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Sarah Jessica Parker’s Unexpected Connection to ‘Hocus Pocus’ Plot

Photo Credits: Michael Loccisano/ Getty Images/ Cropped, and lindsaylohanslastfan/ Walt Disney Pictures/ MovieStillsDB/ Cropped
Photo Credits: Michael Loccisano/ Getty Images/ Cropped, and lindsaylohanslastfan/ Walt Disney Pictures/ MovieStillsDB/ Cropped

Sarah Jessica Parker reprised her role as Sarah Sanderson in the sequel Hocus Pocus 2, which was released on the 25th anniversary of the original Hocus Pocus. While she’s a key actress in the series, Parker has a much more interesting, and witchy, connection to the film’s plot than many people know.

‘Hocus Pocus’

Hocus Pocus features the comedic witch coven, the Sanderson Sisters: Sarah (Parker), Mary (Kathy Najimy), and Winifred, played by Bette Midler. The trio is brought back to life 300 years after their death when a young boy lights a candle in an abandoned museum that used to be the witches’ cottage.

Bette Midler, Kathy Najimy, and Sarah Jessica Parker dressed as their 'Hocus Pocus' characters leaning their heads close together while looking at the camera.
(Left to right) Sarah Jessica Parker, Bette Midler, and Kathy Najimy dressed as Sarah Sanderson, Winnie Sanderson, and Mary Sanderson in a Hocus Pocus promotional shot. (Photo Credit: MoviePics1001/ Walt Disney Pictures/ MovieStillsDB)

The Sanderson sisters had been killed on Halloween night in 1693 when a boy named Thackery Binx accused them of stealing his sister in order to use her life force and make them young again. In response, the villagers arrested the witches, hanging them for murder. With quick thinking, however, they were able to cast one more spell before their death, allowing them to be brought back to life when the candle is lit.

While the portrayal of the Sandersons’ deaths in Hocus Pocus is fictitious, it was based on the very real events that took place in Salem, Massachusetts during that time.

Salem witch trials

Between 1692 and 1693, the colony held the Salem witch trials where more than 200 people were accused of witchcraft. Of that number, 20 were executed. The events all began when two young girls started behaving in a strange manner. A local doctor diagnosed them as being “bewitched.” In an effort to clear their names, the girls blamed three women for causing their behavior.

Drawing of a woman pointing a finger at a judge while a crowd of men watches on during a witch trial.
Drawing of a witch trial in Salem during the Salem witch trials, undated. (Photo Credit: Bettmann/ Getty Images)

After days of interrogation, one of these women said, “The Devil came to me and bid me serve him.” She also said that there were other witches in Salem who were working for the Devil. Thus began the infamous hunt to try and find these other witches. In later years, the trials were deemed a mistake and all the people who had been convicted were exonerated. The last conviction to be reversed took place in May of 2022.

Family relation

Parker’s connection to Hocus Pocus wasn’t made apparent until 2010 when she appeared on the TV show Who Do You Think You Are?. The show features experts in history and genealogy who help celebrity guests learn about their heritage dating back generations. As it turns out, Parker actually had a relative, her great-grandmother 10 generations back, who had been in Salem during the witch trials.

Sarah Jessica Parker as Sarah Sanderson wearing a red dress with bleach blonde hair.
Movie still of Sarah Jessica Parker as her character Sarah Sanderson in Hocus Pocus. (Photo Credit: Liz21/ Walt Disney Pictures/ MovieStillsDB)

Her name was Esther Dutch Elwell and she was accused of witchcraft, according to a handwritten note that detailed the events. In fact, she was allegedly the last recorded woman to be formally accused of witchcraft during the Salem witch trials.

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The note described how a 17-year-old girl accused Elwell and two others of being witches after “seeing” the three of them choking a woman named Mary Fiche with their “specters.” Elwell was arrested and imprisoned, however, the court was dissolved before she was officially tried. According to other documents, Elwell lived to be 82 years old.

Rosemary Giles

Rosemary Giles is a history content writer with Hive Media. She received both her bachelor of arts degree in history, and her master of arts degree in history from Western University. Her research focused on military, environmental, and Canadian history with a specific focus on the Second World War. As a student, she worked in a variety of research positions, including as an archivist. She also worked as a teaching assistant in the History Department.

Since completing her degrees, she has decided to take a step back from academia to focus her career on writing and sharing history in a more accessible way. With a passion for historical learning and historical education, her writing interests include social history, and war history, especially researching obscure facts about the Second World War. In her spare time, Rosemary enjoys spending time with her partner, her cats, and her horse, or sitting down to read a good book.