My Next Biographical Novel Release--FOR THE LOVE OF HAWTHORNE
Salem, Massachusetts witnessed horrific and shameful events in 1692 that haunted the town for three centuries. Accused as witches, nineteen innocent people were hanged and one was pressed to death. Judge John Hathorne and Reverend Nicholas Noyes handed down the sentences. One victim, Sarah Good, cursed Noyes from the hanging tree: “If you take away my life, God will give you blood to drink!” She then set her eyes on Judge Hathorne. “I curse you and your acknowledged heirs for all time on this wicked earth!” Hathorne was not only Sarah Good’s merciless judge; he also fathered her son Peter and refused to acknowledge him.
In 1717, Nicholas Noyes choked on his own blood and died. Every generation after the judge continued to lose Hathorne land and money, prompting the rumor of a family curse. By the time his great great grandson Nathaniel was born, they faced poverty.
Ashamed of his ancestor, Nathaniel added the ‘w’ to his last name. His novels and stories explore his beliefs and fears of sin and evil, and he based many of his characters on overbearing Puritan rulers such as Judge Hathorne.
When Nathaniel first met Sophia Peabody, they experienced instantaneous mutual attraction. Sparks flew. He rose upon my eyes and soul a king among men by divine right, she wrote in her journal.
But to Sophia’s frustration, Nathaniel insisted they keep their romance secret for three years. He had his reasons, none of which made sense to Sophia. But knowing that he believed Sarah Good’s curse inflicted so much tragedy on his family over the centuries, she made it her mission to save him. Sarah was an ancestor of Sophia’s, making her and Nathaniel distant cousins—but she kept that to herself for the time being.
Sophia suffered severe headaches as a result of childhood mercury treatments. She underwent routine mesmerizing sessions, a popular cure for many ailments. Spirits sometimes came to her when mesmerized, and as a spiritualist and medium, she was able to contact and communicate with spirits. She knew if she could reach Sarah and persuade her to forgive Judge Hathorne, Nathaniel would be free of his lifelong burden.
Sarah’s son Peter had kept a journal the family passed down to the Peabodys. Sophia sensed his presence every time she turned the brittle pages and read his words. John Hathorne’s legitimate son John also kept a journal, now in the Hawthorne family’s possession. Living on opposite sides of Salem, Peter and John wrote in vivid detail about how the Salem trials tormented them throughout their lives.
Nathaniel finally agreed to announce their engagement, and married Sophia on July 9, 1842. They moved into their first home, The Old Manse in Concord, Massachusetts. Wanting nothing else but to spend the summer enjoying each other, we became Adam and Eve, alone in our Garden of Eden, Sophia wrote in her journal.
As success eluded Nathaniel, they lived on the verge of poverty. After being dismissed from his day job at the Salem Custom House, he wrote The Scarlet Letter, which finally gained him the recognition he deserved.
But the curse he believed Sarah cast on his family still haunted him. On a visit to his cousin Susannah Ingersoll at The House of the Seven Gables, Sophia spotted a judge’s gavel. Out of curiosity Sophia picked it up and a shock ran through her as if electrified. She dropped it, instantly knowing it carried something evil. Susannah told her Judge Hathorne had used it during the trials.
But he did not believe the curse could be lifted.
At that moment Sophia knew what she needed to do. “We’re going to The Gables. Only there can I make sure Sarah forgives the judge.” She invited renowned spiritualist John Spear to The Gables. She explained that she needed to complete one final step to convince Nathaniel the curse was lifted.
At The Gables, John asked Susannah if anything in the room was connected to the witch trials. She retrieved the gavel and handed it to him. As he curled his fingers around the handle, he told them that the judge suffered lifelong anguish after condemning the victims. He didn’t publicly atone because he needed to carry out his duties as a judge. His energy, his essence, was still attached to the gavel.
He told Nathaniel that his belief in the curse fed this object, physically creating a monster.
Sarah herself did not curse his family—but the energy of all the anger, bitterness, venom and hatred in her words survived the centuries. That caused the misfortunes that befell him and his family. Only his final and unconditional forgiveness would end that. He urged Nathaniel to forgive Judge Hathorne. “You don’t have to say it out loud,” John said. “Just forgive him in your heart.”
Nathaniel bowed his head and whispered his forgiveness.
A ghostly mist formed in the doorway. Sarah conveyed to Sophia through the ether what she needed them to know. As she faded to nebulous mist and vanished, Sophia assured Nathaniel that his forgiveness of the judge now balanced out the suffering of the victims.
She turned to the last page of Peter’s journal and saw words that were not there before: Dear John, I forgive you. Signed, Sarah Good.
John Spear, Nathaniel and Sophia went to Judge Hathorne’s gravesite to give the journals and the gavel proper burial.
As they turned to leave, Nathaniel grasped her hand. “We’re going home, my Dove. And I don’t mean Salem or the Berkshires, but to where you and I started, as Adam and Eve. Back home. To our Garden of Eden in Concord.”
I read several of his books and stories, to get a better background on him for my book. He wrote from the heart, about his true beliefs, and his loathing of how the witch victims were treated. He did consider it disgraceful, and it certainly was. He added the 'w' to his last name to distance himself from the judge. That tormented him and his family all his life. It must have been cathartic to him to have his writing as his outlet.
I live near Salem and have been to all the Hawthorne landmarks there, and in Concord. The House of the Seven Gables has been my favorite house in the world since I'm a kid. I've always felt a strong spiritual connection to Salem, and always wanted to write one of my books set there, and include the witch trials.
I was fortunate to get a private tour of the House of the Seven Gables when I was writing the book; two of the guides, Ryan Conary and David Moffat, showed me around, and it was fabulous.
Click here to see their book about the house.