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Sunday 21 March 2021

6 Things To Do in Salem, Massachusetts

Do you listen to podcasts?

Lately I've been listening to a really interesting podcast called Witches of Scotland. This podcast discusses the (mostly) women who were accused, tortured and often executed under the Scottish Witchcraft Act of 1563. From 1563 though to 1736 almost 4,000 people were accused and tried as witches. Of those, over 2,500 (that we know of) were found guilty, executed by strangulation, and their bodies burned to deny them a proper burial. The podcast discusses the cases where information was recorded, and brings to light the fact that these people were just every day people. The hosts do a great job of humanizing the victims of the Witchcraft Act. The driving force behind the podcast is a call to the Scottish parliament for an official apology, a pardon for those found guilty, and a national memorial honoring those treated so unfairly under this cruel act.

All this talk of witchcraft and memorials has had me thinking about our visit to Salem, Massachusetts back in the Summer of 2018. It's one of those trips I've been meaning to share here for such a long time - but you know me. Always behind! Anyway, today I'm sharing my favorite things to do and see in Salem. It's cute little city with so much interesting history, the most well known, of course, being the Salem witch trials. 

Here are my favorite things to see and do in Salem...

Salem Witch Trials Memorial
Salem is best known for the Salem witch trials of 1692. During this time of religious mania sixteen women and four men were accused of witchcraft. All bar one were tried, convicted and executed by hanging between July and September 1692. Giles Corey refused to enter a plea and therefore could not be tried. He was tortured by pressing, which involved placing heavy boards and rocks on his chest as he lay flat, and died after three days without ever entering a plea. The Witch Trials Memorial was dedicated in 1992 as part of the Salem Witch Trials tercentenary. The memorial features a low stone wall with twenty stone benches, each engraved with the name of a victim, the date they were executed, and the manner in which their death was carried out. It's a somber spot yet quite a beautiful memorial. The Salem Witch Trials Memorial can be found adjoining The Burying Point at 24 Liberty Street. You can find more information at https://www.salemweb.com/memorial/memorial.php

The Witch House
The Jonathan Corwin House, also known as The Witch House, is the only surviving building from the seventeenth century with a direct link to the Salem witch trials. The house is believed to have been built somewhere between 1620 and 1642 and was purchased in 1675 by Judge Jonathan Corwin who later became one of the magistrates in the Salem witch trials. The house has been restored as a museum in its original 17th century style. The rooms feature furniture and household items that would have been in use at the time that Jonathan Corwin lived here with his family. While there isn't much specifically witchcraft related on display, it is a very interesting look back at what life would have been like (for a wealthy family) at the time. The Witch House is located at 310 Essex Street, Salem. For more information visit https://www.thewitchhouse.org/

The Burying Point
Ok, I might be outing myself as a little weird here, but I love visiting old cemeteries. Anyone else? They're such an insight into the history of a town or city and I really enjoy seeing the different styles used. Check out the ornate skulls and angels on the headstones below. I find them extra interesting when they're old enough that the language has changed. I always find myself on a mission to find the oldest headstone, and with plenty from the17th and 18th century there are lots of old ones here. The Burying Point is a quiet grassy area with plenty of big shady trees. It's the perfect spot to take a break on a hot day while also taking in a little history. The Burying Point is located at 51 Charter Street, Salem. 

The House of the Seven Gables
The Turner-Ingersoll Mansion, otherwise known as the House of the Seven Gables, is one of Salem's most popular tourist destinations. Built in 1668 for Captain John Turner I, the house is one of the largest timber framed mansions in the US still in its original location. The house was the inspiration for Nathaniel Hawthorne's famous 1851 novel The House of the Seven Gables. Hawthorne, a descendant of Salem witch trial judge John Hathorne, had been the cousin of Susanna Ingersoll who owned the house in the 19th century and spent much time here while working in Salem. Over the centuries the house went through many modifications, until it was restored to its perceived original design in the early 20th century and set up as a museum. While great care was taken to keep the restoration authentic, several items were included to match the description from Hawthorne's novel, including a "cent shop" (which you can see below) and a well in the garden. Today visitors will find six buildings on the site, many of which were moved here from their original locations elsewhere in Salem. As well as the House of the Seven Gables there is the Retire Beckett House (built in 1655), the Hooper-Hathaway House (built in 1682), Nathaniel Hawthorne's Birthplace (built C 1750), the Counting House (built in 1830), and a modern visitor center. The House of the Seven Gables, the Hooper-Hathaway House and Nathaniel Hawthorne's birthplace are furnished with period furniture and homewares. The Retire Beckett House serves as the museum's gift shop. The Counting House and the surrounding area outside it make up a children's play area called Kids' Cove at the Gables. Stunning gardens, designed in the early 1900s surround the buildings. The House of the Seven Gables is located at 115 Derby Street. For more information visit https://7gables.org/

Salem Maritime National Historic Site
Not all of Salem's history focuses on the witch trials of 1692. The town has a great shipping, trade and ship building history with many wealthy merchants calling Salem home over the centuries. The Salem Maritime National Historic Site pays tribute to this part of Salem's history. Located along the waterfront, the site includes historic wharves, a lighthouse, a replica ship and many historic buildings that played a major part in Salem's past. We didn't have time to visit any of the buildings  however we did take a walk along the Derby Wharf to Derby Light Station and checked out Pedrick Storehouse, a warehouse moved from the neighboring town of Marblehead. The site also includes Custom House, Scale House, Derby House, Narbonne House, a visitor center and gift shop. A replica of the merchant ship Visitors will also find Friendship of Salem, a replica of the 18th century merchant ship Friendship. Salem Maritime National Historic Site is located along the waterfront on Derby Street. For more information visit https://www.nps.gov/sama/index.htm

Bewitched sculpture
Owing to the very real history of the witchcraft trials, Salem has become something of a destination for those interested in witchcraft and the occult, whether it be based in reality or popular culture. This means that there are quite a lot of tourist attractions that are quite, well... a little cheesy. Think stereotypical Halloween witches with pointy hats, broomsticks and cauldrons. We mostly gave these a miss in favor of the historical sites in Salem, but there was one that we stopped by for a quick snap. That would be the Bewitched sculpture in Lappin Park. The sculpture features actress Elizabeth Montgomery as her character Samantha from the 60's sitcom perched upon a broom flying past the moon. Super cheesy, but it's good to mix things up a little. We made a quick stop here on our walk to the Witch House. The Bewitched sculpture can be found in Lappin Park on the corner of Essex and Washington Streets. 

We only had one day in Salem when we visited so there were plenty of places that I would've loved to have visited had we had more time there. We'll just have to take another trip to Salem!

On my list for next time are the Peabody Essex Museum, the Salem Witch Museum, Salem Pioneer Village, and more of the Salem Maritime National Historic Site.

Have you been to Salem before?

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