Salem, Massachusetts: Haunted History, Halloween Happenings, Maritime Magic and More
If Halloween is your favorite holiday, then Salem, Massachusetts is your town. Forever tied to the infamous 1692 witch hunt hysteria that led to the execution of twenty innocent women and men, Salem today is home to all manner of witches, warlocks, psychics, and New Age practitioners. Though the paranormal is a thriving industry in this quaint seaside village 15 miles north of Boston, it is not the only game in town. Salem is also steeped in Colonial and maritime history. Settled by Europeans in 1626 it is home to the Salem Maritime Historic Site, the Peabody Essex art museum, and “The House of the Seven Gables” made famous by 19th century native son, author Nathaniel Hawthorne.
Salem is a very walk-able city. Most shops, restaurants, hotels and attractions are accessible within a manageable radius of its downtown district, and a good way to familiarize yourself with the major sites is to take a hop on/hop off narrated Salem Trolley tour. Visitors pour into town as Halloween approaches so plan now if you want to join the ghoulish good fun, or wait until the crowds disperse and enjoy a quieter New England adventure.
Halloween and Haunted Happenings
Halloween is celebrated every day (and night) during October with “Haunted Happenings” events like pop-up parades, music, magic shows, street theatrics and more. Seasonal costuming is de rigueur and ghost stories abound. You cannot walk Salem’s narrow streets without being encouraged to believe in lingering spirits–and there are plenty of ghost tours to uncover them. Attractions run the gamut of “jump-scare” fright fests, reenactments and séances to haunted dinner theater and kids carnivals. Note: Film buffs will enjoy Count Orlok’s Nightmare Gallery, a wax museum devoted to legendary Hollywood horror films and genre icons like Boris Karloff, Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee and Vincent Price.
Haunted Happenings is celebrated all October long in Salem
The Witch Trials of 1692 and Witch Attractions Today
Colonial Puritans executed twenty innocent people during the deplorable witch trials of 1692. The period left an indelible stamp on American consciousness, and has inspired many creative interpretations, most notably Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible”. Salem presents the trials, and the lessons they teach, with an array of tourist attractions—from historic displays to spooky kitsch. Many feature life-size wax figures with narration, live action theatrics or a combination of both. Popular venues include the Salem Witch Museum, the Witch Dungeon Museum and the Witch House—former home of witch trial judge Jonathan Corwin and the only remaining structure with ties to the trials. The Salem Witch Trial Memorial, a poignant and understated open air memorial, has stone memorials of all twenty victims. Note: Descendants still leave flowers on the stone markers.
It is always the witching hour in today’s Salem, with plenty of practicing witches and shops selling magic supplies, spell kits, crystals, mojo bags—you name it. Psychic readings can be scheduled with Leanne Marrama of Hex: Old World Witchery, and other famous witches at Magika, Crow Haven Corner, Omen and more. You can stock up on essential oils, herbs and teas at Artemisia Botanicals and the Salem Witch Walk tour explains the practice of witchcraft today and begins with all participants blessed in a magic circle ritual. Note: A statue of Elizabeth Montgomery in “Bewitched,” is a popular attraction near the pedestrian mall and a playful nod to TV’s most famous witch.
(left to right) An accused witch at the Witch Museum, A ‘Cry Innocent Trial’, A mock recreation of a Salem Witch Trial, A Girl accused of being witch, The Salem Witch Museum, Old documents about the Witch Trials
Salem was one of the America’s major international trading ports by the end of the 18th century. The shipping industry ignited a boom town as tall ships lined the harbor and exotic goods and spices from Asia were unloaded daily onto the wharves. In 1938 The National Park Service designated the waterfront as the Salem Maritime Historic Site which today encompasses 9 acres and 12 historic buildings. Nearby Pickering Wharf has been re-imagined as a contemporary waterfront destination with eclectic shops and popular seafood restaurants like Sea Level Oyster Bar and Finz Seafood & Grill. It is also home to the Salem Waterfront Suites hotel, an ideal place to call home during your stay. History buffs might enjoy the landmark Hawthorne Hotel (circa 1925) near Salem Common. Note: Salem Maritime was the first designated National Historic Site in the National Park system.
(left to right) View to the House of The Seven Gables from the Harbor, Salem Harbor, Salem Schooner, FAME, Pickering Wharf
The House of the Seven Gables and the Peabody Essex Museum.
Literary aficionados will want to tour the 1668 Turner-Ingersoll Mansion, one of America’s oldest surviving wooden mansions and the inspiration for 19th century author Nathaniel Hawthorne’s classic novel “The House of the Seven Gables.” Born in Salem, and a descendant of the one of the witch trial judges, Hawthorne also wrote “The Scarlett Letter.” With its waterfront location, quiet gardens and historic out buildings it is an entertaining and educational site. Note: After your visit cross the street to indulge in some old fashioned gibralters (rock candy) or blackjacks (stick candy) at Ye Old Pepper Candy Companie.
Salem is also home to the Peabody Essex Museum, a top-tier venue with distinctive collections of American, New England, and international art. Note: If a quiet cup of Spiced Mandarin Oolong sounds just right after your stroll through the art galleries head to the Jolie Tea Company, a very inviting European-inspired tea shop and café.
For comprehensive information on Salem, attractions, accommodations, shops and restaurants visit Destination Salem www.salem.org.
IMAGES: Credit: Photos Courtesy of Destination Salem.
SALEM MUSEUMS (left to right) The House of the Seven Gables, Putnam Gallery, American Decorative Art at the Peabody Museum, Peabody Essex Museum, The Bewitched Statue of Elizabeth Montgomery’s 1970’s TV series, Old Town Hall, Salem’s Pioneer Village