”Do not miss Salem on Halloween,” said Caroline’s mother over dinner. I wanted to experience the best fall colors in New England. So Caroline, my colleague and my only travel buddy in Boston, took me to her grandparents home in Vermont. Her mother, who happens to be a Salem local, joined us on this foliage trip. As all three of us were avid travelers, travel stories and experiences from all over the world started pouring in at the dinner table, making the evening worth remembering. The mother-daughter duo insisted that I pay a visit to Salem during Halloween and shared important details about the town- infamous for its sinister past and spooky aura.
Intrigued by the idea and happy to have discovered one interesting destination for my itchy feet, I started doing my homework by flipping through articles and collecting facts about the Witch Town before paying a visit to the place. 30th of October is celebrated as Halloween all over the US. I boarded the train from Boston North Station to experience the magic of Salem. To celebrate the event special trains are available for Salem from Boston North Station every 30 minutes. The spirit of Halloween was evident from the hustle and bustle everywhere. But before I get deeper into my experience of Halloween at Salem, let me tell you the history of Salem.
The sinister past of Salem
In 1688, Samuel Parris accepted a job as Village minister and came to Salem, with his wife Elizabeth, daughter Betty, niece Abagail Williams, and their West African slave Tituba.
In January 1692, 9-year-old Betty and 11-year old Abagail started having fits with violent contortions and uncontrollable outbursts of screaming. William Griggs, a doctor was called to examine the girls. When his own nostrums failed to cure, he suggested that the girls’ problems might have a supernatural origin. The belief that witches targeted children made the diagnosis easier and widely acceptable. Talks of witchcraft increased when other playmates of Betty began to exhibit similar unusual behavior. Some girls claimed they were pricked with pins. The consistency of the accusations strongly suggests that the girls worked out their stories together. According to some historians, the girls “turned themselves from a circle of friends into a gang of
Apart from being a domestic help, Tituba used to entertain the girls with tales of omens, voodoo, and witchcraft from her native folklore. Suspicion has already risen on her and she fell an easy prey to this dirty conspiracy. On February 29, arrest warrants were issued against Tituba and two other women. This is how the Witch hunt initiated in the Spring of 1692. The number of suspects grew every single day as a notorious hysteria swept the colony. Struck in jail, confession seemed easier to avoid gallows for the suspects. Over the next year and a half, nineteen people were convicted of witchcraft and hanged while many more languished in prison. About two hundred other people were arrested and imprisoned on witchcraft charges. Two dogs were executed as suspected accomplices of witches.
Scholars have noted differences between the accused and the accusers in Salem. Most of the accused lived to the south of, and were generally better off financially, than most of the accusers. In a number of cases, accusing families stood to gain property from the convictions of accused witches. The conclusion that many scholars draw from these patterns is that property disputes and congregational feuds played a major role in determining who lived, and who died, in 1692. The Salem Witch Trials is an example of a tragic time in history.
A Spooky Adventure
As I boarded the train I found the compartment to be filled with people dressed up as Witches and Ghosts. I grabbed the window seat to relax and enjoy the happenings all around. As the train took off a tale of some wretched crimes flashed through my mind bringing flashes of Salem’s sinister past.
On reaching the final destination the crowd applauded in excitement.
Salem is a very walkable city and downtown is less than a mile from the MBTA station. I had no specific agenda on my mind and aimlessly roamed around and surrendered to the spell of Salem. I blindly followed the crowd. Suddenly a zombie jumped in front of me out of
nowhere. The petrified and confused look on my face brought peals of laughter to people all around. I soon realized I just fell prey to the Halloween prank and had an embarrassing look on my face. There are more witches in modern-day Salem, especially on Halloween.
In October, Salem brews up more Halloween activities than you can shake a broom at. Haunted enactments, special programs, and live shows complement the attractions, museums, and tours at every corner of this festive town. I wanted to mention my visit to The Salem Witch House especially.
The Salem Witch House
It offered a general look at what 17th-century life was like as well as, an exhibit on the history of Halloween. At night they offer a ticketed performance, “Tales of at the Witch House.” This happens to be Salem’s most visited museum and presents the witch hysteria in a way that is
educational, thought-provoking, and a bit spooky. History came alive in front of my eyes. For the next few hours, I walked past the U.S. Custom House and the House of the Seven Gables and absorbed every bit of the amazing, entertaining and unique experience.
The Food and the Feel
A host of food stalls were available at the Park opposite the Witch Hunt Museum. The tempting smell of some freshly cooked buffalo chicken wings made me hungry. I quickly grabbed a plateful to satisfy my taste buds and resumed my walk. There were open-air concerts at every corner of the city and I aptly managed my time to sit back, relax and watch the Halloween crowd at the same time. I stopped by local the Halloween shops and other witch-themed attractions to pick some souvenirs. On entering a shop, to my amusement, I discovered the idol of Goddess Kali wearing a garland of skulls, a skirt of dismembered arms and holding a sword and a freshly severed head, dripping blood. As I wondered how Goddess Kali found her place in a remote shop in the Witch town, the owner seemed to have read my mind and revealed all the products in this shop were imported from Indian and Tibetan Markets. After spending an eventful day at the Witch Town I finally headed back to the train station with a bagful of memories.
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