We visited the “Witch City” – Salem

We visited the “Witch City” – Salem

It was Sunday, August 11th and with Natalia we decided to visit a witch city – Salem. I told my friends about this trip and all of them agreed on one the very same thing: it worth it to come here during Halloween but other than that it´s a boring town. And actually they were right… But let´s start from the beginning. If you have ever been impressed by witches, I am pretty sure you´ve already heard about those ones from Salem. And if you haven´t heard about them yet, let me introduce you the most famous witches of the world!  

It started in 1692. A 9-years old Betty, a daughter of reverend Samuel Parris and her 11-years old cousin Abigail Williams were probably just bored and so they started to complain about cramps and pain, they were doing weird sounds and in emotional attacks they were throwing things around them. Reverend didn´t like this behavior and so he took them to the doctor. His diagnosis was clear: girls are not sick but obsessed. And this was the day when a famous witch haunting in Salem had started. There were three women accused from the curse: Parris´s slave Tituba, a beggar Sarah Good and a widow Sarah Osborne. Despite the fact that the only one who confessed was Tituba, all of those women on the February 2nd were sent to the prison. During torturing Tituba confessed that she cursed the kids but she also provided names of the other local witches. And so an avalanche of accuses had started. People were accusing each other and during the following 4 months there was 60 people accused from the witchcraft. By the end of May Sarah Good died in prison and July 10th there was a first victim hanged on the gibbet – a provocative Bridget Bishop. Five days later minister Cotton Mather sent a letter to Salem asking them to stop this witch hunting which was based on dreams, illusions and hallucinations. People of Salem ignored this letter and the whole witch haunting had been stopped by governor Phipps in October 29th 1692 (probably because his wife Mary got accused as well). Unfortunately on spring 1693 it continued again. All of this had been stopped in March 1693 when all the victims were released from prison but the damage was already done: 18 people died on the gibbet, an 80-years old man was tortured to death and 3 people died in prison. And the “best” comes at the end: around 300 out of 2000 people who lived in Salem in those days were accused from witchcraft or were waiting for their final verdict.       

Since our history lesson is already over let´s see how the nowadays Salem looks like. There live around 41 000 people and you can feel the witch history everywhere… of the Salem´s Downtown. My friendly advice is: come before 5pm. By the time we came here it was almost 5pm. And they close museums at 5pm here. After our self-sightseeing tour of the city I´d say following: an average person can spend here a day (will visit Peabody Essex Museum, Salem Witch Museum and attends one of the witches walking tour). It took us 1,5 hours to see the city so if you are around, stop by for a while. The city is beautiful, I am pretty sure that museums are interesting too and on Sundays you can park everywhere for free! Salem´s Downtown is fulfilled by shops with souvenirs, there are foretellers everywhere and don´t forget to buy a necklace with pentagram or pack of herbs which you will burn at home to clean the house from the evil spirits… Amen. Nowadays Salem is just one big marketing magnet based on a story of two little girls who were bored and so they were acting as they are possessed (scientists also say that they might have been poisoned by rye ergot and the side effect is also hallucinating). But if you want a different experience, like a real experience, come here during Halloween. But at that time I was still in Seattle and Natalia was in New Jersey. Authentic experience: if there is a place with concentration of ghosts and witches, it´s definitely not in Salem. There are only business men…     

If you are in Salem, stop by in Salem Witch Museum. When we came there, they were already closing. We checked the price list and entrance fee for an adult was $3. We were amazed and if this museum – one big room full of things – was open at least for the half of hour, we´d definitely go in. Mr. who was closing pointed on the chest, looked at us and said: “If you find a cheaper museum in the US, I will eat this chest!” Seriously, three bucks…

Another museum that has nothing to do with Salem witches but I am pretty sure it worth for visiting is Peabody Essex Museum. Open until 5pm. This is an art museum and it is one of the 20 biggest museums of arts in the US. There are over 1,8 million American, Asian and maritime creations including the original 200-years old Chinese house. Just saying if you hesitate. But let´s get back to the witch city concept.   

Another touristic attraction is The Witch House. This is the only still standing house from the witch haunting era. I will probably disappoint you but no witches lived here. This was a house of the judge Jonathan Corwin who sent to an execution 18 innocent people. This house has been reconstructed to show architecture of the New England from the 17th century. By the way, did you know that this Salem was consisting of Salem Town and Salem Village – so nowadays Salem and Danvers?    

Danvers (Salem Village) was an important city because executions took place here. And almost two centuries later, in 1878 a Danvers State Hospital was built here. Also known as “Hell House on the Hill” or a “Birthplace of the Lobotomy”. Correct, with almost 40 buildings and capacity about 450 patients (in reality sometimes there was over 2000 people!) this was a place for people with mental problems. But they weren´t cured here. They were more like an experimental bunnies. The hospital was closed in 1992 because of financial situation and in 2005 this complex of buildings were bought by a developer who destroyed part of the hospital and the rest of it rebuilt into a complex of apartments Avalon Danvers Apartments. After a big fire in 2007 when a part of apartments burnt down, this complex was renamed to Bradlee Danvers and nowadays anyone can make a reservation in this luxury building. But let´s talk a little bit more about the history. Interesting fact is that a writer H.P. Lovecraft found at this place an inspiration for his Arkham Sanitarium. If this title is familiar to you but you´ve never heard about Lovecraft it might be because you´ve played a game inspired by this place as well – Batman: Arkham Asylum. Also a horror movie Session 9 was recorded here… At the end you should visit two cemeteries which are located nearby this hospital place where is buried over 770 patients who never got cured… And why am I writing about this terrifying hospital in a witch blog? Because if we go back in time once again, we will find out that this hospital was built on purpose exactly on the place where John Harthorn used to live. And who was Mr. Harthorn? He was one of the most frightening judges during the Salem executions. Cool, isn´t it?

And as I was talking about cemeteries, there are three of them in Salem:        

– Howard Street Cemetery (where is buried Giles Corey who died during torturing)

– Broad Street Cemetery (Do you remember Jonathan Corwin from The Witch House? He is buried here with his brother George.)

– Charter Street Cemetery (People from the judicial council are buried here including John Harthon and writer Nathaniel Hawthorne). And by the way Nathaniel Hawthorne was born in Salem in the house that still stands! And talking about houses is a name John Turner familiar to you? No, in Pirates of the Carribean it was Will Turner… What these two men have in common is that both of them were captains. John Turner was a famous American captain for who in 1668 was built this residence house that you can find until these days – The House of the Seven Gables. It is an amazing building!     

The last interesting thing you will find in Salem is Punto Urban Art Museum. It is a street art and you can find here 85 wall paintings from 40 worldly famous artists. Moreover this neighborhood looks a little bit abandoned that gives to this art a special atmosphere (and I wanted to say don´t come here alone!).

And this was our Salem trip! Unfortunately we didn´t have time for Danvers and if I wasn´t moving out to San Francisco in a week, I´d definitely go there as well. But when I think about it… If I want to see a place where there was an abandoned hospital rebuilt into a luxury apartment building all I need to do is go to Bezručova in Bratislava… But it will take some time until they´re done.

Happy Wednesday!