Witches and Salem, MA – Spooky Travel. October is the month of spooky, creepy, and scary everything! Creepy destinations can add a cool dimension to any trip. Tweens and teens especially enjoy creepy things! Add Salem, MA to the list of creepy destinations for your family vacation.
Salem, Massachusetts is the home of the famous Salem Witch Trials. It is a fun and creepy destination any time of year.
Visit Salem, MA – Witches come in all shapes and sizes.
To look at tv and movies, it looks like we actually like witches. There are a lot of witches in our popular culture and some of them are fun, happy, and ‘good’. But, that our love of witches wasn’t always the case.
There are both wicked and good witches in the movie The Wizard of Oz.
The witches in this old sitcom are both wholesome and snarly from Bewitched.
Witch Hazel from Bugs Bunny has absurdly tiny feet!
Visit Salem, MA – The city with witch history.
Salem was a pretty straight-laced town back in the 1600s, and everyone’s life goal was to get into heaven and look righteous for the neighbors.
It didn’t take much to get tongues wagging. (Funny how gossiping apparently wasn’t at all frowned upon as a sin.)
When one of the girls in a household began ‘having fits’ everyone wanted to find out how to help her. She had hallucinations, fell into rants, and complained of her skin feeling creepy and crawly. Sometimes she would just fall into a trance and stare off into space.
When word of the symptoms got out, other family’s began to have members complain of the same thing! The local dr was at wit’s end to help them with no explanation.
When he couldn’t find anything physically wrong with the girls the only rational explanation was witchcraft, right? Seriously….that is the best explanation they could come up with?
Visit Salem, MA – The original ‘witch’ Tituba
One of the local homes owned a slave named Tituba.
Tituba did what she knew would help find out what was causing the girl so much pain and agony. She baked a witch cake – made with rye and urine from the sick girl. This was then fed to the dog.
This cake was supposed to cure the girl so it was fed to the dog. People believe some really weird stuff in those days.
This was certainly not proof of witchcraft but I do consider it more evidence that dogs will eat most anything.
When Tituba’s owner caught wind of the witch cake he beat her. He asked her over and over again if she was a witch.
Well, Tituba wasn’t an educated person since she was a slave, but she had the good sense to know if she told him what he wanted to hear he would stop beating her.
Of course she ‘confessed’ to being a witch so the beating would stop. More beatings resulted in her naming other witches in town.
Visit Salem, MA – Witches in Salem in the 1600s
After the first confession, which was literally beaten out of the slave, Tituba, guess what? Lots of women were being accused of turning into winged creatures and practicing sorcery of all sorts.
Interestingly enough, her early confession meant no trial for Tituba, but not so for the women she accused. Trials were bad news because no matter what you said, “I am guilty – I am innocent” you were in for big trouble.
How to tell if a person is a witch back in the late 1600s:
1) Poke the person with a blunt needle and if they didn’t bleed or scream in pain = witch
2) Tie heavy stones to the accused and toss them into the river. Women who float are witches (and would be killed in another manner) and women who sink are innocent. Damned if you do and damned if you don’t!
3) Make the accused lie on the ground and place heavy stones on them until they either confess or are crushed to death.
Hmmm…..even being accused was a death sentence!
Visit Salem, MA – What did cause the crazy fits and hallucinations?
In the 1970s a college student did a term paper on the Salem Witch Trials. The research for that paper finally answered the question.
What did cause the fits and hallucinations?
Ergot is a fungus that affects rye. One of the byproducts of ergot? Ergotamine is a by-product of ergot, which is related to LSD.
The accused people lived on the west side of Salem which was very swampy and had the perfect conditions for the fungus.
The rye was harvested over the summer and then stored in wet and cold conditions. The rye which had been growing the nasty fungus was then used in the winter – exactly when the fits began.
The next summer, which was hot and dry, saw a drop in all things witchy.
No ergot = no witches.
Visit Salem, MA – Haunts of Salem now
With 24 executions in the witch trials, there should be some creepy haunting to go around now. If it is possible to come back and haunt people who have been mean to you, these ladies sure have a good reason to have done so, right?
Can you blame them?
Giles Corey was crushed in an effort to get him to confess to being a warlock, the male equivalent of a witch. He refused to confess because if he did, his property would all go to the local sheriff for distribution.
The sheriff was crooked and most was distributed to himself and his buddies.
Legend has it that Giles Corey haunts the sheriff’s office he placed a curse upon.
Since the sheriff at the time until now…every single sheriff has died in office or had to leave because of a heart or blood ailment.
Visit Salem, MA – Ride the Trolley through town!
Kids love an open-air trolley. They are easy on the feet and let you get an overview of the area. You can hop on and off at any time during the 8-mile trip or stay on for the one hour ride. Enjoy the narration by a local guide.
Click here for more information.
Visit Salem, MA – Visit the graves of accused witches at the Burying Point Cemetary
You will find grave markers here of those found guilty of being a witch, but they aren’t true burial sites. If found guilty of being a witch, your body was just tossed into a ditch because you didn’t deserve a Christian burial.
Apparently, having a grave marker for your family to remember you was OK with the church.
Ask the kids if they think this cemetery should be less spooky than others? There aren’t any bodies here…so in theory, there wouldn’t be any ghosts here.
Visit Salem, MA – The Witch Dungeon
The Witch Dungeon is a museum all about witchcraft and witches in Salem, MA. Cool place! They have re-enactments of the trial.
Visit here for some printable educational materials. Dull in format, but great ideas. (I think I need to jazz it up and send them a new and improved set of activities, don’t you think?)
Visit Salem, MA – The House of Seven Gables
The Gothic novel, The House of Seven Gables, was published in 1851 and later adapted into a movie. It is full of creepiness, gloom, and accusations of witchcraft.
Now the house is a museum which gives educational tours about the history of the area and is a spot for weddings – not creepy ones because it has a lovely courtyard and garden.
Would you have a regular party or wedding at this venue?
Visit Salem, MA – Are there witches in Salem now?
Of course, there are witches in Salem, MA!
Meet Laurie Cabot, Salem’s Official Witch. She ran Salem’s first witch ‘shop’ for 40 years. It closed in 2012 in favor of an online presence which is alive and kicking.
Lorelei runs the Crow Haven Corner. She specializes in Tarot cards, clairvoyance, palmistry and medium-ship.
Visit Salem, MA – Find interesting souvenirs
Yes…witch balls. You would think they would come up with a better name than….witch balls.
The balls are hollow and capture evil spirits inside. The glass is made from ” recycled glass in the Carpathian Mountains”.
The Carpathian Mountains are in central and eastern Europe and home to Strigoi. The Strigoi are like a cross between a witch and a vampire.
Strigoi are people who have certain magical powers. They can transform into any animal or even become invisible. They are trouble spirits that like to drink the blood of their victims. These are the
Now, are you a little worried about strigoi?
Me, too! Check this out….they can be living creatures if they have these characteristics:
** 7th child of the same sex in the family…whew! I’m only the 6th! (Just kidding – just me and one sister)
**red head – Yikes!! Do you know any redheads?? **Die without being married
Wait a minute…how can you be a living creature strigoi if the only way to be one is to die without being married? What?
Visit Salem, MA Think the witch hunts are over?
Witch hunts are STILL going on…this quote is from Wikipedia:
“Witch hunts in modern times are continuously reported by the UNHCR of the UNO as a massive violation of human rights. Most of the accused are women and children but can also be elderly people or marginalized groups of the community such as albinos and the HIV-infected.
These victims are often considered burdens to the community, and as a result, are often driven out, starved to death, or killed violently, sometimes by their own families in acts of social cleansing. The causes of witch hunts include poverty, epidemics, social crises and lack of education.
The leader of the witch hunt, often a prominent figure in the community or a “witch doctor”, may also gain economic benefit by charging for an exorcism or by selling body parts of the murdered.”
Have you been to Salem? What was your favorite part? Was it the spooky time of year? It is on my list of places to visit!!
Happy and spooky travels,
Natalie, The Educational Tourist