Every Halloween enthusiast dreams of visiting Salem. Despite the dark history of hangings and witchcraft accusations, the tiny town offers a host of museums, reenactments, and memorials that attracts scores of people year round. Of course, the number of visitors skyrocket during the month of October.
The bad thing is I missed the crowds. Taking advantage of a super cheap flight, I flew into Boston mid-week and thus missed the hoopla that occurs during nights and weekends. The good thing is that didn’t stop me from experiencing what the city had to offer.
The first stop was an obligatory visit to the Witch’s Museum. Tooted as the most visited Museum in Salem, I expected to see huge exhibits and reenactments complete with fake blood and high-pitched screaming. What I instead discovered is that the museum consists of only three rooms, one exhibit, and that the reenacting is done by ghostly,life-sized plastic sculptures.
Guests are ushered into a dome-shaped room. Above them, about a dozen scenes depict the Salem witch trials, the events leading up to it, and the aftermath. A spotlight shines on each scene in turn as a dramatic overhead voice narrates the action. After the presentation, guests are led into another room where a tour guide gives a brief history of witches. They start with the original witches;Pagan women who were respected,powerful healers of their communities. Next, the audience is told how early Christianity– threatened by these powerful women– helped advance the scary, evil images we have of witches today. Lastly, we learned about modern- day witches or Wiccans as they are called. I knew nothing about this world beforehand and I left with some interesting tidbits. For example, both male and female members are called witches ( the word warlock carries negative connotations). The verdict? In my opinion, there wasn’t enough exhibits for this to be a true museum but for less than $10.00, it is informative and entertaining. Check it out.
A few minutes away from the museum is the Salem Witch Trials’ Memorial. It’s half cemetery, half public park and the benches are engraved with the names of the 20 victims who were accused (and ultimately executed for ) of practicing witchcraft. See if any of the names look familiar to you.
The adjoining cemetery is filled with cracked and weathered tombstones, some of which date back to the 1600’s.
For lasting memories of Salem’s beauty, make the waterfront your last stop. Here you’ll find a gorgeous wharf,complete with a lighthouse, and loads of historical sites. A replica of the Friendship trading vessel is docked here and House of the Seven Gables( The house that Nathaniel Hawthorne made famous in his novel) is just a few steps away.
I didn’t get to participate in Haunted Happenings– the nighttime, month-long affair that includes parades, carnivals, and twice the haunted tours– but if you want to , I’d suggest showing up on weekends or after 3pm.
Or if you like your outings to be a bit more calm and history focused, visit during weekdays and in the morning.
No matter when you go, you’ll be able to see the tarot card and magick stores on nearly every block, the quaint, vibrant houses, and walk the peaceful streets.