Visit Salem Witch Trials Sites- Itinerary Part B
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Salem town, today’s Salem, has a rich history & many interesting activities that have nothing to do with their Witch Trials past. But, we only had a day here in July 2014 and we focused on the Witch Hunts of 1692. We started in Salem village, Danvers today (Part A), where the Hysteria began, visited one of the accused’s home & graves & other sites, and visited the Salem village Witch Trials Memorial. We arrived here in Salem town, just after lunch to continue Part B of my Itinerary to visit Salem Witch Trials sites.
The NPS Salem (Maritime) Regional Visitor Center is our 1st Stop in Salem. It’s focus is actually more on Salem’s extensive Maritime history. They do have a small exhibit on the Witch Trials, tourist maps & brochures, & a movie, “Salem Witch Hunt: Examine the Evidence”. The movie cost is minimal- currently $5 adults, $3 kids & seniors, is 38 minutes long and is shown several times a day. We didn’t quite have time for the movie. I would not say this Visitor’s Center is must see if you’re focusing on the Salem Witch Trials. The info on it is very limited & contains plaques of info rather than artifacts. It’s nice to see other aspects of Salem, but skippable if you’re short on time & focused on the Salem Witch Trials. We squeezed it in because we collect NPS (National Park Service) passport stamps (Passport Guide in my post here), historical site coins & our kids love the Junior Ranger programs (my Junior Ranger Guide here). The Center is free to visit @ 2 New Liberty St. Their hours are seasonal, busy season is 10-5 daily. There is a pay lot across the street for under 4 hours parking & a convenient parking garage across from that which we used for over 4.
Salem is very walkable with most of the sites fairly close. The sidewalks are marked with Salem’s Heritage Trail for visitor’s convenience- a bright red line painted throughout downtown, taking you to some of their significant historic sites & main tourist spots, including some- not all of the Salem Witch Trials sites. Some were on our itinerary, others were not, & with only a day, I made our own path, though it’s convenient to see that you’re on the right track.
Two blocks away, our 2nd Stop was “Cry Innocent!”, a live re-enactment portraying the arrest & a portion of the trial of accused (& the 1st hanged) Bridget Bishop. It is held on the 2nd floor of Old Town Hall at 32 Derby Square. I’m a big fan of theatre & live performances & find them really helpful to give context & make History alive to the kids. Some we’ve been to are sub-par, but this one is worthwhile, if a bit pricey (kids 10 & under free, $25 adults, $27.24 w/ service fee). This is double what we paid in 2014, but we enjoyed it, especially the kids, so I would have paid this to ‘set the stage’. It includes the 45 minute performance, entrance to the Salem Museum (small on 1st floor- 12-5 daily thru 10/31) & today includes a walking tour & film, which increases the value for the cost. It encourages audience participation which is great for kids & you’re allowed some cross-examination of Bridget & to be part of her jury & the verdict. Performance times are seasonal, but summers, currently, are 11:30 & 2:30 daily (only 2:30 Sundays), HOWEVER, don’t miss- a 1/2 hour before, they ‘arrest’ Bridget on the crowded street- the brick courtyard near the front of Old Town Hall, this portion is free. I like to keep some of the fun things on our itinerary a secret from my family until we do them so it can be a little surprise and this was one of them. Funny story- we were running a dab tight on time and I needed to corral the family down to the “Cry Innocent” performance and I told Bill, “We’ve got to hurry because I don’t want to miss the girl (Bridget Bishop) getting dragged off the street.” That’s one way to present the surprise, but it came off a little more savage than I intended! I just knew the pre-show arrest would make it more vivid for the kids & put them in the mindset for the period & the performance. 🙂 Old Town Hall c 1816 is gorgeous inside & out; it appeared in the Disney film Hocus Pocus.
In 5 blocks, we arrive @ 310 1/2 Essex St, our 3rd Stop- The Witch House c mid 1600s home is definitely not the tourist trap its name suggests. It was the residence of the wealthy Judge Jonathan Corwin, one of the infamous Salem Witch Trial judges in 1692. I have reviewed it fully in a separate post. A Must See Gem & one of the Top 5 Salem Witch Trials Sites, it is the only building still standing in Salem (town) with direct ties to the 1692 Trials. It was also possibly used for some of the Witch Trial recordings & has the only surviving possession of an executed Salem Witch Trial victim(s) that I’m aware of. Danvers (Salem Village) has a number of remaining structures related to the Witch Trials that I discuss in my post, Salem Part A Itinerary.
Next, it was supper time & a light-hearted break at a fun pizza place. We’re always on the lookout for gluten-free pizza (bonus- gluten free brownies & garlic dough knots, too!!!) for our son (today 1 of our girls is gluten-free, too 🙁 , so I was pleased to find a fun little place, the Flying Saucer Pizza Company, that was well reviewed, nearby. 2 1/2 blocks from the Witch House, @ 118 Washington St, they have unique gourmet pizzas with vegetarian & vegan options, too. They have fun Sci-Fi decorations to occupy the kid’s attention while we waited- Star Wars, Dr Who, Xmen, Thor, with a life-size Picard Borg from Star Trek. We all enjoyed looking around; Sci-Fi is right up our alley! The pizza was good, service fine & the atmosphere fun, so an enjoyable experience & a good mental break!
Out front, in Lappin Square is a Bewitched Statue, a unique sculpture from the classic tv-show Bewitched, donated by TV Land. The show featured 7 episodes of Samantha in Salem, accused as a witch, during the 1692 Witch Trials. The statue is controversial with many residents feeling that it trivializes the tragedy of those wrongfully persecuted in 1692 & is disrespectful of their Puritan religious values, which are fair points. During the Salem Bewitched episodes, Samantha made compelling arguments about the dangers of persecution & brought renewed interest to the plight of the 1692 victims. The episodes & popular show brought historical interest & needed tourist revenue to Salem, which prior to that, the struggling town had been largely silenced in shame. And though the real victims were anything but witches & they were mortified to be accused as such, the fact that their stories have been kept alive & have found true ways to be honored, rather than forgotten, is important. Not giving all that credit to a tv show, just grateful that, today, residents don’t bear the guilt of the long ago past & we are honoring the victims & able to educate ourselves about the tragedy & its significance, & I’m thankful that their legacy is being preserved. The lessons of Salem from 300 years ago are still relevant today.
After lunch, we’re back at it and we continued to explore the Salem Witch Trials sites & history, including the Salem Witch Trials Memorial & visiting two execution sites and a Memorial where the 19 victims were hanged, & more. Come continue the journey with us in the last of my visiting Salem in a Day Itinerary in my post, Visit Salem Witch Trial Sites, Itinerary Part C.
‘I am an innocent person. I never had to do with witchcraft since I was born. I am a Gospel woman.’
– Martha Corey, Hanged September 22, 1692
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Related Salem Posts:
The ONLY home of one of the hanged accused Witchcraft Trial victims that’s open to public & ONLY graves of any of the victims known.