The accused in Salem were actually held in four separate jails, but this one, built in 1684, hosted the majority of them. To call the building’s conditions inhumane would be an understatement. The lower level dungeon was even used to torture the accused as they awaited trial.
This jail was abandoned after a new one was built and, after that, in 1863, Abner Cheney Goodall used the old jail’s timbers to construct a residence. In the 1930s, the family recreated the jail and opened one of the very first witch city attractions in Salem.
Shortly after, in 1956, the New England Telephone Company destroyed that building to construct their new headquarters. So unfortunately, the jail structure no longer exists, but there is a bronze plaque displayed at the Federal Street location where it once stood.
Connection to the Witch Trials
The jail is well-known due to its connection to the Witch Trials. The jail was dirty, dark and dismal. Quarters were absurdly tight, illness was everywhere, and some of the accounts of the time spent in the jail are absolutely horrifying.
It was also from this Salem Jail that Giles Corey was taken to an open field and pressed to death. It was here that Margaret Jacobs accused several others of witchcraft, including her grandfather. And this is, honestly, just a slice of the horrors that occurred within these dank, ugly walls. So perhaps it’s not such a bad thing that the building is gone?
The site of the Salem Jail is right in the middle of downtown at 4 Federal Street, Salem, MA. Again, only a plaque remains to commemorate the site. But you can see an original timber used in the construction at the Witch Dungeon Museum.