For our one big trip before classes started, Cade and I decided to take a trip to Salem. First some back story:
Cade wrote his undergraduate thesis on the Salem Witch Trials, so he is a wealth of knowledge when it comes to this topic. He never thought that he would actually get to go to Salem, let alone live so close that we could make an easy trip out of it, so this was an excellent opportunity for him. For me, I’ve just always been curious about the area and the history, so why not take advantage of our new location.
So, with that knowledge, we set off to learn some history and chase witches! We decided to take a ferry from Boston to Salem, because ferries are awesome..duh. Really though, we loved the one that we took in Seattle, it’s a pretty quick way to get around, and the views are gorgeous.
Oh, but before we got to the docks in Boston, we had to go to Wonderland…yes, I’m serious:
Ignore that guy…no idea who it is, but he’s apparently going to Wonderland too.
Once we reached land in Salem, we had a lovely walk along the water and through the common to get to our bed and breakfast.
We decided to stay at the Amelia Payson House. There are tons of bed and breakfasts to choose from in Salem, but I have to say we were absolutely satisfied with our stay here. Quick shout out: it was an older couple, who 1) held our bags for us when we got there and after we checked out, 2) made us an amazing (and huge) breakfast, and 3) had tons of very interesting stories and suggestions for things to do while we were there. if you ever plan a trip to Salem, I would absolutely recommend staying with them. Oh, and PS, we got chocolates on our pillow…made for some great noms after our long day of exploring.
After checking in and handing over our big backpacks, we headed out to begin our explorations. First things first, we were hungry and wanted to find some lunch, so we headed down to the main touristy area to check out the shops and find this sandwich shop that we had found online and came highly recommended, Red’s.
After our bellies were satisfied, we began all the touristy sites, which, as you’ll see, was a long list. First up, was the Witch House.
Now, before we get too deep into this, here’s my disclaimer: While I learned a ton in Salem, I’m not going to go into great detail about it. That might literally lead to a book, and I’m not a good historian. So, I’ll focus on the highlights and some of the touristy stuff. If you want to learn more, I encourage you to do one of the following: 1) make a trip to Salem, so you can learn about all of this firsthand, 2) just do some research in your spare time about it, or 3) strike up a conversation with Cade (if you know him) since he’s the historian in the family. There is a ton to learn, with some facts still outstanding (I know, surprising after all this time, right!?), and the places that I list might point you in some directions to start that research.
Anyways, back to the Witch House. There were no trials done here and no witches lived here; however, one of the judges in the trials lived here..so, there’s the tie. It was pretty cool looking from the outside, and they had the inside set up to match the time period.
Next on the agenda was probably the most crazy..and tiring..of our trip. Like I said, Cade did an thesis on this topic, so he’s super passionate about it. In his thesis, he talked about one of the big, possibly the biggest, controversy of the Salem Witch Trials – the location of where the accused where hung. There have been many theories over the years, but the one with the most evidence behind it, and the one that Cade agrees with, is literally at the top of a wooded hill behind a Walgreens. I know, glamorous, right? Well, because he’s wrote about it, Cade had to go see this site…and the other ones that have been theorized about…and they are not close to each other…and they’re all pretty much in the woods…on top of hills. You get the picture, he took me on a huge hike, but I enjoyed watching him get all passionate about it. Here are some pictures of our lovely hike:
After Cade was satisfied (and I complained enough :)), we headed back into town, and I was rewarded with some ice cream, which totally works with me…ice cream is one of my favorite things in the world. And, we got it in this really interesting shop that had tons of witchy stuff, which was the norm around these parts.
After my belly was happy and full of ice cream, Cade insisted that we get back to our adventures. So, we got back on track and set out for a cemetery. As I’m sure you can guess, this was a pretty significant cemetery, where many people that were involved in the trials were buried. However, don’t be confused..those that were accused and sentenced to death were not in this cemetery. Back then, in Puritan times, you were not allowed a proper burial if you committed suicide or found guilty of being a witch, so those that were not afforded their proper burial were just thrown into a ditch. Even today, we’re not sure where all of these bodies ended up…another mystery that maybe will be solved in the future. But, like I said, there were important people who were involved in the trials, and many of the tombstones were cool just to look at because they were so old.
Next to this cemetery was a memorial for those that were accused and sentenced to death. It was quite a cool memorial. I find the symbolism in memorials to be fascinating, and you really have to pay attention and look into them to get all the pieces. As like many others, this one had tons of symbolism embedded in it, but I’ll get back to that during our night tour since this is when we actually learned of the meanings.
Next up was one of the super touristy spots, the Witch Museum. We had heard that this was super cheesy and not really accurate, but we had to go just because it’s one of the things you do when you go to Salem. And, we were able to get a packaged ticket that included the Witch House (see above), the Witch Museum, and the Rebecca Nurse Homestead (coming later in this post). I will agree with those that informed us beforehand, that it was fairly cheesy. They used these animatronics to tell the story of the trials, which I’ll admit kind of creeped me out; however, it was actually pretty accurate. I even asked Cade after, and he agreed that what they told us was indeed pretty factual, so worth going. They also had a little museum after that explained some of the history behind how witches became what we know them as today. You may or may not have been able to take pictures, but either way we submerged with a couple.
After this long, jam-packed day, we treated ourselves to some good ‘ole fashioned candy. There was a candy shop close by, and we had a coupon that was included in that combo ticket I talked about, so win win. We got an assortment and headed back to the B&B.
Oh, and I’m sure you thought we were done for the day…oh no. By the way, did you realize as you’re reading this that this so far has been in one day? Yeah, it kind of blows my mind writing about it. My body certainly felt it that day. But yeah, we decided to go to a night tour of the city, so we were not done.
So, this night tour was recommended by one of the owners of the B&B, and when we read about it online, it seemed interesting. 1) It didn’t have a haunted component to it, so check one for me, and 2) the description said that they would go over some history that we didn’t have planned in our itinerary, so off we went. Candies were stowed away back at the B&B, and we were off again.
The company that was recommended to us, Hocus Pocus, is not a company in the traditional sense..it was, from my understanding, a woman and her husband. It seemed like she was the one who did the majority of the tour, and he was the back end of the business. But, she was very energetic and knew a lot about the area. We got some witch history, trial history, and some just about the tour of Salem.
The first bit of history, and one that I found particularly interesting, was a fountain that we had already walked past a few times that showed the land of Salem before and after they built the land up. Something that I did not know about this area until moving here was that they actually built up a lot of the land that we currently have, which is just fascinating to me. You might recall me talking about this in my Pleasure Bay and Castle Island post.
The parts that you can see underwater are what is present day Salem, and what they’ve built up.
We also passed by the Witch Museum, which they light up red at night. Definitely adds to the spookiness.
There were many more stops in between the Witch Museum and this next picture, but you’ll have to visit at some point to get the full story. The whole tour went for about 2 hours, and was full of stories and history. Very interesting, a different perspective on things, and cool to be out at night.
This house was next to the cemetery that I talked about earlier, and they were unsure if anyone lived there or not. If you know me very well, you won’t be surprised to hear that when we got to this point I stayed on the other side of the street. I struggle to do cemeteries and haunted houses in the day light, so I absolutely do not do them at night…ups the spooky factor by like 100.
Now to the memorial I mentioned earlier, the one next to the cemetery for those that were accused and sentenced to death. So, there were the cement benches for each person that was killed with their name and date that they were killed. All of them were hung, except Giles Corey, who was pressed to death. Interesting fact about this case: they were trying to get a confession out of him, and he wouldn’t confess up until his death, when they put enough weight on him to suffocate and kill him. It’s speculated but unknown if the sheriff pressed down with his foot right before he died. Because of the Puritan views at that time, even though he was never found to have actually been a witch, his death was considered a suicide, so he was not afforded a proper burial like the others. Okay, back to the memorial..in this picture you can see what looks like steps. This was actual part of the wall that is a symbol for the words of the accused blowing open the wall. I know it’s hard to see, but those words are on the ground by the stairs (in the middle of the picture), and the part of the wall that was blown open is out of frame across the brick path. They also have 5 locust trees, which were the type of tree that all were hung from. The best part, in my opinion, was that there were open parts along the walls of the memorial that showed the cemetery (like I said, the cemetery and this memorial are right next to each other). This was to be a symbol for those that accused those hung looking into each other, kind of as a reminder of the ignorance and havoc that they placed on these people’s lives. When Cade and I saw this area during the day, before this tour, I thought it was interesting how the cemetery was right next to the memorial, but after getting the explanation I really loved the symbolism behind it. I would definitely recommend putting this on your Salem list if you ever visit.
After we finished up the tour, we headed to get some dinner at the local Beer Works, because we have to get some beer on our trip! And, we were not disappointed at all. There are a few Beer Works around this area, but they all seem to have local beers that are just at their location, and this one had some really good ones. The highlight for me was a watermelon beer that I ordered…delicious! It even came with a watermelon slice!
Then, being very sore and tired, we headed back to the B&B for a good nights rest…but, not before eating our chocolate treats that we had gotten earlier.
So, pompous and tired, we headed to bed to prepare for another full day of learning some Salem history.
The next morning we had to get up and around fairly early in order to catch a bus over to Danvers. This is a town just next to Salem and was where the trials actually happened. Danvers used to be named Salem Village, and Salem at the time was Salem Town. So, interestingly enough, all of this history that happened in Salem, actually happened in the nearby town now known as Danvers…another interesting history fact for ya. But first, we had to get some breakfast, because you can’t have a big day without a big breakfast, and our B&B hosts did not disappoint. We came down to the dining room, and there was another middle-aged couple down there talking with the B&B owners, and we joined right in. The wife in the B&B owner duo, took our plates and stocked them up with waffles and fruit, along with some coffee and orange juice. It was amazingly good and plenty to fill us up. I almost couldn’t finish it, but it was too good not to. It was also a great experience getting to talk with the owners about their experiences living in Salem and just having some good morning conversation. After breakfast, we packed our stuff up, and gave the owners our bags to hold for us while we had another day out adventuring. They were super nice to do that for us, some places wouldn’t have done so, and they even gave us a key to get back in when we got back..just in case they weren’t home. Like I said, highly recommend them and we would absolutely book with them again, if we venture back up to Salem.
Anyways, so we barely made the bus, because we got to talking at breakfast, and headed over to Danvers. Thanks to the amazing planning skills of Cade, the bus we took literally dropped us off across the street from the Rebecca Nurse Homestead, our first stop of the day.
Rebecca Nurse was one of the first to be accused in the witch trials and was sentenced to be hung. Her homestead is still standing and open for people to come tour. Since this is off the touristy beaten path, we were the only ones there, which made for an amazing tour. We were shown around by a younger guy, who had tons of knowledge about the homestead, and since we were the only ones, we got to have an in depth conversation with him about the history. There also was a cemetery in the field behind the house, and it’s believed that Rebecca Nurse is buried here. But wait, I thought you said that the accused were not given a proper burial, you might be thinking. Well, it’s believed that her son took the river by night to retrieve her body and brought it back to the homestead for a proper burial. Very dedicated son, but as I’m sure you can agree, I probably would do the same for my mother.
We then set off to find the Salem Village Parsonage, which is an archaeological site where the Parris household once stood. This is where the whole Salem Witchcraft scare began. The slave of Reverend Parris, Tituba, was the first one accused of being a witch by telling voodoo stories to the children in this household. After learning so much about the trials, it was rarely moving and eery to be in the epicenter for the whole thing.
We then headed to a bus stop and waited for quite some time to get back to Salem. We decided on our way back to make one more stop before collecting our things at the B&B, Chestnut Street. This is a street lined with historic mansions. It was recommended to us as something free to do and that the houses were gorgeous, and I would say that they live up to this hype. It reminded me to the Tory Row stroll that we took in Cambridge, but with more and bigger houses. It was a nice way to finish up the trip, and I enjoy looking at all the pretty homes out here.
We grabbed a bite to eat and headed out on our long bus ride home. Since we took the ferry up to Salem, we decided to save some money and take the bus back to Boston. Yes, there actually is a bus that runs from Salem to Boston, and it took about 2 hours in total for us to get home. Salem and Boston are not this far a part if you were just driving, but with all the bus stops and taking the subway home after getting into Boston, it took much longer. But, we had a good time and were able to save some money by taking the long way home. So, if you’re ever in the area and are in a witching mood, Salem is a great place to check out. It’s a quaint little town with tons of history. Feel free to comment if you’d like to know more about travel or the history that I didn’t talk about, but I’ll leave you with some Salem artwork.