When This 300-Year-Old House Went Up For Sale, Its History Of Witchcraft And Murder Was Revealed

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When a quaint home, built in the colonial style, hits the market in New England, it’s not likely to cause a stir. Mostly because the area’s architecture revolves around the earliest settlers’ taste. But when one house went up for sale in the town of Peabody in Massachusetts, it made waves because of its dark past. And it’s a history that included witchcraft and even murder.

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The property, at 348 Lowell Street in Peabody, is just an eight-minute drive from Salem. Despite its age – around 300 years – the house has “the functionality of today’s needs,” according to Antique Homes Magazine. The $600,000 home does, indeed, have modern appliances and a lot of space, as well as a swimming pool.

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But perhaps the most alluring element of the home is to whom it once belonged. One former owner’s name was John Proctor. Those familiar with the Salem Witch Trials will, no doubt, remember the name of this early American settler.

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Proctor and his parents set sail from England, headed for Ipswich, MA, in 1635. He was only three years of age at the time, however. Once there, his father went on to become one of the area’s most prominent – and wealthy – landowners in town.

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When Proctor grew up, he also became a businessman, and was known to collaborate with people from all walks of life. He married Martha Giddens, but their union was marred by the deaths of three of their four children at young ages. Then, Giddens herself perished while delivering Benjamin, the couple’s only child to make it to adulthood.

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Three years after Giddens’ death, Proctor married Elizabeth Thorndike. The pair went on to welcome several children together, four of whom are said to have survived their infancy. During that time, the family moved from Ipswich to the Salem area, where the businessman leased an estate ripe for farming. He also received a license to run a tavern from the property.

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In 1672, the family suffered another devastating blow – matriarch Elizabeth died just after delivering her seventh child, Thorndike. Two years later, Proctor married for a third time, and his new wife’s name was Elizabeth Bassett.

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Soon, Proctor and Bassett were welcoming babies of their own – seven in total, although only four appeared to have grown into adulthood. With children of all ages on their Peabody farm, the pair had plenty of help keeping it, and their tavern, in order.

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But all was not well for the Proctor family. For one thing, they had not made a good impression on their neighbor, Giles Corey. When their home caught fire, they blamed him – his frustration with the family could have been motive. Then, when one of the businessman’s sons confessed to the deed, Corey filed a lawsuit against the patriarch next door.

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Even darker times were on the horizon for the Proctors, and for Salem at large, however. In early 1692, the colonial town began its explosive run of trials involving local residents accused of witchcraft. The Proctors’ neighbor, Giles Corey, was one of the accused. When he refused to cooperate with authorities, he was crushed to death in an act known as “pressing.”

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Once Corey died, trouble stirred within the Proctor household. Their servant, Mary Warren, said she saw their former neighbor’s ghost and suffered fits as a result of the supposed encounters. However, the patriarch brushed off her stories as just that – and demanded she work even harder around the house.

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Proctor’s vocal dismissal of the witchcraft accusations in Salem is said to have sparked what happened next. His wife, Elizabeth, was soon named as a witch too. And when the businessman spoke out against those claims, he was soon cited as a practitioner of the dark art as well.

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Warren, the same servant who claimed to have seen Corey’s ghost, said later that Proctor attacked her after she put a prayer bill on display. She also said that her boss made her put her hand on a Satanic bible. Two other women piled on and made accusations as well, but the tavern-owner continued to stand firm against all of it.

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Despite the claims, Proctor’s neighbors stood up to defend the man and his wife. In all, 32 people signed a petition corroborating that he was a helpful, Christian, family man. However, the pair went on trial in August of 1692, regardless of the local support. Both were found to be guilty and sentenced to death.

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In the meantime, the sheriff sold or destroyed all of the Proctor family’s belongings within their colonial-style farmhouse, leaving the children with nothing. Soon, they’d be without their father too – he was hanged just two weeks after his trial. Elizabeth was spared the gallows because she was expecting another baby.

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Thankfully, the Salem Witch Trials came to an end before Elizabeth could be executed. Although they had only lasted for 16 months, nearly four centuries ago, they continue to intrigue history buffs the world over. The former Proctor home is therefore a piece of that story. And the property still has some of the original features enjoyed by the family famously destroyed by those wild accusations.

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Throughout the home, wooden beams stripe the ceilings, and they are the property’s original support system. The Proctor’s old farm house also features several fireplaces, a common feature in New England colonial homes due to the area’s frigid winter temperatures.

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Nowadays, the Proctor property appears to be a charming nod to the past that has been carefully updated, making it equal parts historical and functional. However, some of the dark wooden tones can make the appear a tad bit creepy. Just imagine it at night illuminated by lanterns…

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For many potential buyers, however, that will be the big question. Could you live in a home where ghosts might be lurking? Where witches may have once lived? There is one interested party, though, that doesn’t seem to mind at all, according to Travel and Leisure magazine.

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The Peabody Historical Society said they were considering purchasing the $600,000 home, to add it to their collection of preserved structures. They could also open the land up to archaeological explorations. Or maybe even studies into the real story of the Proctors and the witches that may, or may not, have lived there.

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