By my recent posts, it’s fairly obvious I took a roadtrip from CT to MA, specifically: Salem, MA. I never have made a bucket list, but if I did, Salem would be on it. Everyone knows Salem and the Salem Witch Trials, but not many have been to the village/city that hosted one of America’s darkest periods in history. Through this post I want to comment on the history, the town, and the culture that has enveloped the city. As well as some of the sites I saw that were awesome!
Salem, MA is 30 minutes north of Boston; you can get there by ferry or by car. There’s quite a few hotels to stay at, but I stayed at a conference hotel outside of town (in Beverley MA) and it was lovely. The Wylie Inn is hidden in a suburban neighborhood and was affordable with its own private beach. I would highly recommend it.
There’s quite a few things to see in Salem, and it’s interesting how they are separated by type: historical versus cultural. Clearly, the entire purpose of traveling to the town is based on the 17th Century witch trials, so there are quite a few museums. Unfortunately, many of them are tour-led, meaning a docent guides you through the museum. You are thus on their time-table, covering topics that they are introducing, and spending time where they want you to spend time. I like to think I am a smart person, so when I approach a museum, I enjoy to think about what I want to see, what information I want to gather, and what I want to learn more about. I hate when people talk AT me. Thus, I am not a huge fan of museums that are dependent on docents, such as the “Salem Witch Museum.” Keep this in mind if and when you go.
Speaking of being toured around, one of the most fulfilling things I could have done in Salem was to take a tour of the historic area. “Bewitched After Dark Walking Tour” was rated the top tour in the Salem area on TripAdvisor, so I bought a ticket for $20. There was about 40 of us ranging in ages from babies to senior citizens. Our guide had a tremendous amount of knowledge on the area and really focused his discussion to the Salem Cemetery and Salem Witch Memorial, which really provided a myopic view of the historical facts of the time period. This is probably the wisest $20 I could have spent in the city. The memorial is extremely touching, and even though the tour spent about 45-60 minutes in the memorial, I went back during the day to walk through it again. The memorial has 20 stones that look like benches, each with an inscribed name of an accused witch, the date of execution, and how they were executed. This is a very touching memorial, and really drives the point home, since the memorial looks directly upon the cemetery of the accusers.
Now on to the cultural aspects of Salem. Witches draw the most interesting crowds. I could clearly see this in the Salem Walking Mall that’s a small shopping district filled with shops of eclectic material and products. Interesting too is that some shops have tarot card readers and “spirit rooms” where seances can be done. This brings some interesting people to the city ranging from hippies to ghost marauders seeking conversations with their relatives. This may be “fun” for some but it is odd for those of us who want to enjoy the history of the city.
The other thing that you HAVE to do while in Salem is go to the House of Seven Gables. You must pay $13 to gain access to the grounds which includes a variety of historic homes, a tour of the House of 7 Gables, and a quaint garden. The tour of the house is well-worth the cost of the tour, and it only takes 35 minutes, which is not bad. The House was built by cousins of Nathaniel Hawthorne. The tour guide walks through all rooms of the house, how they are decorated, and what historically happened in each room. You also gain access to a secret staircase that was installed after Hawthorne wrote his book; this was to incorporate fictional pieces into the actual house. Very cool!! The garden of the grounds is beautiful and sits on the harbor, so on a bright sunny day is a lovely place to sit and have lunch. The grounds also contain Hawthorne’s birthplace, which was relocated from another part of Salem. The grounds are a bit off the beaten path, but just google it and find its place, it’s super lovely.
All in all, it was a good trip and I really enjoyed all the eclectic aspects of the town. Now that I’ve seen it, I have invested in the current novel by Pulitzer winner Stacy Schiff entitled The Witches. This describes the history, in full detail, of the Witch trials. I will follow up with a blog post about this book. The town is lovely, I went on bright sunny days, and I bought a few memorabilia. Anyway, go if you get a chance; you could probably see everything that is worthwhile in a full day. There’s not that many things to see in more than 36 hours, but go if you are in the New England area!