Massachusetts – Day 4: The Salem Witch Trials…

Day four begins and ends with a trip to Salem, MA. May I just say I would LOVE to be in Salem for Halloween! They have some crazy awesome Halloween spirit and I’m sure they have super cool events that make Halloween fantastic!

My host from the previous night hooked me up with a discount Salem Witch Museum pass from her library. Hello, awesome?! I didn’t even know that was a thing. The pass knocked $4 off the admission price. Huzzah!

When I got to the museum, I remembered what another surfer had told me about using my Interagency National Park pass to get other people in and then asking for a couple bucks back since I was saving them money. I looked at the pass from the library and it turns out it was good for SIX people! So, as awkward as it was, I decided to ask some people near me if they wanted to get in on my discounted pass. I wasn’t sure how to go about asking for some of the money back, so I figured I’d just wing it and see what happened.

The only people around me were a couple and their daughter who was around my age. I was like, “hey, are you guys going to go to the museum, cause I have this discount pass and we could all go in together…?” They said yeah sure, and then when it was time to pay the lady put the whole thing on her credit card. I almost went to pay her, but I’d already taken out my wallet before she did, so I figured it was fine, that she meant to pay for me. I mean, if they wanted me to pay I totally would’ve, but I was going to make them ask. I didn’t want to be awkward and ask them to pay for my ticket in the first place, I wasn’t THAT bold, so I figured it was a fair trade of awkward that they’d have to ask me to pay. In the end I ended up thanking them and we parted ways after the tour of the museum. So, yeah, I got into a $10.50 museum for free! Score!

Salem Witch Museum, Salem, MA.

Salem Witch Museum, Salem, MA.

The museum was kind of interesting. Unfortunately we weren’t allowed to take any pictures inside, so bear with me as I try to describe it. First we went in this big open room and there was a voiceover telling the story of the Salem Witch Trials, the major players, and how everything got started. While the voiceover was happening different scenes around the room would light up according to what was being talked about. The scenes were made of wax characters and props and things.

In case you don’t know, or don’t remember: basically what happened during the Salem Witch Trials was that some young girls started acting weird and when the doctor came to check them out and couldn’t find anything wrong with them he said it must be spiritual. The girls took that and ran with it. They said witches had possessed them and were torturing them and then started pointing fingers. The town got swept up in the crazy and started having trials for accused witches and twenty people were put to death and a number more were left to rot in jail. Many years later, one of the girls apologized for all the suffering she had caused. A little too late…

After watching all the scenes and hearing about the history of the Trials in the big room, all fifty or so of us piled in to a more traditional museum-like space. There were pictures on the wall of different witches throughout history. There was a wall of dried herbs and their medicinal and magical properties. They had four more wax figures, one pre-witch trials, one that looked like the Wicked Witch of the West, and two figures, a male and female that represented present day witches, or practitioners of Wicca. Each figure had a voiceover explaining more about them. I had been grossly misinformed about Wicca, so I really appreciated the modern component.

Again, in case you’re wondering: Wicca is not, as I had been told, a religion worshiping the devil. Rather, they have two main deities: a horned god and a goddess. I could see how the horned god could be misinterpreted to be the devil, but I learned that the horns represent passion and a connection to nature. The voiceover explained that witches believe in being present and that whatever they do will come back to them three times. It was interesting, and I’m glad I went to the museum if for no other reason than to clear up some of my own misconceptions about Wicca.

After the Salem Witch Museum I wandered around the old part of town where all the shops and touristy things are. It was a really neat place filled with lots of interesting stuff. There were shops for souvenirs and for different herbs and magical things, as well as places to have palms read and do seances.

Touristy street in Salem, MA.

Touristy street in Salem, MA.

I then ventured further out into the rest of Salem and found the most amazing place for lunch! It was called Life Alive and it was a vegan and organic restaurant and it was INCREDIBLE! I walked by at first, but then I went back to it. I ended up getting their signature dish, the Goddess Bowl which was freaking amazing! It was carrots, beets, broccoli, kale, tofu, brown rice and ginger nama shoyu sauce. SO FREAKING GOOD! I wanted to save some of it so I could eat it again later, but it was so good I finished the whole thing. I’m really glad I don’t live in Salem, or I would go broke because I’d eat there everyday.

The best meal I've had on the trip so far: The Goddess Bowl, Life Alive, Salem, MA.

The best meal I’ve had on the trip so far: The Goddess Bowl, Life Alive, Salem, MA.

Following lunch, I wandered to the Salem Witch Trials Memorial. The memorial was this big stone enclosure with what looked like benches, with each victim’s name on them. Twenty people were put to death during the Salem Witch Trails. Nineteen were hung. One was crushed to death. Over a hundred and fifty were accused of witchcraft.

Salem Witch Trials Memorial, Salem, MA.

Salem Witch Trials Memorial, Salem, MA.

Right next to the memorial was Old Burying Point, the second oldest cemetery in America. I’m not sure what it is about this trip that is making me like doing things I would normally avoid, but alas… The cemetery was pretty cool. Everything was so old it almost didn’t look real.

Don't the gravestones almost look fake? Third oldest cemetery in America, Salem, MA.

Don’t the gravestones almost look fake? Old Burying Point, the second oldest cemetery in America, Salem, MA.

True to my jumpy nature, at one point I was standing next to this tomb, which I already thought was creepy, and the map I had in my pocket fell out and fluttered to the ground. I kid you not, I jumped like three feet. At that point I decided it was time to move on because the cemetery was wigging me out after all.

Got a little wigged out by the aboveground tombs... Salem, MA.

Got a little wigged out by the aboveground tombs… also, do you see the pennies? What’s up with that? Salem, MA.

My final adventure in Salem was watching a reenactment of one of the Trials called Cry Innocent. I was sold when they said they arrest the woman out in the street and then bring her into the courthouse where the rest of the action takes place. It was only $11 with a student ID and since I hadn’t paid for the museum earlier I figured it’d be worth it. The street scene was pretty awesome. The woman accused of witchcraft, Goodwoman Bishop, kept trying to make a run for it and then the town crier and some other guy kept having to chase her and continue walking her to the courthouse. It was pretty awesome.

Goody Bishop is about to make a break for it. Cry Innocent, Salem, MA.

Goody Bishop is about to make a break for it… Cry Innocent, Salem, MA.

There were two other townswomen in the cast as well. The actors rotated characters to give testimony against Goody Bishop and then the audience, as the townspeople, was allowed to ask questions to see if the accusations against Goody Bishop warranted a formal trial. Most of the evidence was something along the lines of “she came and sat on my chest and I couldn’t move and then she disappeared.” or “my son is sick, and she used to come by my house all the time and he kept getting worse…” What was insane was that they were using the court transcripts as their script. Like, what?! How is any of that plausible evidence?!

Two of the actresses were pretty good, one was pretty terrible. The terrible one kept making an “I’m acting face” where she furrowed her brow every time she spoke, it was really obnoxious. One of the actors was really good and the other didn’t know his lines and it was painfully obvious. My favorite part of the show was the audience questions. This one guy tried to stump the actors and it was hilarious. He asked if they knew about some problem with the crops, insinuating that that could be the reason for the crazy behavior of the girls, instead of witchcraft. The better actor held his own pretty well, but it was still really funny to watch him try to think through his responses. In the end, our audience decided 14 to 11 that there was not sufficient evidence to try Goody Bishop and she was released. Historically, that’s not what happened. She went to trial eight days later and was the first victim to be hung during the Salem Witch Trials. Crazy!

As I sat through the show I thought about how terrifying young/teenage girls can be. So mean and malicious. These girls caused all this pain and destruction just because they were unhappy with their lives. I also thought about how not much has changed in three hundred years since we still don’t prioritize mental health. Insane.

It was a pretty stellar day. I definitely could have spent another day in Salem, and I’d totally love to come back for Halloween someday.

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