The Memory Wars
In Salem, Massachusetts, the locust trees were still bare in the bleak memorial park that honors those killed by the witch trials of 1692 -- the twenty-five women, men, and a newborn hung, crushed, or dead in prison on accusations that they were inhabited by spirits of the devil. Innocents dead, at the hands of hysterical young girls, on the strength of spectral evidence, "that poisoned cloud of fantasy" that had stood as proof in court. This small yard of granite and worn grass challenged the human indifference that had permitted Salem's shame. The dead confronted you. You were forced to step on their cries, carved into flagstones, as you stepped into the walled space: "God knows I am innocent . . . Oh, Lord, help me! . . . I am no witch." On each crude stone bench that extruded from the rough granite walls was carved a name and date of death. John Proctor. Sarah Good. Rebecca Nurse. July 19, 1692. It was like sitting on their graves.
March 24, 1994. In California, Napa Valley girded for the courtroom battle that could change the course of the recovered memory wars, a baffling war that looked, to some, like that poisoned cloud at Salem. It was an unlikely field of battle, for this was paradise, after all, a place of feasts and vineyards, not lurid incest trials. But the network TV trucks gathering outside downtown Napa's hundred-year-old white frame courthouse betrayed the importance of the events unfolding that spring morning. As the pale celadon leaves unfurled on the vines that have made this one of the world's most celebrated and wealthy wine valleys, reporters from People magazine, the