I took a wonderful fall trip to Salem a couple of years ago … to Salem … you know, the scary one … in Massachusetts.
One of the things that is glaringly obvious when spending some time in Salem is the history.
Salem is a coastal city, and is largely credited with being one of the New England entry points of the Puritans, and I ask you, what harbour would be complete without a majestic lighthouse, and Salem, Massachusetts has a stunner! Small, but majestic nonetheless.
But of course, the history that makes Salem most famous is the Witch Trials of 1692. The Witch Trials were the culmination of innocent events that caused a village to go mad with fear, and unfortunately with devastating consequences.
And, by the way, there were no witches.
I have to admit, I was quite astounded by this. I always thought that those that were executed were practicing some form of witchcraft or magic. But, being Canadian, we didn’t study this history in school.
Here’s a great article by History of Massachusetts Blog called History of the Salem Witch Trials that sheds light on the happenings of 1692.
Salem has cultivated it’s own way of sharing with visitors the history that their city is famed for. The Salem Wax Museum, The Salem Witch Hunt, The Salem Witch Museum, The Salem Witch Village, the Witch House, the Witch Dungeon Museum and the Witch History Museum all offer their own unique take and delivery of the events of 1692.
Many of these attractions are used as teaching tools by history teachers of Massachusetts whose curriculum covers the Salem Witch Trials.
A resounding theme and the most poignant message which is delivered through these attractions is this one which hangs on the wall of the The Witch House (home of Judge Jonathan Corwin who presided over the Witch Trials). It reminds us in glaring detail that we must learn from history.
The daily life and culture of 325 years ago is so far removed from modern time, it can seem like a story. Fiction. Something somebody just made up. Sort of like a movie. A trip to the Burying Point cemetery in the heart of Salem, however, makes it all come to life when witnessing firsthand the flowers and momentoes left by the modern-day families for their ancestors who were executed. It serves as a very moving connection between past and present.
Salem is not all doom and gloom, however, and a strange irony is that the city celebrates all things witches, warlocks and witchcraft, and in an often fun and frivolous way.
In fact, a statue of Elizabeth Montgomery aka Samantha Stevens of Bewiched fame stands in the centre of town, to commemorate the fact that a number of Bewitched episodes were actually filmed in Salem.
The city also boasts many different shops offering magic spell herbs and kits, candles, incense, tarot cards, palm reading, and almost any other type of supernatural product and/or service you can imagine including modern-day witches who can cast spells and offer advice.
Salem is the unofficial Hallowe’en capital of the world, and considering approximately 250,000 people descend on the city during the month of October, it’s no wonder. Salem calls the month “Haunted Happenings” and offers an array of ghostly and ghouly attractions during this time. In fact, in order to secure a place to stay in Salem in October, one has to book a year in advance!
My visit was just after Hallowe’en, and I stayed at a bed and breakfast called Henry Derby House. Henry Derby House is an 1850s-style home, with quaint outdoor window boxes. It is decorated with classic 1850s-style furnishings and dishes, and it has a vintage permanent resident. A ghost. Named Sarah. Legend has it that Sarah was a maid who lived in the house and cared for the family that lived there in the 1800s.
Henry Derby’s website is here. They don’t operate as a bed and breakfast and rent rooms singly anymore, but they offer the entire house for rent to larger groups and families who are visiting the area.
When my daughter and I arrived, we were shown to our room by the owner, who also happened to grow up in the house. He was carrying a beautiful grey and white cat named Chevy. When he left our room he made a point of asking if we were allergic to cats, because Chevy liked to roam the house freely. Unfortunately, my daughter is allergic, so we told him this, and he left … with Chevy.
I sat down on my bed and began looking at some brochures I had picked up, when all of a sudden I felt a “bump”, as if something was under the bed and bumping me from below.
I was a bit confused, because I was sure I watched the owner take the cat and close the door behind him. But then … it happened again. So, my daughter got down on her hands and knees and checked under the bed, only to find nothing. We both laughed at our thoughts and started talking about where we were going to go for dinner, and just as I was about to get up from the bed … it happened … again.
A couple of nights later, I was plugging in my cellphone, and this being an old house, the outlet was across the room from my bed. So, I got off of the bed and walked a few steps over to the outlet, and all of a sudden I heard the bed springs jangling … sort of like the sound the bed would make if I had just gotten off of it, but … delayed. Oh, and also, the sound wasn’t coming from the bed, it was coming from outside the door to the hallway. I quickly opened the door, and surprise … there was nothing there.
But this experience was the strangest. My daughter brought her computer along on the trip, and she would go on it in the evenings after I laid down to go to sleep. As I lay on the bed, I could here her happily typing away, but every time I started to fall asleep the clicking of the keys would keep me awake. I glanced over at her, and then would lay back down to try to sleep. This happened about three times. I didn’t want to ask her to stop, because usually I can sleep through these things, but the fourth time, I was so tired, I decided I had to ask my daughter if she could put her computer away. So, I turned my head towards her bed, and to my surprise, she was fast asleep and her computer was stowed at the foot of her bed … but why could still hear typing …
Did we get a visit from Sarah the ghost on our trip? Of course, we’ll never know, and the experiences I just described could … maybe? … be explained, but it is a little bit of fun to think that maybe we did.
Happy Ghosts and Goblins season. Stay safe … especially you little ones!
Photo of Samantha Stevens Bewitched statue credit to dresdnhope.
Photo of Salem Witch Museum credit to Dwayne Taylor.