When on a trip to New York earlier this year, I decided to travel to Salem, which is located in Boston, Massachusetts. This trip has been at the top of my bucket list since I was old enough to watch Hocus Pocus. I knew that if I didn’t go now then I was likely to never have another chance to visit it. Now, you have to understand that I like to think that I am a modern-day witch. I buy into horoscopes, manifestation rituals, crystals, and more. Wicca, practice, has interested me for years and I feel that it just works for me personally. If Wicca has done nothing for me, then that is okay, but I can tell you for sure that it has developed my intuition to scary levels, and I knew I had a calling to visit Salem.
After travelling for several hours on the train from New York City, I was very relieved when I reached Boston. Boston was beautiful and I thought it was the perfect balance of old and new. I checked into my hotel and after a good night’s sleep and a typically huge American breakfast, I hopped aboard a little purple train that would apparently take me to “The Witch Village.”
Wandering about Salem is interesting in itself as this is no normal place. It has shops named “Toil and Trouble” and “The Witch Mall”. These shops only sell items such as spooky costumes and broomsticks so it quickly became clear that I wouldn’t be encountering a Victoria’s Secret for the next few days.
I was extremely keen to throw myself into Salem’s history as soon as possible. I disembarked from the train and before I even checked into my hotel in Salem, I made my way to “The Witch Museum”. I found this visit exciting as it was my first venture in the city. However, it turned out to be a little underwhelming. I sat in a dark room with more wax figures than there were real-life people as the story of the gruesome witch trials of Salem was explained. The wax figures were the most terrifying part of my trip.
I recognised the stories and names of those killed in the witch trials from my American-Gothic reading. However, I hate to be that person, but, I discovered that there is nothing more irritating than knowing when a museum or historical site’s information is not quite as accurate as it should be when I was led into a room where more wax figures stood, and a voice-over for one of these figures told the story of “European Witches”. This was a significant mistake. With an extremely bad Scottish accent, a female Scottish wax figure named Agnes stood and told the awful story of how she was burned in the witch trials, again “in Europe”. My teeth were clenched. Scotland is not in Europe. Hadn’t they heard of Brexit?
The fake accent made things ten times worse. On the way out, I offered the staff my voice for future recordings on the off chance they would take me up on it but I was immediately asked if I was from Europe. I bought my T-shirt from the gift shop and made a swift exit.
I would like to mention here that there was a very notorious witch from Edinburgh called Agnes Finnie. This is the witch the museum had based their wax figure on. Agnes Finnie is known as Edinburgh’s most evil witch who would curse those who crossed her.
This might sound silly but after I investigated this more, I found out that most of her curses came true and ended in death with no explanation why, apart from the fact that she was a witch. She was a fantastic character who ended up strangled and then burned alive just like the estimated 300 other women accused of being witches in Edinburgh during the 17th Century. Gives a new meaning to barbeque in the Scottish summertime. I would have thought the copious rain would have put the fires out.
Throughout the course of my trip to Salem, I was very lucky that the weather was pleasant and there was no rain. On my second day there, I walked through the famous graveyard that stood in the “Witch Village” of Salem Town Centre. Buried in the graveyard were the relatives of those who were killed in the witch trials as well as a few of the magistrates that had sentenced the so-called witches to death. There was also a memorial for the 20 witches killed in the trials. This confused me as the memorial was just stones built into a wall with the victims’ names carved into them. This was because the accused did not have a proper burial as the townspeople were not sure where their bodies lay.
The most that Salem could do for the victims was to honour them as best as they could with this memorial. Something I would stress is that only twenty witches were killed in Salem? I know this is awful, but there was a far higher amount of witches executed in Europe and the UK. I love the difference between America, Europe, and the UK. America loves a good story with the potential to make a play or two out of it. A little death, blood, and gore? Great, send it to Arthur Miller. Catastrophic death and torture in Glasgow? Sounds like Accident and Emergency in my hometown.
I strolled around the witch village taking in my surroundings as I was very proud that I had made it to Salem. As previously stated, it is a place I have wanted to visit for a very long time. I finished my second day by entering one of the town’s spooky shops that sold herbs, spells, crystals, and more. There also happened to be a psychic there who sat up at the back of the shop waiting for some unassuming Scottish tourist to pass by and that day they were in luck.
This man told me things that shook me to my core. All he knew was my first name. He read my palms and tarot cards and told me things that only I would know. He also assured me I would be very successful and would own a pool house so no worries, his payment was worth it.
On my third day, I decided to visit the “House of the Seven Gables”. As I walked to my destination, I passed the oldest candy shop in the US. It was about 2 years old. Just kidding, but it was very interesting and the buildings I passed were beautiful. Salem is an idyllic town with a thick atmosphere due to its disturbing historical events.
The ‘House of the Seven Gables’ was exceptional. I finally got to see the famous, large, black-coloured house that is so iconic to Salem. I was then taken to Nathaniel Hawthorne’s birthplace and house. I stood in the same room Nathaniel Hawthorne was born in. There is something very strangely exhilarating about staring at a famous, dead man’s bathtub. That felt weird. I decided to go to the bookshop and bought a “signed” (stamped) copy of the book “The House of the Seven Gables”. Overall, I could understand why Hawthorne gained so much inspiration from his birthplace and home.
Salem is the most picture-perfect town, yet the atmosphere is thick and dark. Along with the murder of innocent people, the town of Salem is very beautifully twisted and is the perfect setting for a Gothic novel.
I must note one disappointing part of my trip which ended up being somehow hilarious. The day before I left, I decided to try and find Gallow’s Hill. I took an Uber to Proctor’s Ledge which is now a second memorial to the witches who were hung. Proctor’s Ledge was on the side of the road, not even near a pavement. It was very symmetrically laid out and was well looked after, but there was little to see. I then decided to go to Gallow’s Hill Park. I was determined to find this hill. I walked for what seemed like forever and ended up at the park. It is now a skate park with swings and a slide. I climbed to the top of a steep hill in the park whilst trees and overgrown branches attacked me.
I reached the summit to find nothing but an American flagpole. This could not be Gallow’s Hill surely? I turned to my left and a man was burning the devil's lettuce, a term used for marijuana, in his garden. That was the closest I got to Satan that day. I was told when I got back to town that the people do not like to celebrate the place where the witches were hung so never properly marked the spot. Maybe I’m a little morbid in being disappointed by this but I was told that the residents of the houses in the area I had visited could see the witches being hanged when the events occurred. One thing for sure is that I had been in the right place at least.
My time in Salem was highly memorable. This was a huge adventure for me, and I am extremely proud of myself for the trip not going drastically wrong even though I was visiting one of the most “haunted” places on earth. I saw many things in Salem that will stay with me. Whether this was Alison’s house from Hocus Pocus, Nathaniel Hawthorne’s bed pan, or a t-shirt that had a broom on it with the slogan “I drive a stick”, all sights were highly memorable, and I would advise any witch to visit.
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