Visiting Salem, Massachusetts in Autumn is absolutely magical, and I say that in the most non-occult way possible.
Between the crisp air, beautiful fall colors, cobblestone streets, throngs of people in witches hats, and assorted monsters playing banjos on the street, you’ll think you’re in Halloweentown visiting Grandma (one of the first films, that is, before they switched out Marnie and it all went to hell). But as you’re well aware, Salem isn’t all hot apple cider and pumpkins. The charming town has a history steeped deep in hysteria and a lack of critical thinking skills. If you haven’t read/seen The Crucible, do it now.
Hunting Witches in Salem, Massachusetts
History of the Salem Witch Trials
With a backdrop of isolation, religious extremism, a deep-rooted belief in the devil, and the belief and practice of white (good) magic, the Salem Witch trials were conducted in several towns: Salem Town, Salem Village, Ipswich, and Andover. Although not unique nor the first of their kind, the Salem trials are the most notorious and deadly of all witchcraft accusations in this time period. The trials lasted from February 1692 and lasted until May 1693, and in this time, twenty people were put to death; nineteen by hanging and one by pressing.
In February 1692, Abigail Williams and her cousin Betty Parris (aged 11 and 9, respectively), began having inexplicable fits. They would scream, throw things, contort themselves into uncomfortable positions, murmur strange sounds, and complain that they felt pin pricks all over their bodies. In a short time, more young girls in the area started to exhibit the same behavior; behavior that baffled doctors.
The first accused of performing witchcraft and harming the girls were Sarah Good (a homeless beggar), Sarah Osborne (a woman twice-married who rarely attended church), and Tituba (a slave). All were societal outcasts, and all were easy targets for persecution.
Additional accusation swung the way of Dorothy Good (Sarah’s 4-year-old daughter), Martha Corey (who voiced skepticism over the initial accusations), Rebecca Nurse (an upstanding church-going citizen), Sarah Cloyce (Nurse’s Sister), Elizabeth (Basset) Proctor, John Proctor, Giles Corey (Martha’s husband), Abigail Hobbs, Bridget Bishop, Mary Warren, Deliverance Hobbs (Abigail’s stepmother), Sarah Wildes, William Hobbs (husband of Deliverance), Nehemiah Abbott Jr., Mary Eastey (sister of Cloyce and Nurse), Edward Bishop, Jr. and his wife Sarah Bishop, and Mary English. Roughly 40 more people were accused during this time.
Bridget Bishop was the first to be tried for “afflicting with witchcraft”, or “making an unlawful covenant with the Devil.” Before the jury she was seen to live a non-puritanical lifestyle and therefore was found as a witch. She was executed by hanging on June 10, 1692.
There were three additional execution dates: Sarah Good, Rebecca Nurse, Susannah Martin, Elizabeth Howe & Sarah Wildes were executed on July 19, 1692 , Martha Carrier, John Willard, George Burroughs, George Jacobs, Sr. and John Proctor were executed on August 19, 1692, and Mary Eastey, Martha Corey, Ann Pudeator, Samuel Wardwell, Mary Parker, Alice Parker, Wilmot Redd and Margaret Scotton were executed on September 22, 1692.
Several others died in prison, while Giles Corey was pressed to death.
(My friend Megan outside of The House Of Seven Gables and Old Burying Point Cemetery . The colonial mansion was built in 1668 and is named for its Gables).
Getting Around Salem
Salem is very easy to navigate. Most tourist attractions are connected by a red paint mark on the sidewalk (I like to think of it as a trail of blood), and there are maps and guides which can easily explain the significance of each landmark.
What to do in Salem
In addition to all the attractions with ties to the trials, there are plenty of museums. For example, you have the Salem Witch Museum, The Witch Dungeon Museum, The Witch History Museum, and The Salem Wax Museum. Needless to say, I did not go to all of these and it’s worth a google search before you pick one.
In addition to the museums, there are plenty of re-enactments and haunted houses to enjoy; not to mention great shopping! While you stumble through the cobblestone streets of downtown Salem, stop in at one of the adorable little shops along the way. There are plenty of one-of-a-kind stores and really odd art galleries for you to peruse while taking a break from the magicians and the army of Frankenstein’s you are bound to encounter.
And we can’t forget the most famous witch of them all, Samantha! This statue was erected as Elizabeth Montgomery, the actress who played Samantha on Bewitched, but I can’t remember ever seeing Elizabeth twitching her nose and riding on a broomstick while NOT playing Samantha. Let’s be real here.
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Have you ever been to Salem? What were your highlights? Spill!