Salem, Massachusetts is a sleepy little seaside town with a very spooky past. It's one of the oldest towns in the US and has seen it's share of strange historical events, including the famous Salem Witch Trials of the 1600's.
Every year my family and I make the nine-hour slog to New England for our summer vacation. Base camp is about 45 minutes north east of Boston on a little spit of land called Nahant. It’s a great place but seriously, there’s only so much you can do so, since the kids are finally old enough to appreciate some history we decided to take a field trip to Salem.
Just 15 minutes north of Nahant, Salem is a little coastal town with a very shady past. In 1692 the Salem Witch Trials took place. The Salem Witch Museum is a fantastic place to visit and learn about these events. This is a nice summary of events, according to their website www.salemwitchmuseum.com/education:
“To understand the events of the Salem witch trials, it is necessary to examine the times in which accusations of witchcraft occurred. There were the ordinary stresses of 17th-century life in Massachusetts Bay Colony. A strong belief in the devil, factions among Salem Village fanatics and rivalry with nearby Salem Town, a recent small pox epidemic and the threat of attack by warring tribes created a fertile ground for fear and suspicion.
Soon prisons were filled with more than 150 men and women from towns surrounding Salem. Their names had been “cried out” by tormented young girls as the cause of their pain. All would await trial for a crime punishable by death in 17th-century New England, the practice of witchcraft."
Because of their strict upbringing that shunned any kind of fun activity the girls of Salem, bored out of their minds, began to act ‘hysterical’. The whole thing supposedly started with an unfortunate slave named Tituba, who told the girls scary stories about the devil around a campfire. Despite popular belief, most of the victims were hanged and one was pressed to death. That fellow, Giles Corey, refused to renounce his innocence because doing so would cause his family to lose all the land and money he had accumulated. His last words, according to the Salem Witch Museum’s presentation were “more weight”.
No one knows where the victims of these executions were buried but there’s a super-creepy and very old graveyard close to the museum where a witch trial memorial is located.
Witch stories are only the beginning. The Hawthorne Hotel built on the spot where the Salem Marine Society stood, is said to be haunted by the old captains of the Marine Society. The website Suite101.com says that:
“Guests of the hotel have reported strange sounds and occurrences. The ship’s large wheel turns back and forth, for no apparent reason. When people attempt to stop the turning wheel, it resumes motion on its own. A houseman who worked on the lower deck found his room setups were rearranged. He thereafter refused to work nights”
Another creepy location is The House of Seven Gables. It’s a beautiful old mansion right on the harbor and is said to be haunted by it’s owner, Susan Ingersoll and a ghostly little boy who can be seen playing with toys up in the attic.
There’s even the New England Pirate Museum in Salem, which tells the story of some of history’s most famous pirates, like Blackbeard and Captain Kidd, and their adventures in the waters off the coast of Salem.
You can’t turn a corner without seeing ads for a ghost tour in Salem. Honestly, the town is so creepy-cool and full of old spirits that it probably takes more than one or two tours to learn about all the haunting.