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anna_moon Salem - A travel report by Polly
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Salem,  United States - flag United States -  Massachusetts
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anna_moon's travel reports

Halloween in the Witch City

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Salem travelogue picture
(pictures to come) On Halloween, some friends and I drove from New York City to the lovely little New England city of Salem. Salem is infamous for its witchcraft trials, which tore apart the puritan community and saw 24 women and men dead by sickness in jail, hanging, or even nastier means. Though it still holds fast to its history, Salem has also become a sort of Mecca for the new age and Wiccan, and is widely known as ‘the Witch City’. The town was once a port, and evidence of its seafaring history can be seen all along the water’s edge. Salem also has strong literary connections, and provided the setting for the story ‘The House of Seven Gables’ by Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Arthur Miller’s play ‘The Crucible’.

Favourite spots:
Salem travelogue picture
The heart of town is interesting for those who like history, and easy to get around on foot. Salem is used to tourists, and tries to uphold its image as a friendly (though somewhat supernatural) New England village. The old fashioned walking mall is lined with shops full of touristy souvenirs and materials for modern witches. We had fun browsing on the busiest weekend of the year – some stores had lines to get in because of their small size, but the wait was never long. We also stopped by several historic sites and museums, which I’ll get to in a minute.

What's really great:
Halloween in Salem was amazing. After dressing up and taking lots of pictures, we headed down to the mall. It was filled with vendors selling clothes and jewelry and food, and was jam-packed with people in costume. We were pretty nicely dressed, with pirates, elf and hobbit, Harry Potter characters, etc. – and we blended right in. A surprise however, were the protestors walking around with signs asking everyone to ‘Repent of Ye Wicked Ways!’. But the overall atmosphere was relaxed and fun. We danced, ate pretzels and fried dough, watched the costumes go by, and even got a few compliments on our own.

Some friends were kind enough to invite about 15 of us to their house for the weekend, within walking distance of the historic district. But there are lots of hotels in Salem, including the lovely Hawthorne Hotel, which we snuck in to use the bathroom.

Our original plan was to return to the very popular Salem Beer Works for a drink or two, but we were tired, and ending up buying our supplies at a local liquor store and crashing in the living room to watch a piratey movie.

Salem Beer Works -

On Halloween, we drove far out of town to an Indian restaurant, which was pretty good and very empty. For lunch the next day, we went to Asahi, a Japanese restaurant right on the mall. The food was surprisingly good, but one of the two waitresses bungled our order several times, and insisted on blaming it on us. The sushi and tempura were worth it, and we had fun throwing towelettes between the tables when no one else was watching.

Asahi -

Other recommendations:
Salem travelogue picture
Just off the walking mall is the Witch History Museum. I was expecting a typical museum, with lots of educational displays. Not here – after an introduction by a girl dressed in period clothing, you’re led down a narrow staircase onto a darkened path with life-sized dioramas of the trials on either side. For all the scary mannequins and cheesy recordings, the spooky history still manages to leak through in spots, as in the tale of Giles Cory, who refused to plead innocent or guilty, and was interrogated by “pressing” – stone after heavy stone placed upon a board resting on his chest. After several days of torture, he died, asking for more weight to be put upon him, and cursing the town of Salem and her leaders. Also slightly disturbing is the fact that to this day, the spot of the graves of the victims is undiscovered. Our guide told us that this is probably because most of the families exhumed the bodies and took them away for a Christian burial. Still, the photos of the woods around Salem looked remarkably like something straight out of ‘The Blair Witch Project’, which certainly gave me shivers. We also stopped by the New England Pirate museum, which held the same sorts of displays, and were led by a guide dressed like a pirate. On the whole, it was less creepy and more fun than the Witch History Museum. Salem has lots of other “museums” from wax figures to old homes to the Witch Dungeon, which features live reenactments.

Aside from the somewhat cheesy tourist attractions, there are at least two more dignified sites in town. One is the House of the Seven Gables, the inspiration for Nathaniel Hawthorne’s tale, which also belonged to his family. We arrived toward the end of the day and the line was too long to go inside, so we walked around the outside of the creepy house. It’s gables loomed large and dark, and it’s windows reflected colors back in odd shapes. Or perhaps that was a specter watching from behind the glass?

To lighten the mood, across the street you’ll find the oldest continually open candy shop in the United States. Ye Olde Pepper Companie carries a variety of old-time candy in its one small room. Being Halloweekend, it was extremely crowded, so I stepped outside to watch candy being made through the window in a second room.

The other more traditionally educational site is the Salem Maritime National Historic Site, which includes a reconstructed ship called ‘Friendship’. Again, we arrived minutes after the last tour, but the ship itself provided some great photo opportunities.

Published on Sunday November 23th, 2003

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Wed, Jan 21 2004 - 06:49 AM rating by beograd

Great page :)

Wed, Nov 26 2003 - 05:58 AM rating by downundergal

Great report, very atmospheric with a few giggles & ton's of info, definately would make the stop here if I ever get to this historic part of the States,

Mon, Nov 24 2003 - 04:55 AM rating by worldn180

good... have been to mass. a couple times... both times went straight to boston and didn't bother to wander around... should have visited salem... nice report^.^

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