Salem, Massachusetts – More Than A Witch Hunt

Photography, Massachusetts, campground

Winter Island Harbor

Before we begin this post we want to say “Thank You” to everyone who is reading our blog. One of our New Years Resolutions was to hit 5,000 views by December 2013. Well, guess what? We’ve hit that number and it’s only May!! Who knows what number we will reach by the end of the year but we couldn’t do it without you.

We’re sitting here in the rain which is nothing new since it’s rained for 7 of the 12 days we’ve been in Massachusetts. Massachusetts? The last you heard it was Philadelphia. We’ve been on a whirlwind of sightseeing for the last six weeks with very little time to catch up on the blog. So we’re going to try by starting with our most current spot and work backwards as we have time while trying to keep current as well. We hope this does not give you whiplash as we pop back and forth from spot to spot. If you see a blog called Catching Up – (wherever we were) then you’ll know it is a previous location post.

lighthouse, Massachusetts, Salem, campground

Winter Island Lighthouse

We chose Salem, MA as a spot to stay mainly because the county park, Winter Island,  was as close as we could get to Boston with the RV. The park has some limitations such as no dump site and very tight sites that leave about 4′ between trailers in the field. There are a few more spacious sites overlooking the waterfront but none were available due to the Memorial Day weekend when we made reservations three months ago. However convenience was our primary concern and the staff couldn’t have been nicer.  Salem offers great transportation to Boston either by car (be prepared to play an adult version of bumper cars), train or in season by ferry. What we didn’t know or expect was all the great history and fun Salem offers besides its Witch City nickname.

ferry boat, Salem, Boston

Salem-Boston Ferry

For a period that lasted less than a year in 1692 the legacy of the Salem Witch Trials has had a life of it’s own. In town there are the occult shops and fortune tellers, a Witch Trial Memorial, a Witch House, a Witch Dungeon, an ice cream shop called the Salem Screamery and even a statue with the face of  Samantha from Bewitched. Locals we talked with say the whole month of October is geared around the witch theme and that Halloween night is like Mardi Gras. Contrary to popular opinion, no one was burned at the stake in America. Yes, they did do it in Europe. In Salem 19 people and 2 dogs were hung, one man was pressed to death (crushed with weights on his chest) for not cooperating with the court and 5 people died in prison. We did visit the Salem Witch Museum one rainy Saturday to learn what really took place.

witch, Salem, history

Salem Witch Museum

 Salem was founded in 1626 just six years after the Mayflower landed at Plymouth. It too was a Puritan colony with zero tolerance for dissenting opinions or other belief systems. In 1692 three teenage girls seeking diversion from their straight-laced home life began to meet at one of the girl’s homes. There Tituba, a Caribbean born worker would tell them stories. Whether the stories triggered what followed isn’t known but over the next few weeks all of the girls had spells of disorientation, speaking in “tongues” and no physical cause could be identified. Was it teenage hysteria or poisoning? The town doctor determined they were under the spell of witchcraft.  Neighbor accused neighbor as arrests and trials were held the hysteria grew. A special court was created in June 1692 to try the cases and determine punishment. Many of the accused were convicted solely on spectral evidence, the belief that they had invisible shapes that would torture their victims.  The great grandfather of Nathaniel Hawthorne was known as Judge Hathorne, the hanging judge. Three hanging days were held. In October the witchcraft courts were disbanded by order of the Royal governor and a new court that would not accept spectral evidence was established. All accused as well as those convicted and awaiting execution were freed. Gradually all accused received pardons and restitution was made to families.  The last pardons were given in 2001. Trying to distance themselves from their notorious relative, Judge Hathorne, the Hawthorne family added a W to their name.

candy, history, Ye Olde Pepper Candy Companie

Ye Olde Pepper Candy Companie

antiques, history, Salem

Antique Ribbon Candy Machine

Once you’ve figured out which is witch in town there’s a lot more to do. We’ll be covering maritime history, the House of Seven Gables and the Essex-Peabody Museum in a future post. Salem has preserved numerous old homes some dating back to the early 1700s but most are from 1830-1870. The historic district is very walkable just be careful on the occasional cobblestone areas. They are a sprained ankle waiting to happen so wear appropriate shoes.  In 1877 there was a terrible fire that destroyed a large section of town. When it was rebuilt, everything was made of stone. You can do a historical walk through that section of town called “Rebuit In Stone”. The architecture lets you know you are definitely in New England. Different roof styles, widow walks, cedar shingles and cornices by doorways abound. We enjoyed two local stores along historic Essex Street: Jean Louis, the Pasta Guy for homemade lemon garlic fettucine, lobster/crab ravioli and sweet potato/ raisin/walnut ravioli. Then there is Ye Olde Pepper Candy Companie. America’s oldest candy company dating back to 1806. Under ownership of the Burkinshaw family since the late 1800s ( third owners), the forth generation makes candy using original recipes. There is a short video from PBS  on Vimeo about the shop. Go to You’ll enjoy the owner’s New England accent too.

Diners, Drive-ins and Dives, Guy Fieri, restaurant, Salem

The Lobster Shanty – A Diners, Drive-ins and Dives Feature Restaurant In Salem, MA

restaurant, Salem

Makes You Want To Come Here, Doesn’t It?

On our last night in Salem we had dinner at a Diner, Drive-ins and Dives place called the Lobster Shanty. Tucked away at right angles to Front Street this bar and small restaurant (about 8 tables) is very popular. As we found out its popularity fills the place on Trivia Tuesday Nights. The Lobster Shanty known for it’s fresh seafood and local farm to table menu was visited by Guy Fieri in 2010. We didn’t try the Lobstertini. Instead we downed Lobster risotto and lobster mac ‘n cheese with Guinness and hard cider. We stayed to play trivia. Unfortunately the categories were all pop culture and we were made acutely aware of the generation gap. However we did get one question right: What are the two states that still do not allow you to pump your own gas? (answer at the end of the post).



It’s not the end yet….



Not yet either…



Didn’t want you to peek …



How did you do?



And the winning answers are  (drum roll)



New Jersey and Oregon

One thought on “Salem, Massachusetts – More Than A Witch Hunt

  1. Hi you two, glad all is going well. I knew only one answer to the pumping your own gas, NJ.. strange!
    Just got back from my cruise so trying to catch up on your other blogs.. We will be in Massachusetts in October cruising, hope to do some sightseeing there. Very interesting information, thanks

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