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Salem, MA

After hundreds of years, Salem is still best known for it’s infamous witch trials in the 1600s. Many, many tourists go every year to hear about a time of religious hysteria when hundreds were jailed and 19 were killed having been accused of being witches. Several young girls of the town began it with their weird convulsions, twitching, and accusations of evil sorcery. No one knows why they did it, perhaps not even they. The leader of the girls did eventually stand up in church years later and apologize. In the 1950s, a movement got most of the imprisoned “witches” exonerated. It was not until the 2000s however when the last few names were cleared of all wrong by the governor.

18 were hung including those who dared to stand against the witch trials. 1 was pressed to death under a board upon which were piled boulders to force him to confess since he refused to speak on his own behalf. He knew if he was convicted, all his lands and property would be taken from his family. Better to die before a sham trial that would surely find him guilty as it had all the other innocents. It is said that before his chest was crushed, he cursed the sheriff and ever since then every sheriff has had to leave office due to death by heart attack or issues with their hearts.

Once spectral evidence (testimony of dreams, twitching in court, etc.) was banned, the trials petered out for lack of true evidence.

There is much more to Salem than just witches, however. It was a major seaport in its time with much wealth being made in shipping. The Parker brothers of the gaming company fame grew up in Salem. Author Nathanial Hawthorne wrote several of his books here including “The House of Seven Gables” and “The Scarlett Letter”. He didn’t particularly like living in Salem and left once he got payment for the latter. Perhaps it was still too puritanical then for him.

I highly recommend taking the trolley tour around town. It is very educational and hits all the highlights while allowing you to get off and on all day. Leave the car in the parking garage or space. I will say though that the parking garage ceilings are so low that they scared the HELL out of me when I drove in with my Yukon XL. I was sure I was going to rip the top off but I didn’t hit anything. Whew! Bring a change of underwear if you are going to use the garage.

I saw the Witch Museum, one of the witch trial judge’s houses where some inquisition was done, the lovely park downtown, a ship that is a replica of the ships the Puritans came in, a unique house built with spring rods running through beneath the ballroom on the second floor to make it easier on the feet to dance all night, the local state park with a carousel, and The House of Seven Gables.

I think I liked the house best because of the many small rooms everywhere in it and the secret staircase in the dining room that we got to go up. The house was built by a wealthy sea captain who later died along with his son onboard his quarantined ship in the harbor within view of the house. His daughter was to inherit the house as the surviving heir but was challenged by male relatives who asserted a woman should not have control of so much wealth. They lost and she did inherit it all. She did very well with it. It was later lost by a male heir of hers who thought he could party all the time and had no desire to work. So much for that argument. As a side note, her family were friends of Nathanial Hawthorne so he spent quite a bit of time in the house before he used it in his story.

If you take the tour, be aware that the trolleys run only until about 5pm and they likely won’t tell you that. I ended up stranded at The House of Seven Gables on a hot day because they did not tell me and allowed me to get off there without a warning. I called their office and managed to get their last trolley to stop by for me on its way to take passengers to the ferry.

I scored a Bewitched tshirt before I left with the original show logo of Samantha on her broom and a very inexpensive but sturdy Salem bag for my RV campground books. It’s much easier having my trip planning books together in one place in a zippered bag.

More pics here.

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