During our stay, we took a day trip out to Salem to see the location of the infamous Salem Witch Trials. The town has more little museums, occult themed gift stores and store fronts for psychics than any place I’ve been outside of a Renaissance Fair. It makes for a very cool, slightly spooky place. The town itself is gorgeous with beautiful architecture, well maintained gardens, tasty restaurants and a beautiful view of the ocean, but I also got the feeling that I didn’t want to be there after dark. I’m sure this has more to do with my runaway imagination than anything else, but I’m grateful we had a sunny day for our visit.
Hopping on the train with no real plan in mind, we made the short journey. When I say no real plan, I’m completely serious. We knew there was a museum or two we wanted to visit, but other than that…we made things up as we went. We thought that the red lines painted on the sidewalks would be incredibly helpful. In Boston they have a red brick line embedded in the sidewalks to guide tourists through a walk on the Freedom Trail, so this is the same thing right? Nope. Close though. The red lines all led to a tourist attraction, but there isn’t a real trail. It branches off and goes in different directions, and following the red lines didn’t lead us where we thought they would. There were just too many things to see.
The first museum we visited was the Salem Witch Museum, and surprisingly it was more performance than typical museum. Everyone starts the tour sitting in a darkened room with an illuminated red pentagram emblem in the floor and wax figures or mannequins in life-sized shadow boxes on the upper level surrounding the viewing area. As the story of the Salem Witch Trials unfolds individual shadow boxes light up. Of course, the whole thing begins with a figure of the devil and the only light is his red eyes. It was creepy but fun. Not quite haunted house scary, but creepy. (otherwise, my bestie would never have gone in with me. There may have been an “incident” in which I
threw pushed her into a wall when a werewolf in a haunted house ran toward me much more quickly than I expected. That ended her willingness to allow me to participate in these events with her.) The tour ended with another tour guide explaining the exhibits and proven facts of the time period. What really impressed me was the tail end. They explained a bit about Wicca, which really set the actual religion apart from what these 17th Century people had been persecuted for. Of course, I’m a fan of anything that advocates tolerance for people’s’ differences.
Before we actually embarked on our museum tour, we explored some other sites in town, including an old cemetery. A cemetery in which my best friend abandoned me (although she swears that is not the case). Victims of the trials are laid to rest in this cemetery along with others from the same period. My short time in that place felt eerie, even in the bright sunlight. I explored tombstones from another era, and scared…myself. My friend told me she was going to go look at a sign featured at another entrance to the cemetery. This didn’t worry me because it was only a dozen yards away and there was a tour group that arrived the same time we did. However, a few minutes later, I looked over and no friend, so I looked for the tour group (about 15 people) and I couldn’t see any of them. Not. A. Single. Person. I may have possibly been worried for a moment that the dead witches took them all. (It was only for a second though!) As I slowly turned in a circle, searching for any human being (who wasn’t dead and buried), I got a little nervous, but by the time I made it back around to the last place I’d seen the tour group, they were actually there. My friend however, was not. Possibly, it was a coincidence that my particular location meant that when I looked the first time, all 16 people were hidden from view by trees, signs or tombstones…we’re totally going with that. A minute or two later, I got a text from my friend who was waiting at a church six blocks away.
A fascinating aspect of the cemetery (other than the spooky abandonment) were the style of the tombstones themselves. Many of them depicted a skull surrounded by wings. Although, this is just my personal theory, I’m guessing the carving isn’t meant to be spooky, but more to depict the flight of a soul to heaven. That’s my theory and I’m sticking to it. I can’t imagine why my friend didn’t want to stick around this place?
Next, we decided to stop at a brewery for lunch. (No comments about needing a drink after the cemetery please.) Lunch was pretty decent, but not quite up to the standards I’d come to expect from Boston’s North End. The best part was the beer. My friend’s blueberry beer in particular (although my Irish Red was lovely too). Hers had actual blueberries dancing around in the glass. Actually, I don’t even remembered if I tasted it, but I spent a lot of time watching the bubbles make the berries dance. (I swear, I only had the one beer.) After lunch, we split up. I really wanted to see the House of the Seven Gables on which Nathaniel Hawthorn based his novel The House of the Seven Gables and she went…to a dungeon, I think. (and she’s afraid of cemeteries…)
The house is just as interesting as the novel makes it sound. Filled with secret passages and beautiful views, I thoroughly enjoyed my tour. The home was actually owned by Hawthorn’s cousin who inherited it after her father and brother were lost at sea. She also inherited all of her family’s business holdings and never married. It is assumed she didn’t want to be forced to turn over control of the business to her husband. Probably a smart move considering her family came into possession of the property because the original owner lost all of his money in a poor investment. The house began with seven gables, but it was reduced to four (no one knows why) before Nathaniel Hawthorn ever visited. The description of the house comes solely from his cousin who he spent a lot of time talking with. Many people assumed he lived there, but he never did.
The house has been faithfully maintained and restored down to the paint colors. My favorite part was the secret passage though. (How could it not be? How often do you get to explore a secret passage?) The passage opens in a false wood cupboard and goes up into the attic. It is curvy and tight, but so very cool. From the window there you can look out over the ocean. I’m still a bit in awe of the fact that I got to walk through the same secret passage as Nathaniel Hawthorn…so very cool. They have also moved Hawthorn’s birthplace to Salem. I’m always fascinated by exploring the way people before us lived, and while we weren’t permitted to take pictures inside, the grounds and view are beautiful here.
On my walk to the House of the Seven Gables, I came across another three-masted ship, the Salem Friendship. I didn’t have time to explore the vessel, but I did snap a picture. Due to my inordinately bad sense of direction on this trip, and a bit of a time crunch (neither one of us wanted to stick around after dark) I just moved on my way to my destination. On the way back, I discovered I’d spent too much time exploring the gardens and an unguided trip through Hawthorn’s birthplace to do much other exploring as I met up with my friend to take the train back in to Boston.
What do you think? Abandoned? Not abandoned? I’m sure my friend would love to hear other people’s opinions. 😉
‘Til next time,
P.S. Up next Fenway Park!