A rare manuscript from the Salem Witch Trials is up for sale at a New York auction house, and may fetch between $25,000 and $35,000, perhaps more.
The original court indictment of Margaret Scott, an elderly woman who was one of the last people hanged during the 1692 witch hysteria, is part of a large private collection of historical documents being sold at Swann Auction Galleries in New York City.
"I think the estimate is way low," said Richard Trask, the Danvers, Mass., town archivist and a leading expert on the witch trials.
"I've only seen witchcraft documents sold twice during my professional life," said Trask, who has been working in the field since 1969. "They are very valuable, and this is an indictment — it's an important document."
Rick Stattler, director of printed and manuscript Americana at Swann, said this is a rare sale even for them. No similar items have been seen at auction since 1983, he said.
Margaret (Stephenson) Scott was a poor widow in her 70s who was accused by Mary Daniel, a teenager from Rowley. She went on trial in Salem, was found guilty and hanged on Sept. 22, 1692, part of the last group to die during the trials.
Between June and September of that year, 19 men and women were hanged, and one man was pressed to death. Other accused witches died in prison.
According to the one-page indictment, Scott was accused of practicing "certaine detestable arts called witchcraft and sorceries."
As a result of Scott's sorcery, Daniel was "tortured, aflicted, consumed, pined, wasted, and tormented ..." the indictment reads.
Trask said he fears the Scott indictment will remain in private hands. That’s unfortunate, he said, because they are public records.