“Salem? On a Wednesday in August?”

#8: Go to Salem

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For those readers who don’t know about the city of Salem, Massachusetts, I’ll give a quick overview. It’s on the northern east coast of the state in Essex County. It’s filled with tons of history; it’s perhaps best known for being the location of the 1692 witch trials in which 20 innocent people were executed for. Their crime? Being witches, of course.

I went to Salem once in 1999. I was totally interested in the whole witches thing but in retrospect I don’t remember much of that trip except the following:

      -I was tired

      –The House of the Seven Gables, vaguely

      -A very terrifying wax replica of Giles Corey with a machine voice booming in the background, “More weight!”

      -Being by the ocean

      -Taking pictures in front of some gallows

      -Looking like this:

Me, 1999. Taken in a parking lot in Salem. I do not look pleased or attractive.

Me, 1999. Taken in a parking lot in Salem. I do not look pleased or attractive.

Last semester I took a Women Caribbean Writers class in which I read a ton of awesome books. One of my favorites was I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem by Maryse Conde. The story was a fictional take on a nonfictional subject, Tituba. Tituba was a woman (some sources say African, some say Caribbean, some say Native America…In Conde’s story she is from the Caribbean) who was the slave of Samuel Parris of Salem. In Conde’s version, and most others, she took great care of Parris’ daughter and niece (who also lived with him). Eventually, the two girls fell ill, experiencing dizzy spells, speaking in tongues, all that

Cover of "I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem...

Cover of I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem

weird hysteria stuff people kept talking about at the time (sorry I’m not doing the best job at telling this awesome story). The girls named the doer of these evils as their very own nurse, Tituba. Tituba was one of the only people to confess to witchcraft and was sent to prison. She was eventually let go and no one knows what happened to her after that (although Conde gives her an ending). I realize I’m missing a lot of the story. But it’s okay because this is my blog, not my final paper on the novel.

So after finishing the book I thought about how strange those times were and those trials and the accusations and the people involved. I decided I wanted to go back to Salem. It had been too long since the last time.

Immediately I knew who I wanted to go with; one of my best friends, Nick. Nick loves all things horror, creepy, and weird. Plus, he had never been there before. He was the perfect candidate. A few days before we went, I was reading my Weird New England book and found that there was something from Salem in it: “The Black Church of Salem”, a building painted all black and helpfully labeled on the front, “Not a church. Get over it”. According to my book, the owner of this “not a church” drives a hearse and had placed nasty looking gargoyles on the front of the steps. I showed this page to Nick and we both decided that we needed to see it.

The drive to Salem took Nick and I a little over 2.5 hours (normally takes a little over 2 hours; we hit traffic). We passed the Salem border and I got a little concerned that I brought Nick to just an ordinary town; I didn’t see anything “witchy” and didn’t remember half the stuff I was seeing. But, I was hopeful. We passed Witch House, “Salem’s only building with direct ties to the witch trials”. We were confused about where the other witch-related things were in the town and found a parking lot in which I believe was the “Downtown District”. Parking was 1 hour maximum so we said NOPE to that and found a much more conveniently placed parking lot. This lot you paid by the hour and it was basically right next to the Salem Visitor Center.

So we went in there first and got a map. I highly suggest stopping in here! There are tons of free maps/information as well as replicas to look at and stuff read. There are also bathrooms. Righteous.

First we were pretty darn hungry so we decided to find somewhere to eat. I Yelped for nearby restaurants and we found one to go to (Red’s Sandwich Shop), but instead resorted to the closer Salem Beer Works. It was a pretty awesome/very filling meal. We spilt the nacho appetizer and then I got shrimp macaroni and cheese with spinach. Delicious.

Nick and nachos

Nick and nachos

After lunch we went to Count Orlock‘s Nightmare Gallery, a place we had read about and decided in advance we had to go to. This museum was an awesome collection of wax/really real looking monsters from the movies and had a cheap admission price ($6 for students!). Nick and I both seriously love horror movies (him more than I) and we both seriously hate things that jump out and grab us, so I asked the man working if there was any of that and he told me no. I was relieved, yet almost didn’t believe him (because it’s Salem and I feel like anything could happen there) so it took me a while to warm up to the place. The museum is a self guided tour and you can take as much time as you want, checking out the models and reading about their movies. It was really cool to see some of my favorite characters “in real life”. Some of my favorites were Reagan from The Exorcist, Carrie from Carrie, and Jack from The Shining. I was really shocked to not see Jigsaw from Saw or his weird puppet thing. But, apparently every year the museum adds 3-6 new monsters. Maybe he’ll make an appearance next year? There was no photography allowed (only bummer) but I added a little something from another source.

Around Salem 2012 Count Orlocks

Around Salem 2012 Count Orlocks (Photo credit: Dex1138)

After Count Orlock’s we decided to check out the Witch Trials Memorial because it was free. The people who were excuted during these trials were not buried there; we learned that they were buried probably somewhere near Boston. This was just a memorial for them. We walked into The Burying Point, a graveyard from 1637 (making it the oldest in Salem). We walked around here for a little bit and I took some pictures.

Some graves.

Some graves.

This map on the stone shows you which notable figures are buried where. Some include a passenger of the Mayflower, a judge during the witch trials, Mary Corey (Giles Corey's first wife).

This map on the stone shows you which notable figures are buried where. Some include a passenger of the Mayflower, a judge during the witch trials, Mary Corey (Giles Corey’s first wife).

More.

More.

Sign when you first walk in.

Sign when you first walk in.

We then decided to walk to Salem Witch Museum but on our way I realized we hadn’t even looked at the Witch Trials Memorial. So we went back and were able to find it. It was good because we were also walking the wrong way to the museum. Here are some pictures from the memorial:

Sarah Good

Sarah Good

Rebecca Nurse

Rebecca Nurse

John Proctor

John Proctor

Giles Corey

Giles Corey

Nick and I decided to check out the statue of Elizabeth Montgomery while we were walking around. She was the actress who played Samantha in the television show Bewitched. I was named after her so I decided to get my picture with the statue (see above). According to my map/guide, this is one of the most photographed spots in Salem.

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Nick didn't want to take a picture with the statue so here is him slightly in front of the statue.

Nick didn’t want to take a picture with the statue so here is him slightly in front of the statue.

We walked more down Essex Street and checked out a comic book store and what I can only describe as a witch store complete with candles, herbs, tarot cards, and readings. We then turned around and went through the Essex Street Pedestrian Mall to put more money in the meter.

We then walked through a small neighborhood to get to the Salem Witch Museum, not to be confused with the Witch History Museum. We paid the $9 (I think) admission fee and waited around for the presentation to start. There was a lot of stuff on the walls to read and of course, a gift shop. At 4:30 they opened the doors and we walked in to a big dark room with benches. A big voice told the story of the Witch Trials of 1692. I was really happy to hear them mention Tituba because until then I didn’t think she was getting enough attention for being basically the beginning of it all. As the voice spoke, certain parts of the walls lit up, showing huge shadow boxes of the events being told. What was kind of annoying was that if you were sitting against one wall, you had to really strain your neck to see what was behind you. But it was still really awesome. They talked about Rebecca Nurse and John Proctor, two people I did not know much about and also Giles Corey, who I did know some stuff about but still learned more. This presentation did an awesome job of showing you just how sad it was that these people were innocent yet still sent to the gallows. I really felt for them.

After the presentation, you’re led into another room, a circular one, where there were herbs glassed against a wall, a timeline of western history and pagan history, and three shadow boxes depicting a pagan woman from the 1600s, a stereotypical witch on a broomstick, and a modern day pagan pair in traditional garb. The tour guide talked for a little then pressed a button and the weird wax (?) models shared a little information about themselves. Then you were free to look around.

This museum was cool but totally hypocritical. The modern day pagan team tell you something like, “Don’t depict us Wiccans as green witches on broomsticks with pointy hats” yet when you walk into the gift shop there are pointy hats everywhere. But, it was still an awesome exhibit.

The museum with a statue (I forget of who)

The museum with a statue (I forget of who)

Nick and I went back to my car and drove around a bit. We decided to check out that Black Church of Salem we read about. We plugged in the address and this is what we found:

TOTALLY REPAINTED!

TOTALLY REPAINTED!

However, there was some proof as to what it used to be…

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I decided to take Nick to the wharf because we were near the ocean so we might as well. We parked at the House of the Seven Gables and walked around to see if we could get a good view of the ocean.

House of the Seven Gables, Nathaniel Hawthorne's house, from the outside.

House of the Seven Gables, Nathaniel Hawthorne’s house, from the outside.

Nick found a hole.

Nick found a hole.

View from the street.

View from the street.

It's here we saw a black cat...In Salem...freaky.

It’s here we saw a black cat…In Salem…freaky.

The house again.

The house again.

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We then drove around and found parking by Pickering Wharf and got some drinks and treats from Jaho’s  and ate on the wharf overlooking the ship, The Friendship.

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Then we headed back! It was an awesome day!

 

Here are some tips for those of you who want to go visit Salem:

          -Go to the Visitor’s Center, like I mentioned earlier. Very helpful and free maps.

          -Follow the red line! Most of the maps have the red line (Freedom Trail) on them. This is super helpful while navigating the city.

Red line!

Red line!

Again! (It's all over)

Again! (It’s all over)

Be prepared to spend money. Every museum costs a little something. On the guide we got, there’s a list that shows you free things to do, but you can’t go here and expect to spend nothing.

          -Don’t be afraid to be a tourist. Basically everyone there is a tourist. And if they’re not that means that they live there. And if they live there, it’s because they know it’s a cool town. So they probably understand why you’re taking pictures of your feet on the red line or a statue.

          -Go into the witch shops. I don’t know the proper phrase or word for these shops but they’re incredible to look in. Just magical.

          -Have fun! Salem is an awesome town filled with history, notable residents and beautiful sights/sites.

 

Here are  a couple pictures to conclude (they also just didn’t really belong anywhere else):

Statue of Nathaniel Hawthorne

Statue of Nathaniel Hawthorne

John Ward house

John Ward House

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