Bewitched in Salem, Massachusetts
I mentioned in a previous article that if I ever moved back to New England, I would choose Newburyport; however, I might have misjudged, because I’d be hard pressed to find a reason for it not to be Salem as my town of choice. It’s so gosh darn charming and it’s hard to ignore everything it has to offer.
Beforehand, I decided to go on a whale watching tour in Gloucester (north of Salem), the last one of the season, and I wish I hadn’t because it set the tone for the rest of the trip. Going out to sea wasn’t bad at all. The weather was cloudy and it was chilly, but we got to see whales.
On the way back to the harbor, it was a different story. Have y’all ever seen the movie The Perfect Storm? There’s a reason you don’t go out in the Atlantic during the month of October. I wound up getting drenched, freezing my rear end off and not too keen to continue the rest of the afternoon and evening after watching people getting sea sick and vomiting into the nearest trashcan, but I forged ahead and went to Salem as scheduled, even with my pants chaffing my inner thighs.
My first stop was Dunkin’ Donuts to get some coffee and warm up. I do love their java and if you’ve never been to New England, let me assure that they are literally on every corner. So, this was a good thing.
You can almost smell the goodness, can’t you? After that, I was rejuvenated and ready to tackle the rest of the day.
Salem is possibly the most eerie town in New England and quite possibly in all of the United States, but I suppose it depends on whom you ask. However, upon stepping foot within the city limits, you get sense of being watched and you begin to feel unsettled. That feeling doesn’t leave until you do.
Of course, most of us have heard of the Salem Witch Trials in 1692 and the consequences of those accused. But just to recap, eighteen men and women were convicted of witchcraft and sentenced to hang at Gallows Hill (aka “Witch Hill,” or “Witchcraft Hill”). One man (#19) was crushed under stones when he refused to go to trial. Hundreds of others were accused of witchcraft and dozens were kept in jail without a trial. To this day, Gallows Hill is difficult to find and quite desolate, often making those who are seeking its location wonder if they are truly in the right spot.
Most of the activity, however, is near Salem Commons, a park that acts as a hub of, “all things witchy.” Even though the park is gorgeous, just being there still gives you the creeps.
I was on a bigger mission and had to leave, so I grabbed a few shots of the town, before heading to the Salem Witch Museum.
Salem Witch Museum
I was excited to see this museum! From the outside, it definitely looked enticing and the literature I read promised to deliver a history of the Salem Witch Trials, the citizens and government involvement in their punishment with an interactive tour.
That looks like a promise, right? It does to me, but if I’m being honest, it was quite a disappointment. Unfortunately, I didn’t take any pictures on the inside because I couldn’t get the flash on the camera to work (you’ll find out why below) and it was so dark on the inside.
Oh, it was interactive alright, in the form of Walkman cassette recorders, headphones, and bumbling idiots (meaning me) shoving their way around to view empty recreated jail cells with mannequins that looked as if they were made with Papier-mâché by pre-schoolers. I know — I know!— I’m a tough customer, but when admission costs $9.50 per person, I guess I expected a lot more.
After getting my pants soaked on the whale watching tour and as a result, chaffing thighs getting worse by the moment, add to that the disappointment of the witch museum, my hopes were not high. In fact, they were deflating quickly. That is, until I saw the outside of the house and I had to remind myself that this was the house that Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote about. My love of literature helped persuade my mood change.
The House of Seven Gables was built in 1668 and is the oldest surviving 17th-century wooden mansion in all of New England. The house is also known as the Turner-Ingersoll Mansion, named after the two families that once lived there. Susan Ingersoll lived in the house until she was 72 years old and was Nathaniel Hawthorne’s cousin. He visited her quite often and his experience at the house inspired him to write, The House of Seven Gables.
During the tour, as we were nearing the dining room, I had a feeling as if I was being watched. I was constantly looking over my shoulder but alas, nobody was there. As we actually entered the dining room, it suddenly got really cold where I was standing and I said so out loud, but the other tourists looked at me like I was crazy and said they didn’t feel anything. People usually look at me like I’m crazy, so that is nothing out of the ordinary, but this time, I was being serious. The hair on my arms stood on end and I got goosebumps. I still had the feeling like someone was behind me. At that point, I heard the tour guide say, “It has been suspected that this house is haunted,” and I was quickly jolted back to reality. I spun around and said over my shoulder, “I’m outta here!”
As I stood outside, waiting for the tour to end, I still had a feeling that someone was watching me. It was unnerving. I kept looking at the windows upstairs and could have sworn I saw the curtain move. The windows were closed so wind wasn’t the cause and the upstairs portion of the house was closed off to tours and staff (so we were told at the beginning of the tour).
Afterwards, I looked up some information regarding the house and found out the house did have a reputation for being haunted. Many have claimed to have seen the ghost of Susan Ingersoll roaming the hallways and peering out of the windows. There were also reports of a ghostly boy haunting the attic area. Supposedly, he can be heard running around the attic and playing with his toys. In addition to the apparitions being seen, many visitors and employees have heard strange sounds–sometimes toilets flush on their own, and faucets turn on and off by themselves.
So, I wonder if Susan Ingersoll had tried to make me poop my pants? They were still wet from earlier, so why not make my “situation” worse?
Salem Ghost Tour
Along the backdrop of the cemetery, where the tour was set to begin, was the Old Salem Jail. Luckily, I was able to nab a photo earlier in the day, because even though I was able to finally get my flash to work, for some reason my camera didn’t work at all now. The shutter wouldn’t even click.
There I stood in the dark, trying to take a picture, to no avail. I had hoped to see if orbs might show up later. After all, this was the jail where the Boston Strangler served his sentence. There had to be something creepy here, right? I would never know for sure. I caught back up to the tour who moved a little further down through the cemetery when I was jacking with the camera. All I heard was blah, blah, blah someone important is buried here blah, blah blah, because by that time, my OCD had kicked in and I was determined to get the camera to work again.
I turned it around to check the shutter and when I pressed that fancy-schmancy little silver button, I finally heard the familiar click. Upon turning the camera back around to view the display screen, this is what I saw:
Yes, isn’t that cute? It’s a blurry picture of my nasal passage, but it didn’t matter, because I was back in business. I knew the tour group wouldn’t go far, so I headed back over to snap a quick photo of the prison. I made sure the flash was turned on, steadied my hands, and pressed the button. Nada. Zilch. Nothing. The shutter wouldn’t click again. I dropped the camera down near my chest and started fiddling with it again. Finally it clicked. I turned around to view the display again and this is what I saw:
Definitely works, right? I thought so too, so it’s no surprise that I tried to take another photo of the prison. This time it worked! The flash even worked too . . . I saw it go off, but this is what the display screen showed:
So, what do you think? Do you think the Boston Strangler was messing with me?
Anyway, at this point, I gave up. I turned around to find my tour group, but they were gone. I decided that it was not meant for me to be in Salem on this day, so I took my chaffed thighs back to the car and left. Anyway, I knew I would be back, because I wouldn’t let Salem get the best of me. I did, however, stop back by Dunkin’ Donuts to get another delicious coffee, so the trip wasn’t a total wash.