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Witches and Pirates – History in Salem

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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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