On the 34th Day of the PapiBlogger Family Road Trip we pit stopped in the beautiful colonial town of Salem, Massachusetts where we got a first hand look at the history of the infamous Salem Witch Trials and also participated in a great ghost tour.
THE WITCH DUNGEON MUSEUM
Salem is a peculiar place to visit because it was the site of a major hysteria that swept across Massachusetts in the 1600s involving citizens being accused of witchcraft. The Salem witch trials (February 1692 thru May 1693) were a series of hearings before local magistrates followed by county court of trials to prosecute people accused of witchcraft in Essex, Suffolk, and Middlesex counties of colonial Massachusetts.
Today, Salem is home to several witch museums recalling that fateful year of paranoia. Most of the museums seem very similar but when we asked several locals “witch” one they’d rate higher the consensus was to see the Witch Dungeon Museum.
Your Witch Dungeon Museum visit starts with a short, 10-minute skit in a courtroom that features two actresses posing as an accused Salem witch and her accuser. The skit comes straight from the town’s legal history books and reminds one of how the cases against Salem’s citizens were often successfully built on ridiculous accusations about paranormal activity, hear say and gossip.
After the skit, participants are taken a very dimly lit basement floor that has a recreated Salem dungeon reminiscent of a haunted house. The dungeon includes scenes of imprisonment, torture and hangings with dummies dressed in clothes from the Colonial period. (You may want to close your children’s eyes the final tree hanging part).
A real witch dungeon was discovered in Salem in 1960 by a local telephone company but was hastily demolished with Salem’s then mayor. He was afraid that others would resurrect Salem’s shameful past until someone did and started making money from it. By the early 60s Salem had embraced its witch trials past with tourism, the town’s current number one industry.
GHOST TOUR IS A MUST IN SALEM
The Witch Dungeon Museum was nice but what really made our trip to Salem richer was the Haunted Footsteps Ghost Tour. As I’ve said before, the best ghost tours are the ones that are equally entertaining and informative and that’s exactly what we got with Haunted Footsteps Ghost Tour.
Our walking tour guide David Breen took us in-depth through the full history and context of the Witch Trials in a way that was brainy but never boring for us or the kids. In fact, I struggled to keep the kids from drowning Mr. Breen with questions at stops that included the homes of executed witches, a cemetery, the main location where the witch trials were held and even the “Devil’s Party House” used in the movie set of “Hocus Pocus.”
A couple of Witch Trial nuggets we gleaned from our terrific tour guide:
- In total, dozens of people went to jail accused of being witches and warlocks but only 19 were actually executed. Fifteen were women and four were men.
- Contrary to popular belief none of the accused Salem witches were “burned at the stake.” The victims were all executed by hanging.
- In a truly perverted twist to justice, Salem’s own town sheriff and his men were legally allowed to confiscate and keep all the properties and belongings of all the victims they executed. Some of the victims were wealthy.
We capped a long night with some terrific sushi and dancing at Fresh Taste of Asia. Well, actually, none other than my 1-year-old Briani started the dancing part. A live band was playing a medley of music that got Briani started and it didn’t take much provocation for my son Jonathan and daughter Elena to join her.
SPRINT NEXTEL ROAD TRIP TIP OF THE DAY
Be sure to pack two sets of car keys before leaving on your road trip. Equally important is that you keep the second set of keys in a bag you always carry with you. In our case we don’t have to worry about locking the keys inside the car because OnStar can open our car remotely but if we lose our sets of keys that could be a problem.