Charter Street Cemetery, also known as the Old Burying Point, is the oldest recorded cemetery in Salem and the second oldest in the United States. It was first established in 1637; John Hathorne was interred there in 1717. Time has so eroded his grave that it is now embedded in concrete to preserve it against further deterioration, but it remains one of the most famous the cemetery contains and is a mainstay of Salem’s enduringly popular witch tours. The winged skull that hovers over the epitaph may look like a grisly indictment but was in fact a ubiquitous symbol in early New England, representing at once the transitory nature of human life and the possibility of transcendence. The “stain” Hawthorne alludes to has been visually realized in recent years through the erection of Salem Witch Trials Tercentenary Memorial. Empty seats, each inscribed with the name of an accused witch together with the date and method of execution, are ranged in a circle. As repositories of infernal influence, the victims were of course not afforded a proper burial at the time of their death.
Explore the Salem Witch Trials Tercentenary Memorial with professional tour guide Mollie Stewart.