learn about how he met his wife, Sophia Peabody, also a Salem native, and how she inspired him. It helped me understand Nathaniel as a person as well as a famous author, and further inspired me to write my novel.  

By Margaret B. Moore,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Salem World of Nathaniel Hawthorne as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Although most writers on Nathaniel Hawthorne touch on the importance of Salem, Massachusetts, to his life and career, no detailed study has been published on the powerful heritage bequeathed to him by his ancestors and present to him during his years in that town. In The Salem World of Nathaniel Hawthorne, Margaret B. Moore thoroughly investigates Hawthorne's family, his education before college (about which almost nothing has been known), and Salem's religious and political influences on him. She details what Salem had to offer Hawthorne in the way of entertainment and stimulation, discusses his friends and acquaintances, and examines the…


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Book cover of The Last Bird of Paradise

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The Last Bird of Paradise

By Clifford Garstang,

What is this book about?

"Aislinn Givens leaves a settled life in Manhattan for an unsettled life in Singapore. That painting radiates mystery and longing. So does Clifford Garstang's vivid and simmering novel, The Last Bird of Paradise." –John Dalton, author of Heaven Lake and The Inverted Forest

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