Just an hour by car, train or ferry from Boston and you’re in one of New England’s oldest cities, Salem. The city was founded by fishermen back in 1626, but it got its name after Jerusalem. The first settlers were the Protestant immigrants who persecuted in England and made the “great Puritan exodus”. Therefore, Salem is known as a city of Puritan morals. It was not without the massacre of witches, because the “witch hunt” was declared. And so it became known as the city of witches.
The Inquisition and witchcraft
Protestants-Presbyterians, who settled in Salem in the early 17th century, decided to establish their own order in the city, or rather the manners and customs of medieval Europe during the Inquisition. Witchcraft and magic were criminalized. It all began with the accusations of witchcraft against two girls, Elizabeth and Abigail. Arrests began, followed by executions.
One hundred and fifty local women were arrested on charges of witchcraft. Some were convicted, some were executed, and some were found to have been “misled”. Thus began the “witch hunt” in Salem.
It wasn’t until 250 years later, the Massachusetts government reversed the charges against all the undeservedly accused “witches.” And in 1992 a monument to the victims of the “hunt” was erected in the city. That’s such a sad story.
Those manners, reprisals over witches, the process itself was beautifully portrayed by the writer Nathaniel Hawthorne in his novel “The Scarlet Letter”. Today in the city there is a monument to the famous writer, a house-museum and a memorial plaque on the Custom House, where he worked.
The port city’s trade connections and piracy
From its beginnings until nearly the end of the 19th century, Salem was a major center of maritime trade and shipbuilding. The National Maritime Museum, which is located in the city, tells about those times.
Perhaps it would still be a thriving city in this industry if it were not for the severing of trade ties with Britain and the very narrow harbor that prevented large ships from entering the port.
As early as 1819, the Custom House was built in Salem, and the city successfully traded with China and India, becoming an importer of spices and cotton.
When the War of Independence was taking place in the country, Salem was a real pirate base, whose corsairs sank about 600 British ships, robbed ships with valuable cargo and fought privateer battles at sea.
Today there is a brigantine at the city’s Pirate Museum by the pier. Tourists can not only look at the attributes of pirate craft and instruments of torture, but also visit caves and secret rooms, in which, allegedly, pirates hid looted wealth.
But the theme of pirates in Salem is secondary. In the first place in the city are still witches.
Salem’s mystical fame
Salem’s “witch” image is not unselfishly maintained. It has long had such a mystically macabre fame and even brags about it. For this reason the city has become one of the most visited by tourists and devotees of occult sciences.
Everywhere you go, at any house or park there are spiders, bats, black cats, figures of witches with brooms – all the same damn sham. But it also gives Salem a kind of mystical image.
Who is Laurie Cabot?
It is also surprising that a third of the local residents of the city are the pagans Wiccans (Wiccans – devil worshipers), and another three thousand residents consider themselves magicians and witches. The townspeople even have their own “official witch” called Laurie Cabot, Salem’s most revered old lady with a keen analytical mind and a mastery of exotericism. She is a professional magician, a local psychic, and helps sick people heal from their ailments and police officers to solve crimes.
What’s more, this woman teaches at Salem High School as well as Salem College. Ask what? The practice and theory of witchcraft. It’s true. Plus, the woman has been an employee of City Hall for a quarter of a century, which doesn’t stop her from being an idol of Salem and even taking part in nightly sabbaths.
Thanks to Laurie Cabot, on the eve of All Saints’ Day in Salem there is a costumed carnival of witches – Samhain. And she also opened a souvenir shop (the main tourist attraction in the city) – a store of magical symbols, just like in the Harry Potter saga.
Salem Witch Museum
What a city of witches without the Museum of the History of Witches! Although the building is new, but it was built in the old style and looks very much like a medieval fortress. At the entrance to the museum there is a monument to a witch, as it should be. Wax figures and household items help to recreate the events of 1692, when there was a “witch hunt” in Salem. Thirteen theatrical displays create the atmosphere of the events of those years.
But tourists are more enthralled by the Salem Witch Dungeon Museum, which is housed in a former church building. In the past, the above-ground part of the church was used as a courtroom, while its underground part was a dungeon for prisoners. Today, a court session is played out in front of tourists, and then you can go down into the prison and see the prisoners themselves, both actresses and wax figures. To feel the “delights” of imprisonment, tourists are invited to try themselves as witches and sorcerers, which were sentenced in the courtroom, and “sit” in the cell .
What else to see in Salem?
One of the most interesting museums in Salem is the Peabody-Essex Museum, which was originally founded as a natural history museum and a museum of curiosities from around the world. Now it also has an exhibition of works of art, including paintings and sculptures, crafts and objects related to shipping and history. Complementing the museum are two large libraries with folios and manuscripts and Massachusetts archival documents.
The Wax Museum also does not do without advertising. But unlike similar museums, this one features figures of New England pirates, witches, and the judges who conducted the trial. And behind the museum building is the old cemetery, which has many interesting burials and crypts. It is available for tourists to visit.
Interesting exhibitions and sessions can be seen by visiting the House of the Seven Attic (made famous by Hawthorne in his novel of the same name), a relic gray building in Salem that was built by John Turner, a merchant and ship captain, back in 1668. The house has been restored, and its furnishings and interiors can tell you a lot about the owners of the house and their lifestyle and way of life.
There are a couple of other unique early settler homes in Salem. These include the Pickman House (1664), the Gedney House (1664), and the John Ward House (1684). And the Hamilton Hall building (1805) boasts a magnificent ballroom with beautiful architectural details, which in those distant days was visited by the revolutionary hero, the Marquis de Lafayette.
Every year, on Halloween Eve, thousands of wizards and magicians, occultists and just curious tourists come to Salem, not only from America, but from all over the world, and the festival of fun and entertainment begins.
But any other day in Salem, there are surprises waiting for you: on every corner of the city are frightening living statues disguised as monsters and Frankensteins, witches on brooms, and the straying dead.
And along the main streets are stores and stalls that sell different potions and magic paraphernalia, talismans and books on black and white magic, salons, where they predict the future and hold séances. In short, a wonderful city of Salem, in which you can have a great time!