Added to Medium, October 4, 2018
In honor of the month of Halloween, I am going to give my impressions about the Salem Witch Museum in Salem, Massachusetts. This museum is another one of the museums I have visited during my childhood but my memory of this experience is limited because I did not see a whole lot of the place at the time. I did visit the museum years later with the Historical Society club at Western New England College (now University). In addition to these memories, I will also give my impressions of the Salem Witch Museum based on what I observe on their website to see how much has changed since I visited.
When I first made the visit to the Salem Witch Museum, it was in the 1990s and I was with my parents and my sisters. We waited in the lobby of the museum until the group we were in was able to sit in the auditorium to learn about the Salem Witch Trials. As my family waited for our turn, I remember looking through the brochures and saw pictures of the statues depicting the townsfolk. I was scared since in my imagination I thought that the creepy statues were going to move around in the dark room. Once our group was able to go in after the previous group left, I did not want to go in so one of my parents went into the gift shop with me until the rest of the family joined us. It was not until I was in college when I returned to the Salem Witch Museum.
The Historical Society club I was a member and treasurer of decided to visit the town of Salem during one of our day trips we typically go on a couple times a year. When I finally went inside of the Salem Witch Museum’s auditorium, I felt silly that I was scared of the statues since it turned out that they were only statues as a recording tells the history of the Salem Witch Trials while lights were used to give spotlights for the stationary statues. After the presentation, we went into the exhibit that shared the history of Wicca and the depiction of witches over the centuries. Then we visited the gift shop before we left to see more of Salem. Our advisor who was also one of my History professors expressed his concerns that the recording used outdated information and the Witch Trials overshadowing other significant narrative in Salem’s history especially Salem’s maritime history. While he did express his concerns, we did visit a couple of places that were related to the Salem Witch Trials such as the memorial to those who were killed and the Witch House where one of the judges who tried a number of court cases during that period. We made visits to other places in Salem in addition to the Salem Witch Museum and places related to the 1692 Salem Witch Trails.
There are many places we visited in Salem as a group which are easily overlooked because of the popularity of the Salem Witch Trials. For instance, we visited the Salem Maritime National Historic Sites where a number of historic buildings, wharves, and a replica tallship tell stories about how Salem residents helped build the foundation for one of the most powerful national economies. Another example of places we visited is the House of Seven Gables is a house built for Captain John Turner and remained within the family for three generations, and was made famous by Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel The House of Seven Gables published in 1851. It has been a long time since I visited the town of Salem, and now I look at the website for the first time in years and I am impressed.
On their “History/Education” page of the website, there is a section on witch hunts that gives varying examples of witch hunts throughout history and modern history. An equation is presented at the top of the page that reads out “Fear+Trigger=Scapegoat”; in other words, it means that when fear is triggered a scapegoat is used to express one’s fear that causes harm to individuals treated as scapegoats. During the Salem Witch Trails, it was the fear of the devil that was triggered by the community which led to many innocent people to be tried and killed for being witches. A modern history example listed on the page is the fear of infection which was triggered by AIDS and unfortunately the gay community was used as a scapegoat for the AIDS epidemic. The page allows visitors to submit their own examples, and I think it is an interesting way to illustrate how the Salem Witch Trails have occurred.
The website also provides a self-guided tour page that allows visitors to see locations around Essex County and a few key sites in and around Boston that are related to the events of 1692 Salem Witch Trials. Individuals can click on the town and city names on the map or on the left side of the page to not only see pictures but to read about the sites in these locations. There are descriptions of the sites from the witchcraft trials which can still be seen today, including original houses, foundations, grave sites, and sites marked by historic markers. If one is interested in learning about witches and maritime history, I recommend visiting Salem when one has the opportunity.
Announcement: Next week will be my 100th blog post so stay tuned for a special blog post!