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Exploring the Magic of Salem, Ma

A quaint New England city with a spice of witchiness

What is it about Salem that captures our imagination? Is it the witch trials and the execution of 20 innocent people, is it the magical mysticism of witchcraft that seems to permeate the area, or is it that it’s a nearly 400 year old historic seaside town in early American colonial history that was one of the most influential seaports on the eastern seaboard?

historic Essex St, Salem, Ma.No matter which of these are your draw to Salem, it’s a wonderful community that weaves these stories together with it’s central historic district, it’s waterfront restaurants and marketplace, and it’s historic markers linking back to the witch trials and it’s centuries old roots.

And no matter your purpose of visiting Salem – the 1692 Witchcraft Trials, modern witchcraft, Salem as a colonial commercial seaport, its ghost tours, or as a Halloween enthusiast - we recommend taking a tour to hear the stories to help bring the history of this seaside community alive. We had a fantastic 2-hour Salem History Walking Tour with Kenneth that we highly recommend, but Salem.org offers all manner of tours to help you better understand Salem.   

Why do the 1692 witch trials still hold so much mystique?

It’s amazing that the barely 2-year period of the witchcraft accusations and trials from the late 1600’s overshadows everything else in it’s almost 400-year history! Now, I get it that it’s quite a Victims of the Salem Witchcraft Trials (click any pic to enlarge)sensational topic. That 2 teen cousins – Abigail Williams and Elizabeth Parris – could spark a hysteria that saw 200 witchcraft accusations and 19 executions (of 14 women and 5 men) by hanging plus one man pressed to death – with no direct proof required, just hearsay and verbal accusation – is an amazing example of the fear that was easily fueled by religious, puritan ideals.

Was it mischief that simply got out of hand, was it vengeance for some community slight or was it a result of puritan religious bias that sought to weed out anyone with a difference to their ideals? Maybe, a mix of them all!

If you are intrigued, tribute can be paid to these innocent victims at the Salem Witch Trials Memorial located near the Old Burying Point cemeterySalem Witch Trials Memorialone of the oldest cemeteries in the US. The Memorial is a series of benches inscribed with the names of those accused as well as the dates and manner of their execution. We recommend you drop some flowers in memoriam to some ancestor ... or just because the tragedy of ignorance bears remembering.

Notably, other historic witchcraft stops on your walkaround Salem:

Salem’s 400 years is a lot of history

In the nearly 400 years since Salem was established as a trading post and early puritan colony along the eastern seaboard it quickly evolved into one of the most significant seaports in early American history. Trading from Europe to the East Indies and everywhere in between made it a wealthy, bustling community attracting Puritans, Quakers and Anglican immigrants seeking a new land.

Pickering House (about 1651), SalemSalem’s community strength and seaport strength helped influence many early American institutions. Militarily, Salem began the foundations of the Army National Guard (1636) and politically, the Federalist Party began roots in Salem in the early 1800’s. Economically, it helped trade and the new colonies prosper through it’s shipping routes.

Exploring Salem’s historic roots is easy with its many architectural examples of it’s early life:

  • Pickering House (1651), Gedney House (1665) and the House of Seven Gables (1668) are examples of original homes from early colonization
  • the Old Burying Point historic cemeteryHamilton Hall (1805), Custom House (1815) and the First Church in Salem Unitarian – 1629) for some civic historic buildings
  • Walk down Essex St and through its historic area with its preservation efforts of the old architecture and the core museums like the Salem Museum and Peabody Essex Museum among a few documenting the line of Salem’s history.

Salem’s other natural (or un-natural) historic attractions

Naturally or un-naturally, Salem draws witches and mystics to its doors with a disproportionate weight of its annual tourism arriving for Hallowe’en (30%). The city bedecks itself for the entire month of October with events and celebrations to harness the magic.

explore shops like Vampfangs, Salem (pic courtesy Vampfangs)Whether or not you come for the Hallowe’en festivities or are simply mystically open, Salem oozes that  Hallowe’en feel from every crevice year-round with streets lined with spiritual shops and salons like Moon Baby, The Coven's Cottage, Hex Old World Witchery, Vampfangs and Witch City Wicks, among others.

If you are looking for more behind the scenes stories on what makes the mystical world tick, we always recommend taking a tour to gain some richer understanding. There’s so many to choose from, but here’s a few:

A day tip to Salem or weekend getaway?

Being so close to Boston, Marblehead and surrounding communities, a visit to Salem can be a quick day trip to see what it’s all about, take a walk over to Proctor's Ledge Memoriala weekend getaway exploring Salem as a coastal and historic early American colony, or a full-on immersive witchcraft experience taking in the entirety of the mystical offerings.

Finding a place to stay in Salem should never be a problem (except maybe at Hallowe’en) as there are abundant Airbnb and rental places all along the Boston to Salem coastline and hotels galore given the hub of Boston. Similarly, finding a place to eat is abundantly easy for virtually every food type – quaint coffee shops and bakeries for the morning and pubs to restaurants to fine dining within a mile’s span.

Salem makes for one of those easy, educating, entertaining historic stops that just needs to be visited for its value in the definition of early American settler experience. You’ll have some fun and learn the importance of tolerance.

Have you had a chance to visit Salem over the years? Was it for it’s witchcraft hysteria from the 1690’s, it’s historic colonial importance or a more modern mystical perspective? We’d love to know. Drop a comment below and connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.




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