Nancy Mades-Byrd will be the first to admit it: She loves to talk.
As an eighth-grade schoolteacher and a part-time tour guide in Salem’s historic district, Mades-Byrd gets to regularly exercise her passion for imparting information to anyone who is willing to lend an ear.
“Three of my favorite things: history, words, and the sound of my own voice,” said Mades-Byrd, a Salem resident.
So it made perfect sense, given where she lives and her gift of gab, to join a national trend and launch her own podcast last month. On Sunday, Oct. 16, Episode 3 of Mades-Byrd’s “Witch Hunt” podcast will air online, bringing listeners yet another chapter of her research on the historic Salem witch trials, a topic she said is still clouded by misinformation.
“What’s interesting, in particular, is it’s one of those things that everyone knows the story about — but nobody knows the story,” she said. “People have a lot of misconceptions.”
Mades-Byrd, who creates the podcasts with her husband, Dan Byrd, estimates she has 700 listeners so far, a tally she’s content with given the very recent rollout of her project.
She said it takes her and her husband 10 days to produce an episode. Each episode is around 22 minutes long and homes in on a specific subject.
“When we talked to historians and writers, they each put their own spin on it,” she said. “I picked different writers who have specialties in different areas.”
For example, in one episode, Mades-Byrd interviews Frances Hill, a writer whose book, “A Delusion of Satan: The Full Story of the Salem Witch Trials,” takes a deep dive into the history of the trials.
Another episode features a discussion with Marilynne K. Roach, a Watertown resident and historian whose book, “The Salem Witch Trials: A Day-by-Day Chronicle of a Community Under Siege,” has been hailed as the go-to text about the incident.
“She wrote the bible of the witch trial history,” said Mades-Byrd.
Roach said it took 27 years to write and get the book published. It came out in 2002.
Roach, who also wrote “Six Women of Salem: The Untold Story of the Accused and Their Accusers in the Salem Witch Trials,” hopes people can take her discussion with Mades-Byrd on the podcast and maybe learn from it — so history doesn’t repeat itself.
“Hopefully, people can learn from other people’s mistakes,” she said. “And hopefully people can learn more about the truth of the trials.”
Mades-Byrd also has an episode in the pipeline featuring Cornell University professor Mary Beth Norton, who wrote a book about the trials called “In the Devil’s Snare: The Salem Witchcraft Crisis of 1692.”
In that episode, Norton discusses the effects that the “Indian wars” of that time may have had on the accused.
“Many [who came to Salem] were actually refugees from the Maine frontier whose families had been killed and whose wealth had been wiped out,” she said. “They were working as servants, and I talk about their background in Maine.”
Norton said the impact, psychologically, on the young women would have been akin to what people refer to today as post-traumatic stress disorder.
“They had suffered tremendous trauma from their experiences as young people,” she said.
There will be a special Halloween episode, too — but it won’t be on witches. In that episode, Mades-Byrd talks to someone “living his life as an actual witch in Salem” today.
Mades-Byrd said while her hometown haunts and title of her podcast might imply that the entire series will be focused on the Salem witch trials, people should expect to hear a range of topics as her project builds momentum and moves beyond the first season.
The first 13 episodes of “Witch Hunt” will put a magnifier on the sordid tale of hangings and fingerpointing, with the final episode to air in January.
From there, Mades-Byrd will turn her attention to other historic and notable “witch hunts,” including the Red Scare of the 1940s and 1950s; the day care center sex abuse scandals of the 1980s; and the case of Richard Jewell, the security guard implicated in the 1996 bombing at the Olympics in Atlanta, who was later cleared.
“The concept is to explore . . . ‘Why do we have this need to blame other people?’” she said. “And that’s what we are looking at. We are really looking at cases in history when people were scapegoated.”