A small town called Salem is located 30 miles to the northeast of Boston. This is one of the oldest towns in New England, named after Jerusalem. The Halloween decor of this town has deep roots dating back to the first half of the 17th century, when Protestant Presbyterians came to these lands, persecuted in England and thirsting for freedom of their religion. Having founded Boston and Salem, becoming masters here, they sought to deprive of the religious freedom, to which they aspired themselves, all others who belonged to other confessions. These religious fans planted around themselves the order of medieval Europe during the Inquisition, equating the witchcraft to the category of the criminal offense.
The witch hunt began in January 1692, when two girls, Elizabeth and Abigail, 9 and 12 years old, had clear signs of obsession. They shouted not with their own voices, wriggled, fought in cramps, taking unnatural poses, hiding from people, and their ears were closed when reading the prayers. Acting in the role of mediums-gunners, the girls called the names of sorcerers and witches, who allegedly were pointed out to them in visions. With their help, some “servants of the devil” were sent to the prison. The mass arrests were followed by executions. Gradually, the hysteria swept all inhabitants of Salem – 150 people were arrested on witchcraft charges, 31 of them were convicted and 19 were hanged. Three died in prison. A few years later, the judges admitted that they were misled. In the middle of the twentieth century, The Commonwealth of Massachusetts adopted a final decree to repeal the charges to all those undeservedly convicted in those trials. In 1992, a monument to victims of witch hunts was built in Salem. Before, there were two localities with the same name: Salem Village (today it is called Danvers), a quiet little village, where those obsessive girls lived, and Salem Town, in which trials were conducted over sorcerers and witches and their executions. This town began to be called The City of Witches. There are quite a lot of old buildings from the times of the colonial America so that the decorations for the modern city of witches need not be created again. The modern Salem keeps the memory of the events of those years. According to the decision of the townspeople, everything that related to the tragedy of those years was given to museums: Peabody Essex Museum, where about 500 original documents of trials of witches and instruments of torture are stored; Salem Wax Museum of Witches & Seafarers – the gallery of Salem wax figures; The Salem Witch Museum; New England Pirate Museum, and Witch Dungeon Museum.
Guests of Salem should certainly see the Pioneer Village, which preserves the layout of the city, as it was at the dawn of its origin; Pickering House, the oldest building in the US, where the same family live for 360 years; The House of The Seven Gables, a dark gray two-story house with massive pipes, barred windows, high skates broke into roof sections and gas horns in its corners. This inhospitable house, one of Salem’s main attractions, is well known to those who read Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel about the family curse and witches, which is called The House of the Seven Gables. The curse, described by the writer, who was a native of Salem, was imposed on his entire family for the fact that the great-grandfather, Judge John Hawthorne, pronounced guilty verdicts to the Salem witches in the trials of 1692-1697. His other novel, The Scarlet Letter, published in Boston in 1850, became a classic in the American literature for all subsequent times. In it, Hawthorne talks about the life and customs of his ancestors, the Puritans of the 17th century. The Scarlet Letter was filmed many times. In the last Hollywood version, the main roles of two unfortunate lovers, affected by the arbitrariness of Salem judges, were played by Demi Moore and Gary Oldman.
In the House of Witches or The House of Corwin Judge lived another judge who carried out trials of witches. Well, of course, what is the City of Witches without the Museum of Witches History? Only it was created later like a medieval fortress. It is said that this is the largest witch museum in the world. And the monument to the witch flaunts in front of this stone fortress. The visit of the Witch Dungeon Museum produces the strongest impression on tourists. This is the building of the former church on the Lind Street, the ground part of which was used as a courtroom, and the underground part was used as a prison. Guests are first invited to attend the trial of a witch, played by professional actors according to the real protocols. In addition to the actors in the rooms in the “natural” poses of the martyrs, wax figures are sitting and hanging with a frozen suffer on the pale paraffin faces. The dungeons, where the group would then descend, represented in the time of the witches the cold, damp, dirty, dastardly dungeons in the proximity of the Nora River. However, the role of sorcerers and witches is offered to play to tourists themselves. Those who wish to get such an experience will be taken to the cellars, along dark, moist burrows. And it must be said that the rooms were of different degrees of the “comfort”: common rooms, where prisoners lived and slept right on the bare soil and single rooms were for “privileged gentlemen” or rather for those who could pay for themselves. They even gave out blankets and bed linen. There were also stone sacks so close that they could only stand in prison. And you can also look at the dungeon where the accused were tortured to wrest recognitions by force.
In the 18th and 19th centuries, Salem was the largest center of maritime trade and shipbuilding of all New England. Pirate attacked ships with valuable cargo and maritime battles were common for Salem population. So, in addition to the witches, there is also the Museum of Pirates with a beautiful Brigantine at the pier. Tourists are offered not only to wander around the museum, having become acquainted with the attributes of a hard pirate craft but also to make a tour of all sorts of stone cracks, boreholes, and caves, in which pirates supposedly hid their treasures. But the pirate theme for Salem is a secondary one. Its main trump card is witches.
This cozy seaside town has long been accustomed to its gloomy-creepy mystical glory. Moreover, the town flaunts it, using for not disinterested purposes. In many ways, thanks to it, it exists, thanks to it, it has found an image that favorably allocates it against the background of all other cities, which supports it in every possible way. Everywhere, wherever you look, there are fake or toy spiders, bats, owls, black crows, black cats. Even on the sheriff’s car, you can see a painted witch on the broom. The first feeling is that you are in a Halloween masquerade, which is preserved all year round, with all its entourage and tinsel. But with a closer acquaintance with the city, its way of life and inhabitants, it turns out that all this is not quite true and even not at all true.
Tourism is tourism, and it certainly plays a very important role for Salem, but there is something much more. It can be said without exaggeration that neither in those distant troubled times nor after, Salem was obsessed with all sorts of the devilry as the last decades. It would be curious to see how the Puritans coped with the Salem now if they had power there. There are 38,000 people living in the city, about a third of them are Wiccans, and about 2,500 people consider themselves witches and witches. Wicca is the branch of the witchcraft, in which the worship of the devil is replaced by the worship of the creative forces of Nature. And all the rests are ceremonies and initiations in three circles are the same.
They even have their “official Salem witch,” named Lori Cabot, approved by the Governor of Massachusetts himself. In the years of youth, she was a stately, strikingly beautiful woman. You can meet her on the streets of Salem today: 76-year-old Lori Cabot with a golden five-pointed star on her chest with a sharp end down, dressed in black witch clothes (she never even wore others), fluttering along with her long hair, is the most famous and revered inhabitant of Salem, in fact. Do not think only that she is some kind of flawed beggar or blissful. Miss Cabot is a woman highly educated, especially in terms of the religion. She has a sharp analytical mind and unique esoteric properties. Openly declaring that she is a witch, Cabot managed not only to compel herself to respect all the inhabitants of the city but also turned most of them into her faith. Worshiping the Goddess and the Horned God, she does not preach evil or violence. As a professional magician and psychic, she cures people by imposing hands, teaches fortune-telling on Tarot cards, helps the oil company to search for oil, and the police – to find the missing people, to disclose crimes. For many years, Laurie Cabot has been teaching the theory and practice of the witch art at the Salem high school and at Salem State College, the largest public college of the state. Laurie Cabot is one of the most famous witches in the world, has been working in the mayor’s office for more than a quarter of a century, which does not prevent her from remaining the leader and idol of the modern Salem witches and several times a year leading the night Sabbaths. Many years ago, the main witch of Salem opened a magical symbol store, which became one of the most attractive tourist attractions of the city. It marked the beginning of the annual costumed witch festival in Salem – Samhain, timed to coincide with the eve of the All Saints Day (October 31). This is the most important holiday in the witch calendar, their main cult.
Each year, on Samhain – Halloween, in the “world capital of witchcraft and black magic,” as Salem was named, a large number of guests – sorcerers and witches, occultists, like-minded people, representatives of the mass media and just curious people come from all over the world. So, the most tragic page in the history of the city has turned into a farce, bravado, to the source of its prosperity and entertainment in our age of tourism.