Getting to Salem
While researching for the Boston trip, one thing that came up in the lists of things to do was visiting Salem. Further reading suggested a bus from f=downtown Boston was a good way to get there without a renatal car as it was only about a half hour ride. That was the initial plan, but as we worked at the logistics of getting to the bus that goes to Salem we realized that really was not a viable option from where our Airbnb is located. At that point we chose to just take an Uber.
Salem Is Closed
When we arrived in Salem and began to get out bearings, we started coming across multiple business and attractions that are closed on Mondays. The museums were all closed as were most eateries and coffee shops. It became clear that this would be another day of walking around and seeing historical sites. We soon discovered the Heritage Trail, a red stripe on the side walk similar to the Freedom Trail in Boston. As we walked around Salem we followed the trail from time to time, seeing most of the sites on the trail.
One of the sits we came across was the Witch House. The house was owned by John Hathorne, also known as “The Hanging Judge.” Seeing and learning about that house was the first time I really began to understand the horrors of what had happened in Salem.
We continued walking around the historical residential area, seeing homes built in the late 1600s and 1700s. It is pretty amazing how many of these homes have been preserved.
The Heritage trail took us to the Witch Trials Memorial, which was quite sobering as it became clear just how horrific the events that transpired in Salem actually are.
Salem Massachusetts, we have all know is known for the witch trails. In fact, it has always peaked my curiosity and had a mystique that went along with my perception of what visiting here would be. I did not expect feel horrified and saddened by coming here. The Salem witch trials were a dark time in the colonial days. The hysteria that took place was a cumulation of hard times, unexplained behavior, and fear. Children exhibited “fits” that were diagnosed as “bewitched.” The accused then escalated the hysteria by naming others in an attempt to save themselves from conviction.
As seen at The Witch Trials Memorial, the hysteria seems to have peaked in the fall of 1692, with days of multiple hangings. This experience and realization of what happened will always be with me.
The House of Seven Gables
Continuing along the Heritage Trail, we came to The House of Seven Gables, the only historical site that was open today. We walked the grounds and saw the house where Nathaniel Hawthornes was born. Here we learned that Nathaniel Hawthorne was a descendent of John Hathorne, the hanging judge. Nathaniel added the W to change the name to Hawthorne. It is not known if that was to distance himself from his great-great-grandfather, or it it was just in line with what others were doing at the time.
Nathaniel Hawthorne’s birth house had been moved to this location to prevent it being demolished to create a parking lot for the church that owned the property at its’s original location.
While visiting Salem was a different experience than I had anticipated, it was an interesting day. The little shops and witchy decor around town were fun and interesting while understanding my naivety was quite sobering. Clearly, it would have been better if we had chosen a day other than Monday or Tuesday to explore Salem, it was worth coming here. The town has done a great job of preserving the historical ‘Old Salem’ and really provides a feel for what it was like in the colonial times. The Witch Town area is a pleasant walking street with all the witchy shops and museums, although most were closed.