I remember the first time I heard about Salem and its “witches,” as a lover of history I was instantly hooked. Salem soon made it to my bucket list of places to visit. Years later I finally made it, and of course, I went in October, Halloween extravaganza. But before I tell you about my experience, I should also talk a little bit about the actual history of Salem.
Between 1692 and 1693, more than two hundred people were accused of witchcraft, thirty were found guilty, nineteen of them were hanged, and one crushed to death. It all started when Tituba, an enslaved woman began telling girls stories about voodoo and witchcraft, she was later accused by Elizabeth Parris and Abagail Williams, causing an outbreak of mass hysteria, and ending in what we all know as The Salem Witch Trials. She was the first person to be accused and even though she confessed, there is no proof that she did the things she confessed to. Might I add she was tortured in the process, so that might have led to the confession. It is most likely that none of the twenty people that were sentenced were witches, they all maintained their innocence until the end.
What many people do not know is that the trials did not even happen in what is known as Salem today, it happened in Salem Village, an inland hamlet that was renamed Danvers in 1752. Also, none of the accused were stoned or burned to death like some believe. Many years after this horrific event happened the witch trials were a taboo subject within the Salem Community, it was barely mentioned or talked about as if trying to erase history. But it was Arthur Miller’s play The Crucible (1953) that brought Salem and its “witches” back to life, making Salem a pop culture phenomenon.
After The Crucible, came many stories, movies and shows like Bewitched, who put Salem on the map and made it a tourist attraction. Not only that, but Salem also became “The Witch City” and being a witch was the new fashion, The accused witches became martyrs, empowered, leaders to feminists and a reflection of spirituality to many. This came as a fantastic opportunity to Salem, whose economy was in decline for years. The Witch Tourism brought it back to live.
Back to me now, it had been my dream for years to visit Salem, and the day came. I arrived at Salem from Boston, I took a 45-minute train from the city, and I was finally there. I immediately went to Essex Street, which is the main street of the town, it was October 22, the weather was nice, the trees’ leaves had that orange/red color that you will never see in Miami, as we only have one season: Summer. The street was filled with people in costumes, people playing music, people singing, dancing, taking pictures, it was such a warm and happy event. There were many witch stores, extremely popular in the city and known for their rivalry as to which one is the better store. I went to the Salem Cemetery, where I saw the Witch Trials Memorial with the names of all the victims who were killed many years ago. I visited their famous Witch Museum and the famous statue of Bewitched, I also visited the house where one of my favorite movies was filmed: Hocus Pocus.
As I walked all around Salem, I saw many people enjoying the ghost tours they offer in the city, going into gift shops to buy souvenirs, and as the hours passed the more people came over and I could hardly walk anymore without bumping into someone, it was such a good energy and the costumes kept getting better and better.
Walking back to the train station with my friends, we talked about everything we saw and loved about Salem, and a thought popped into my head: it is incredible how something horrible that happened so many years ago would bring a town such fame and tourism. Who would have thought that the deaths of those women and men and their stories would bring such prosperity to a small town and its residents?
Even though I those thoughts puzzled me, It was a wonderful experience, one that I would definitely recommend and love to repeat soon, and next time I will definitely be there on October 31st with my witch hat.