Salem - A City of Witches
The waitress poured my coffee into a delicate porcelain cup as I stared out the window looking towards the old cobblestones that my feet would soon tread. It was hot that morning and the trees in the nearby park hung thick and languid waiting for a breeze to sway their leaves. I was staying at the Hawthorne Hotel right in the heart of Salem, Massachusetts. I had read that the place was haunted so of course I booked a room hoping to investigate later in the evening. At the moment though, ghostly apparitions were far from my mind. Instead, I was thinking about what these streets and buildings might have looked like in the spring of 1692.
My trip to New England had taken me across Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, and Massachusetts. There was one main constant across these states and that was the forest. Tall pine trees and heavy maples grouped together. Looking into the forest the sunlight soon became obscured under a canopy of leaves. Even today, in our modern world, I felt that the forests of New England seemed to conceal mysteries and magic.
It is no wonder that the settlers of New England feared the woods. The early villagers of Salem must have worked relentlessly to carve their town from these forests. The ‘civilization’ they created for themselves still did not allow them to escape fear. Their fear came, not from the forest, but from each other. Their fear built and built until the fear created a life of itself. Accusations and hangings ran rampant through the town, spreading like a virus. And then, in about a year it somehow died off and the great witch trials were over.
It seemed odd thinking about such historic tragedy on a hot summer day. Walking through the town you discover a much different community. I’m not quite sure why modern witches have gravitated towards Salem. Perhaps they enjoy good irony or maybe it’s an attempt to reclaim and proclaim the real meaning of the word 'witch'. You are reminded of what occurred in 1692 around each turn as you pass by shops, museums, and historic markers. Regardless, it was enjoyable to walk through the quaint town and visit its many shops. While some stores were filled mostly with tchotchkes and souvenirs, I did encounter a few stores providing supplies for the discerning modern witch.
Returning to my hotel in the evening I wandered the halls for a bit passing by the two rooms where various hauntings had supposedly occurred. I wish I could say different, but honestly I didn't get much of a ghostly feel from the hotel. As the skies turned dark I looked off in the distance to the line of trees. For some reason, I couldn’t keep my mind off the sensation of walking through the forests of New England. Here I was in a haunted hotel in a town covered with dark history. Yet I felt it was the woods in the distance that held the real mystery and only there would I gain an true understanding of this place.
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Have you been to Salem before? What were your thoughts? Share your favorite places in the comments below.