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Witches and Pirates – History in Salem

By Wayne Lazarus on October 26th, 2010

Categories: Linda's Travel Articles

What could be more appropriate for fall than a trip to Salem, where the witch trials were held and pirates came and went.

SalemWitchMuseum“Salem walks a delicate line between the tragic witch trials and the fun of Halloween,” explains Kate Fox, executive director of Destination Salem. “There are six attractions that tell stories from 1692 from the historical sense.” These are the Salem Witch Museum, Salem Wax Museum, Salem Witch Village, Witch Dungeon Museum, Witch House and Witch History Museum. There are also haunted houses, story telling and several dramatic performances during the month of October. Walking tours are available year-round, including ghost tours, a witch trial trail and even a vampire tour.

Follow a pirate through the New England Pirate Museum to learn about the area’s history with pirates, see a re-created pirate ship and tour a pirate cave.

Over at the wharf, visit the Salem Maritime National Historic Site and tour the tall ship Friendship, a replica of a 1797 East Indiaman vessel built in Salem. During October, the Salem Theatre Company comes aboard to perform Chilling Tales, ghost stories inspired by the sea.

Among the must-sees in town is Salem_MACryInnocentBridgetBishopbyJaredCharneythe Peabody Essex Museum, an art and culture museum. It is the oldest continually operated museum in the country. During October, there is a special showing of classic horror films.

Another is the House of the Seven Gables, the oldest wooden mansion in New England. Here you can learn about Nathanial Hawthorne, who was actually a descendant of one of the judges from the witch trials. Actors perform as characters from his books in the various rooms of the mansion, and dramatizations are scheduled, including Legacy of the Hanging Judge and Spirits of the Gables, inspired by Hawthorne’s The House of the Seven Gables. Hawthorne’s cousin actually lived in the house, but the house the author was born in is on the property, moved there in the twentieth century.

At Old Town Hall, the History Alive department from nearby Gordon College performs Cry Innocent in which the audience becomes the jury in the 1692 witchcraft trial of Bridget Bishop.

Salem_MASalemTrolleybyJaredCharneyBoard the Salem Trolley for a one-hour tour of town. With stops at 13 attractions in town, visitors can get off and explore and catch the trolley when it comes back by to see the next stop. Tickets are good for all day.

Salem is a very pedestrian-friendly town, with a number of good restaurants (including waterfront) and boutique shopping. In addition, pyschic readings are available and Witch shops offer the opportunity to purchase spells and charms.

Photos courtesy Destination Salem. Cry Innocent photo by (C) Jared Charney. Used with permission.

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Angels and Autos in Wisconsin

By Wayne Lazarus on October 20th, 2010

Categories: Linda's Travel Articles

Historic Highway 51 travels north from Southern Louisiana across the country to North Wisconsin.  Beloit, just north of the state line from Illinois, is its entrance to Wisconsin.secret svc-1

That’s fitting, because Beloit has some interesting connections to the automobile. The speedometer was invented here. The creator of Turtle Wax, Ben Hirsch, visited Beloit for a sales call and wandered over to Turtle Creek to take a break. There he was inspired to re-name his product, then called “Plastone” to Turtle Wax.

And the Historic Auto Attractions museum is located here. Remember Johnny Cash’s rendition of One Piece at a Time about the auto worker who brought home parts to build his own Cadillac? Promoters had a car put together from the parts mentioned in the song, and you can see that car at the museum. Over 70 special interest cars are housed here, from the King of Siam’s 1928 Delage Limousine to the 1932 Studebaker that was used by Dillinger during the robbery of the Central National Bank in Greencastle, Indiana and the 1956 Cadillac Limousine used by the Secret Service during Kennedy’s administration. It was directly behind his car during the assassination in Dallas. The museum has plenty of other memorabilia from movie stars (Marilyn Monroe’s nightgown) to country stars to presidents. It is open on seven days a week Memorial Day through Labor Day, weekends through November, then closed during winter.

berg collectionBeloit also has the Angel Museum with, according to the Guinness Book of World Records, the largest collection of angels in the world -  more than 12,000. It includes 500 of Oprah’s black angels and Joyce Berg’s collection of over 10,000 angels.

Another record you may notice on your drive in is yes, the world’s largest can of chili, found outside the Hormel plant on I-90/I-39. The area takes its history seriously too. It  is home to 23 Native American mounds. Among the tribes that lived here are the Winnebago. Also, the corn curl, which you’ll recognize as a Frito, was invented in this area.

Beloit is a pretty little town located about 50 miles north of Rockford, Ill. It’s along the Rock River corridor, which was used in the 19th century by fur trappers carrying their goods to market. The river runs right through the town, which was settled by French trapper and fur trader Joseph Thibeault. The Rock River Trail has recently been organized among the ten counties in Wisconsin and Illinois along the river corridor, allowing biking , hiking, kayaking and canoeing.

Photos courtesy VisitBeloit. Used with permission.

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