John Proctor, convicted and hanged for witchcraft in 1692, was a respected farmer and landowner in Salem, Massachusetts, before being accused of consorting with evildoers and forcing young girls to touch “the Devil’s book.”
His life became the focus of Arthur Miller’s play The Crucible, and he was portrayed by Daniel Day-Lewis in the 1996 film.
Now you can live in Proctor’s house, just in time for Halloween.
The nearly 4,000-square-foot home, built in 1638, has six bedrooms and two bathrooms and is priced at $600,000. The home is in Peabody, which in the 17th century was part of Salem.
Real estate agent Joe Cipoletta said certain parts of the original structure, including wooden beams, are still visible. It has been modernized and includes a pool.
The real estate listing is positively sunny: “A grand example of Colonial and American History, the John Proctor House.”
“This first period, registered historic home features period detail with the functionality of today’s needs. Large eat-in kitchen with plenty of workspaces. The dining room can accommodate your largest holiday gathering.”
However, Proctor and some members of his family fell victim to one of the darkest periods in early American history: the Salem witch trials.
Proctor from the beginning was dismissive of any claims of witchcraft in their community.
In The Crucible, Proctor is a youngish married man who had an affair with Abigail Williams, a young woman who gathers with her friends in the woods to perform a ritual that will kill Proctor’s wife, Elizabeth. After the girls are discovered, accusations of witchcraft explode and the matter spins out of control, with Proctor hanged and his wife only spared the noose because she was pregnant.
In reality, Proctor was 60 when he was hanged, and Abigail Williams was 11 years old. There was no affair between them, clearly. (Miller’s The Crucible was considered a comment on the accusations of Communism then causing controversy in Hollywood and Washington D.C.)
One of the Proctors’ servants, Mary Warren, was an early “victim” of witchcraft, saying she saw ghosts. After the Proctors were dismissive of her claims, saying she was a fraud, the growing group of girls accusing townsfolk focused first on Elizabeth and then John Proctor.
He was the first male to be charged with witchcraft in Salem.
His friends signed petitions and fought for his release, but it was no good. He was hanged on August 19 along with three other men and one woman.
In 1692, among the 141 accusations of witchcraft lodged against the people of Salem, 12 were against the Proctors and their extended family. The others were freed, including Elizabeth, after the governor of Massachusetts put a stop to the proceedings.
When the Massachusetts legislature passed a bill in 1711 restoring some of the names of the victims of the trials, it cleared the Proctors of convictions and awarded the family £150 in restitution.
According to History of Massachusetts, “Local legend suggests that Proctor’s family secretly retrieved John Proctor’s body from the execution site and buried it on the Proctor’s farm on Lowell Street in Peabody, according to William P. Upham, who rediscovered the location of Proctor’s farm in the early 1900s and wrote a paper about it, titled ‘House of Proctor, Witchcraft Martyr, 1692,’ for the Peabody Historical Society in 1903.”
The house remained in the Proctor family until the mid-19th century. Its most recent owner died, leading to its being put on the market.
Some people feel that the house, which is on the National Register, should be made into a museum rather than sold to private owners.
According to the Washington Post, Michael Bonfanti, vice president of the Peabody Historical Society, told The Salem News that the organization is looking into whether it’s feasible to purchase the home and make it a public resource.