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This Salem Woman Could've Been The Inspiration Behind One Hocus Pocus Witch

TheThings logo TheThings 8/5/2022 Stefania Sarrubba
© Provided by TheThings

With a sequel to Hocus Pocus officially coming to Disney+ in less than two months, the Sanderson sisters' lore is generating some curiosity again — nearly three decades after the witches first graced our cinema screens in 1993.

To the fans' delight, Hocus Pocus 2 will see the return of the original trio: Bette Midler, Kathy Najimi, and Sarah Jessica Parker will star as Winifred 'Winnie', Mary and Sarah Sanderson respectively.

Directed by 27 Dresses and The Proposal's Anne Fletcher, the sequel follows the first chapter from director Kenny Ortega, returning to Salem for a brand-new adventure. As it was the case for the first movie, Hocus Pocus 2, too, will tap into the real-life events of the Salem Witch Trials, though arguably with a more light-hearted tone.

The horror comedy is loosely based on the tragic facts that occurred in Salem between February 1692 and May 1693. At the time, several people, mostly women, were accused of witchcraft. Among the more than two hundred people prosecuted, three sisters might've been the inspiration behind the Sandersons.

Hocus Pocus: Is Sarah Cloyce The Inspiration Behind Sarah Sanderson?

There doesn't seem to be any Sanderson in the Salem trials records, but these showed instances of sisters accused of witchcraft, just like the Sandersons.

The character played by Parker, Sarah Sanderson, might be based on a real Salem woman, Sarah Cloyce, who was accused of witchcraft back in 1692. Though there isn't any official confirmation that this is the case, there are some clues that point in that direction.

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For starters, Sarah Cloyce and Sarah Sanderson share their first name. Additionally, she was accused of witchcraft with her two elder sisters, Rebecca Nurse and Mary Eastey. The latter was the middle sister and could have been the inspiration behind Najimi's character, who has the same first name.

Unlike her two sisters, who were both executed, Sarah Cloyce managed to save her life. Already in her 50s back then, she was held in prison without bail and endured many months in a cell before being released.

Related: What Fans Are Saying About The First Look At Hocus Pocus 2

According to the Salem Witch Museum, accusations of witchcraft ran in the family as Sarah, Rebecca and Mary's mother Joanna Towne of Topsfield had herself faced similar claims twenty years before the infamous trials.

There is no explanation reported as to why Sarah Cloyce had her life spared as opposed to her sisters and many others. While the youngest Sanderson, too, was executed in the film, it is possible that Parker's character pays homage to one of the few who managed to escape a horrible death.

Who Are The Sanderson Sisters In Hocus Pocus?

The undoubted protagonists of Hocus Pocus, the Sanderson sisters are fictional witches who were arrested and executed during the Salem Witch Trials.

In the prolog to Hocus Pocus, viewers see the infamous Sanderson sisters back on Halloween 1693 as they kidnap a child to drain her life force and stay young. They are later arrested and sentenced to death by hanging, but not before Winnie casts the curse that will kick off the events of the film.

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Different in personality, the witches often disagree on how to best achieve their goals, often bickering and providing fans with iconic one-liners.

Parker's Sarah is the youngest Sanderson sister. Her immature, seemingly frivolous attitude is often the butt of the joke for her older sisters, particularly for Midler's Winnie, who is exasperated by her.

To be fair, Winnie has every right to be mad at her younger sister after her lover Billy Butcherson (Doug Jones) was caught cheating on her with Sarah. After a furious Winnie poisoned him in 1693, Billy is accidentally resurrected in the first film and will return for this second instalment.

Related: Why Was A Major Star Written Out Of 'Hocus Pocus 2'?

Played by Kathy Najimi, Mary is the middle sister, constantly looking for Winnie's validation and mastering a child-tracking ability through her sense of smell. Winnie, on the other hand, is the eldest and the leader of this small coven, well versed in electrokinesis and dark magic.

Hocus Pocus 2: Will The Sequel Reverse The Original Film's Witchcraft Portrayal?

The original film toys with the stereotypical, often negative depiction of witches in popular culture: mean, unattractive, older women who are up to no good and prey on children.

Rooted in legends, this portrayal of witchcraft as a dangerous practice might be challenged in the upcoming film through one of the younger protagonists.

Similar to the first movie, Hocus Pocus 2 will also see a bunch of teens accidentally resurrecting the Sandersons. This time round, it's Becca's (Whitney Peak) turn, together with her friend Izzy (Belissa Escobedo), to conjure the sisters.

According to the official character description, Becca is an aspiring witch. This means that, unlike Max Dennison (Omar Katz) in the first film, Becca is definitely fascinated by magic.

Related: Will The Original Cast Star In 'Hocus Pocus 2'?

By having such a character as the lead, the sequel might be closer to 1996 cult classic The Craft and its sequel The Craft: Legacy, released in 2020, thus offering a more nuanced representation of modern witchcraft and magic.

Hocus Pocus 2 is set to be released on Disney+ on September 30, 2022.

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