A city and port in NE Massachusetts, north of Boston, which in 1692 was the scene of a notorious series of witchcraft trials. Initially three women were accused by a number of children of having bewitched them; ultimately 19 people were hanged, and many others imprisoned. Arthur Miller's play The Crucible (1952) uses the story of the mass hysteria which developed as an illustration of the phenomenon of McCarthyism.
In the Bible (Genesis 14:18) Salem is a place-name understood to be another name for Jerusalem and to mean ‘peace’. It was later (chiefly in the nineteenth century) adopted by Methodists, Baptists, and others as the name of a particular chapel or meeting-house, and thus was sometimes used as a synonym for a nonconformist chapel.