Salem – early puritan settlement, centre of the witch trials, home of the independence privateers and our location for a walking tour this morning. We made our way to Salem and had breakfast at the Fountain Place Café. It is not raining but started off really foggy. We checked out the souvenir shops as we waited for our guide. Most of the shops seemed to open after 10.00am and some don’t even open Monday. It is off season so there is some renovating going on.
We met Brenda, our guide who advised that the regular guide couldn’t make it. Turns out she was well knowledgeable of all topics Salem and had the added feature of being from one of the older families actually involved in (as most of the community were) the witch trials of 1692. We are the only people on this walk, it’s really flat and Brenda has a great knowledge of this area making for an informative time that just flies.
There are a couple of older homes in town that were here in the 1600s from the time of the witch trials and have been thankfully saved. One of them was actually the home of John Corwin, one of the trial judges. Even they have been added on to back in the day and renewed as the coastal climate would have been hard on them.
One of the stops was at the Witch Dungeon Museum who have a beam from the original gaol/jail where the accused were kept (and some died awaiting trial). They do re-enactments of parts of the trials.
A later building period marked by shipping wealth these homes are very quaint in the historic area are the those largely of the wealthy. They have the extensions and the converted stables and many are designed by the prominent architect of the 18th century Samuel McIntire. Some with Christmas decorations they are definitely in keeping with the traditional Dickens aesthetic.
Brenda also gave us some detail about one of the trial victims – Bridget Bishop. She already had a reputation of disorderliness in this strict community including theft and illegally making alcohol. An upstanding competitor levelled accusations of witchcraft (including flying monkeys), she was tried, executed and subsequently sightings have been attributed to her ghost.
There’s also a kitschy statue of Elizabeth Montgomery’s Bewitched. There was some controversy when it was proposed as it isn’t in keeping with the seriousness of the history here. The building that Alexander Graham Bell made that first call to Boston in 1877 sending a news dispatch is still here.
We finish at the memorial to the twenty women and men who were accused and executed for witchcraft. Very sombre memorial next to a town graveyard where they couldn’t be interred. The location of their actual remains is largely unknown, some secretly retrieved and some abandoned. Grim times.
There are a lot of quirky shops here, and one that was mentioned on the tour was a second hand shop that had so much interesting stock you could have spent all day in there looking around. The boys also enjoyed the Army surplus store.
After a quick wander down to the Custom House (and the Atlantic Ocean) and we’re done for the day. On the way back to Boston we stopped in at Chilis (another chain restaurant) for dinner. Lawrence, our server, was great and kept us sorted.
Angus | Salem and it’s quirkiness
Rosie | The amazing houses of Salem
O’Regan | The layout of the Essex St Mall
McKay | The houses of Salem
Jemmz | The history of Salem