‘Hocus Pocus’: Sarah Jessica Parker Learned Her Ancestor Was Arrested During Salem Witch Hunts

Hocus Pocus introduced fans to the Sanderson sisters and their bubbling cauldron back in 1993. It’s such a beloved film that Disney plans to enchant fans again with a sequel in 2022. Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy are set to reprise their witchy roles. But for Parker, there’s an eerie connection to the movie’s setting and her real-life ancestors.

Sarah Jessica Parker attends a shoe signing event for her SJP line
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Sarah Jessica Parker’s relative was arrested for witchcraft

Hocus Pocus takes place in Salem, Massachusetts, a town notorious for its history of persecuting witches. Its legacy still haunts American history, and Parker once learned about her family’s connection to the witch trials.

In 2010, the Sex and the City star appeared in Who Do You Think You Are, a series that followed celebrities as they traced their ancestral lineages. Parker discovered that her family had roots in Massachusetts, and one of her great grandmothers (10 generations back) faced witchcraft accusations. She traveled all the way to Salem in person to learn the story.

According to WickedLocal, Esther (Dutch) Elwell of Gloucester was arrested with two other women during the 1690s. The local historical society still had the records. A woman named Mary got sick, and a 17-year-old accused Elwell and two others of visiting Mary as “spectres,” choking and squeezing her. When she died, the three were arrested for witchcraft based on the teen’s accusations.

Fortunately, the local government ended the trials before Elwell ever reached court, and she lived to be 82. It happened to be the last witch case in their region. Parker took a moment to visit the cemetery where many of the accused were buried. “There were generations who lost out because of this,” she remarked.

Parker only watched ‘Hocus Pocus’ 1 time

When Hocus Pocus arrived in theaters, Parker had no knowledge of her Salem connection. Therefore, it had no bearing on her experience filming the movie. Though she’s admitted to only watching it once, she previously described how much she loved playing scary Sarah Sanderson and the perks that come with flying.

Back in 1993, she told Entertainment Tonight that her character was evil. “”I’m covertly scary. The rest of the witches – Kathy and Bette – they’re very overt and there’s no pretense at all. They’re just evil, but I’m fundamentally evil. Their evil is calculated. Mine is just who I am, so that’s why it’s really, I think, more scary,” said Parker.

“I mean she’s awful,” she concluded. “I don’t respect her, but I love her.” Parker also reminisced about the film during a chat with Stephen Colbert in 2018. Her favorite part of Hocus Pocus was shooting the flying scenes.

‘Hocus Pocus 2’ is due out in fall 2022

Parker, Midler, and Najimy will return to Salem thanks to Disney+ in 2022. Rumor has it that the witches’ former home has been converted into a magic shop where an aspiring witch buys a candle. Three unsuspecting women awaken the Sanderson sisters and quickly learn that they’re still hungry for children.

Spells, laughs, and hijinks guaranteed. No word on whether Parker plans to revisit the real Salem, but fans can stream Hocus Pocus on Disney+ as they await the sequel.