This weekend my wife and I visited Salem, a town near Boston incorporated in 1629 and famous for the Salem Witch Trials of 1692. To say that Salem dines off its association with witchcraft today would be an understatement; the town is saturated with witch themed attractions. Salem is perhaps a year round representation of the US obsession with Halloween and certainly interesting to a foreigner like me for that reason. The trials, which resulted in 20 innocent people being executed are a famous cautionary tale of mass hysteria in a society, though whether the ‘witches’ would have wanted to be remembered by dodgy trinkets in gift shops and selfies with wax figures is another question!
We skipped the Witch History Museum, the World of Witches Museum, Salem Witch Museum, Pirate Museum (and many others, you get the idea) but we did visit the Witch House. This was the home of the investigator of the witch trials Jonathon Corvin and the only building in Salem still standing with direct links to the trials. It was an interesting period property and worth the $8.25 admission fee and probably the most authentic attraction in the town to find out about the witch trials. None of the staff were dressed up as witches or carrying broomsticks which was a blessing although I did keep my eyes peeled for someone with a dubious looking wart to denounce.
If you find the whole witch thing a bit tiresome and over the top there are other attractions in Salem fortunately. There is an interesting historic cemetery (which does nothing to dispel the Halloween feel but the gravestones from the 17th Century are interesting), a museum which isn’t about witches (Peabody Essex) some historic buildings and a nice waterfront. The waterfront is a National Historic Site and has a number of interesting historic buildings and a replica historic ship which you can board. There are some nice views too, although a not very attractive coal plant means you won’t want to take a panoramic shot on your camera.
So would I recommend a visit to Salem? Yes I would, although I’d avoid it in October when by all accounts it gets rather manic. It was certainly an interesting immersion into a part of US culture that I’d grown up with as a kid (think Hocus Pocus etc). If you ever need more tarot cards or your palm read then Salem is clearly the place for you but if you consider Halloween a menace that uses extortion to get sweets then you should probably give it a miss! 7/10