One of my favorite things about living in the North-East is the history of our region. We’re called New England for a reason –this is where the pilgrims landed, established the Jamestown colony and set into motion an irreversible domino effect of settlement that led us to modern-day America.
And with such a long, and rich history also come sweeping waves of stories. Halloween brings out the best in folklore, especially haunted tales; but one doesn’t have to look towards myth to find original haunted stories from our own local history. Salem, Massachusetts offers us one of the most endearing tales of witchcraft 400 years later.
Salem in and of itself is nothing special in particular. It’s your typical colonial style, New England village with wooden houses, few windows, brick chimneys that stem from the center and ominously creaking floorboards.
But Salem sticks out for a reason: it was the site of the infamous Salem Witch Trials that lasted from 1692 to 1693 and resulted in the deaths of 19 people. Although Salem Village’s name was changed to Danvers in 1752, and the town of Salem is about five miles south of what we know historically as “Salem,” current-day Salem is rich in history. It is one of the best examples of mass hysteria in the continental United States, as it stole a sense of reasoning from people and resulted in the social elimination of people who did not fit, or were considered outcasts.
There could be no better backdrop for All Hallows’ Eve than a real story such as this one and modern-day Salem lives up to it. Here are some of the top sights and events to see there:
1) The Salem Witch House is a mandatory visit for anyone touring Salem. It was the former house of Jonathan Corwin, who was one of the judges during the trials. I can only imagine the stories those walls would tell if they could speak. Imagine being a sitting judge on one of the largest examples of mass hysteria in colonial America. That was history in the making and that man’s decisions directly affected the lives of the so-called witches who were brought to the stand. While touring the inside of the house, you can find historical pieces of furniture, art and documents that date back to the 1690s. The walls are lined with informational graphics and facts that give context to the witch trials.
2) The Salem Witch Museum will offer another way to experience and understand the events. Inside you are shown a short, narrated film depicting the village life and trials of 1692. The film is immersive and will drag you back by the heels to the colonial courtroom 400 years ago. Be careful, lest you too be accused.
3) The Salem Burying Point is the cemetery where some of the judges who sentenced the witches to death were buried. Cemeteries alone can give you a crawl up the spine, but combine them with the dark shawl of the night, and centuries of a haunted era, and you have yourself a stew of fear. The chipping, old stone graves that lean to one side, or are half-buried in the dirt give Salem another overtone, one of mystery and intrigue.
Imagine yourself walking under the changing leaves of the oaks, the crunch of the dry leaves and twigs under your branches and that authentic autumn air in a sleepy New England town–you have the perfect way to spend Halloween. Next time you need an October weekend excursion, try Salem, Massachusetts and go in for a “spell”.