Road Trip: Witches and other odds and ends in Salem

In search of cheap motels in Boston, we found one in Danvers. As a friend remarked bemused, “But, that’s not Boston.” Danvers as we later found out was originally Salem Village, a town infamous as the precursor to the 1692  Salem witch trials. Not in our plans originally, we made a stop at Salem considering we were already pretty much on top of it. The story of the trials in short is that of a bunch of women in the Parris household that started acting strangely without manifesting any physical symptoms. Pressured to find an explanation and a scapegoat, Tituba, a slave was accused of witchcraft. Soon accusations were flying thick and fast and essentially any person who was in the outgroup was condemned. The accusations and hysteria stopped only when the governor’s wife was accused. A total of 19 people died in these trials who refused to admit to witchcraft and maintained their innocence. Ironically, Salem now has a bunch of psychic “witches” who will read your fortune to you for a fee.

The trip also turned out to be quite the literary fest of sorts for us. First, there was Edith Wharton’s estate in Lenox near Great Barrington, Massachusetts where she live for some nine years before moving to France for good. Salem turned out to be where the House of the Seven Gables is located, which was the inspiration for Nathaniel Hawthorne’s gothic novel with the same name. Apparently Hawthorne’s ancestors who owned the house had played a not so exemplary role in the 1692 witch trials, and this novel was a way for Hawthorne to atone for their sins. Reminds me of the book/movie Atonement that I loved. But I digress. Now for some fun facts on Salem.

Fun fact #1: The 1970s television show Bewitched (that we in India by the way, watched much later in the 1990s) was filmed here.

Fun fact #2: Alexander Graham Bell made the first long distance telephone call from Salem to his assistant Thomas Watson in Boston.

Fun fact # 3: Monopoly, the board game, was made in Salem by the Parker Brothers. One of the brothers home still stands on Chestnut Street, which was the first planned street in America.

For additional details on some of these places, click on the photo gallery.