Salem is the American town of witches, still under the spell of its past with flying witch logos adorning police cars, and even the Salem High School’s mascot is, unsurprisingly, a woman in black with a pointy hat! The Massachusetts city of 41,000 bewitches visitors, and tourism officials and business owners also want to focus attention on other museums, sunset cruises, exceptional architecture and a rich maritime history.
Salem was founded in 1626 by a group of fishermen from Cape Ann, the name is derived from the Hebrew word for peace, “Shalom.” Its infamous past began in the winter of 1692 when some girls fell ill and blamed members of the community for their affliction. Hundreds of innocent people were accused during the hysteria, and ultimately 19 men and women were hung and one man was pressed to death.
Salem has been a popular destination for hundreds of years. Visitors include Presidents George Washington and John Quincy Adams, inventor Alexander Graham Bell. Not to mention 1960s-70s TV star Elizabeth Montgomery, who stopped by Salem for a visit with the cast of Bewitched to film several episodes. My fav childhood TV program.
Visitors flock to Salem to explore the dark side of human nature, shop at witch emporiums – to buy spell kits, voodoo dolls, hoodoo powders, mojo bags, witchy wear and witches’ brooms – or participate in Haunted Happenings. You can learn the details of the Salem Witch Trials of 1692 at the Salem Witch Museum, the Wax Museum of Witches & Seafarers and the Witch History Museum. Or become a part of recreations of the trials at the Witch Dungeon or Cry Innocent, where the visitor becomes part of the jury. Hear the historical testimonies, cross-examine the witnesses and decide the outcome. The actors respond in character, revealing much about the Puritan mind.
Salem is also popular for its abundance of of psychics, palm readers and fortune tellers – there are over 70 of them licensed to practice. www.salemsightseeing.com for more info.
Another highlight: The Peabody Essex Museum, at 161 Essex St, has undergone a remarkable transformation into one of New England’s largest art organizations and into an art museum of national and international standing.
Roots of the museum date to the 1799 founding of the East India Marine Society, an organization of Salem captains and supercargoes who had sailed beyond either the Cape of Good Hope or Cape Horn. Today’s collection has grown to include approximately 1 million works and Yin Yu Tang, the only complete Qing Dynasty house outside China. PEM is open Tues-Sun 10am-5pm. Right now it has a Man Ray and Lee Miller exhibit called Partners in Surrealism, open through to December.
Near the dead centre of town is one of the liveliest (!) spots – the local farmers’ market on Derby Square, held each Thursday from 3-7pm, from June to October. Stall highlights: Cape Cod Original Chowder’s chowder and bisques (all natural and gluten free); Milk and Honey Green Grocer’s New England cheeses such as Westfield Farm, Hubbardston, MA; Blueledge Farm, Leicester, VT and Vermont butter & cheese; When Pigs Fly Bakery featuring up to 20 different types of artisan breads.
Destination Salem: http://salem.org/
The House of The Seven Gables: www.7gables.org/
Hex Old World Witchery: www.salemhex.com/
Salem Maritime National Historic Site: www.nps.gov/sama/index.htm
Peabody Essex Museum: http://www.pem.org/