or, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Fear and Loathing at a Public Library Reference Desk

Reference Question of the Week – 10/23/11

   October 29th, 2011

Shadow of a witch on a treeI don't know if this question was Halloween-related or a coincidence. A patron came up to the desk, slid me a piece of paper with "manningtree" written on it, and said,

Can you tell me where this tree is? It's the tree in Chelmsford where they used to hang witches.

I've never heard of this, and it's definitely the kind of thing would have stuck with me. But, we're not too far from Salem, MA, and Chelmsford was founded forty years before the witch trial era, so I suppose it's possible.

I searched online for manning tree chelmsford, and one of the results is a downloadable book titled Trial Of Manningtree Witches In Chelmsford 1645.

At first I'm shocked that this is something I've missed, but from the description I learn that this book is about some accused witches from Manningtree, England, and their trial that took place in Chelmsford, England. Ah, now it makes sense (someone confuses us with the Chelmsford in England about once a month). I explained this to the patron, and although he was disappointed, he wanted to read about this book online, so I pulled it up on one of the public computers for him.

Interestingly, one of the other search results was for Manning Tree & Landscape in Boxborough, MA, a few towns over from Chelmsford. This is probably be Google trying to be location-aware, but I did think it was a funny coincidence. Happy Halloween, everyone.

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4 Responses to “Reference Question of the Week – 10/23/11”

  1. judy Says:

    Chelmsford, MA does have Martha Barrett Sparks who was accused of witchcraft and held in Boston Gaol for over a year.

  2. andy richmond Says:

    How about the witchy shadow image?–did you take the photo? Very cool, and a fitting image for the post.

  3. Brian Herzog Says:

    @andy: most of the photos I use in my posts are photographs other people have taken, and then give them a Creative Commons license so other people can legally reuse them. I usually use flickr’s search limited to CC images to find something remotely related to what I’m talking about – I thought this witch shadow picture was perfect in this case.

  4. Thomas Babington Macaulay Says:

    Thanks for sharing the information. I am doing research on Cary Kochman Wilmette . Do you have any information? Pls let me know.