Over the years, the Salem witch trials have been publicized in television shows, books, and movies. Schools teach about them, showing the good people involved, along with the accused witches. The newest installment of the trials is “Salem,” a television show hosted on the WGN network.
“Salem” focuses on the height of the witch hunts in 17th century Salem, Massachusetts. John Alden, born and raised in Salem, leaves for war. He comes back to find his love, Mary, but instead he finds a very different Salem. Suddenly it’s friend against friend as the Reverend Cotton Mather and Mary, now married to rich, but ill George Sibley, try to find the unholy witches that plague Salem. John is roped into helping, but it turns out the witches are very real, and not who everyone would expect. Romantic, haunting, and back stabbing plots all combine-but can the small town of Salem stay together, or will it shatter?
While most of the show is fiction, there are a few elements of Salem that are historically accurate. Most of the characters are named after real citizens of Salem and the surrounding areas, including Mary Warren, renamed Sibley for the show, John Alden, Tituba, and Mercy Lewis, one of those afflicted by curses. Others like Cotton Mather, the show’s head witch hunter and pastor of Salem, were made up for the show. A lot of the history and mystery surrounding the trials has been unveiled, but the true events, only witnessed by the villagers in the 17th century, are still a mystery to this day. This leaves them to be reimagined for a modern, thrill seeking audience.
The scenery and set are also historically accurate, along with the clothing. Unlike most shows depicting Puritan life, with belt buckle hats and bonnets, the dark, modest clothing and hairstyles are rather authentic. Some of the side characters, such as Mercy Lewis’ friends, represent the children that were affected by Tituba and her powers. Overall, Salem does a great job of winding together history and fiction into one interesting plot that will keep viewers on the edge of their seats.
Salem delivers when it comes to chills and thrills, featuring dark storylines and haunting special effects. Topped with an all star cast, including Janet Montgomery as Mary Sibley, who was also featured in the hit film “Black Swan,” and the popular British television show, “Merlin.” John Alden is portrayed by Shane West, most well known for his roles in “League of Extraordinary Gentleman” as Tom Sawyer, and as Landon Carter in “A Walk To Remember.” Other cast members include Seth Gabe, well known for “Fringe,” and Ashley Madekewe, who played in the show, “Revenge,” in 2011.
Salem airs Sundays at 10 p.m., 9 p.m. central time, on the WGN network. Episodes are available to stream online as well. It is not for the faint hearted, as it contains graphic violence, disturbing imagery, gore, sexual content, and strong language.


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