Monday, October 31, 2016

Halloween: Witches of Salem, Mass.

Originally posted: October 29, 2007

The brochure said, Ambassadair Travel Club presents, “Haunted Happenings in Salem Massachusetts 1997” - Flight #6953.  When? Why on Halloween, of course. Well, it wasn’t actually ON Halloween; it was October 28th, but just as much fun for all of us. We had a great time; educational too.  There’s something special about visiting places with true historical significance.

In the years 1692-93, the Puritans, under the leadership of their Reverend Samuel Parris, arrested and imprisoned over 150 people accused of the capital crime of practicing witchcraft, convicted 29 and  hanged 19 (14 women & 5 men). One man failed to enter a plea and was laid under a door and rocks were placed on top of him; magistrates hoped to force a confession which never came before the man was crushed to death. As bad as the witch trials were in Salem, it was far worse in Europe. Of course, Salem was naturally a small colonial community, though. For the whole story >>CLICK HERE<<.

It was a very early check-in for me anyway, 5:45 am and there to greet us with coffee, juice and donuts was TV Celebrity “Sammy Terry”. He told us on the plane ride that he derived his character name from the word, “cemetery”.  (Say it sloooowly.)  I have a photo of Sammy and me in my Multiply photo album.

The Original WTTV-Channel 4 Show Host "Sammy Terry".
Sammy Terry was our favorite Friday night (Fright night) host on Indianapolis’ first Independent TV station, WTTV Channel 4.  With a haunting voice, spoken through a howling wind sound effect, we were greeted, “Good Even-ing”.  His studio was decorated as a dingy dungeon with cobwebs and a big rubber spider hanging from the ceiling on black thread named, George. He’d introduce the scary movie of the night and tell corny jokes in the intermissions and we all got a kick out of it. He used to sign-off his TV program with the words, “Pleasant nightmares” and then laugh an evil sounding laugh. We never missed his show.

Flying over Boston Harbor to land at Logan Airport.
We were due to arrive in Boston by 10:00 am and traveled to Salem by pre-arranged bus service. It was all very nice these travel club trips; the transportation was all included. When we arrived in Salem, we were told to meet right back here no later than 9:00 pm for the bus ride and plane trip home. Not there, you’ll have to make other arrangements.  They have to say that because someone is ALWAYS ‘special’ - like the two hour delay from Reagan National in Washington, D.C. the year before because somebody missed the bus and the head count.

Blackbeard the Pirate and his treasure cove at Pirates Museum in Salem, Mass.
We off-loaded the buses; cameras, purses, empty souvenir bags and jackets in hand we took off for the nearest tourist trap we could find. There were lots of them to consider.  Our first stop was the Pirates Museum. Yeah, me either - I didn’t know there were pirates in Boston harbor, did you?  We discovered the history of legal piracy sanctioned by the British government and that each pirate had his own style of skull and crossed-bones, skull and crossed sabers pirate flag.  We got a feel for the times with vignettes of scenes of the taverns, the quarters aboard ship and many other quaint pirate things. There was even a walk-through tour to locate Blackbeard’s treasure with spooky sound effects and pop-up skeletons.

Courtyard view from the courtyard of the Hawthorne's House of Seven Gables.
We soon found our way to the House of Seven Gables of the Nathaniel Hawthorne book. It’s a real place!  We got the big tour and even walked through the hidden stairway behind the fireplace, into the attic and back down.  There was no insulation up there anywhere that I could see.  The rooms of this big house were very small by today’s standards and sparsely but adequately furnished. It felt cramped because the ceilings were only 7 to 7 1/2 feet tall. This saved lumber and was less cubic foot space to keep heated by the seven fireplaces. I took a photo of the chimney, but didn’t include it here.

We toured the candy shop which still makes the simple rock sugar candy from 300 years ago - same recipe.  We bought some and some chocolates, too.

Oldest Cemetery in Salem, Mass. included some Mayflower passengers and the Victims of the Salem Witch Trials.
By now, it was early afternoon and we walked toward town following our tour map and tried to decide what to visit and see next.  We visited the cemetery - believed to be the oldest in New England anyway.  I don’t know if they had a cemetery in 1620 Jamestown. The old tombstones were very thin and written in Elizabethan Era English. The syntax was a bit jumbled by modern standards, but understandable. They used to put the deceased person’s lineage on each tombstone - who was their father and who were their sons; no daughters names. I thought that was interesting.

One of several Salem Witch Museums. Inside are vignettes depicting the trials and many artifacts.
We visited several Witch Museums of various titles.  All of which had the same story of the 1692 trials told in various ways.  The most notable was the Salem Witches Museum. We visited the others, but this one was the best one.  Inside was yet another story telling of the famous witch trials. In a large room were a dozen scenic vignettes depicting the story of the Pilgrims progress and flight from persecution in Europe, the trip aboard the Mayflower and the background story leading up to and including the infamous trials. There was no flash photography allowed, so I used high speed film and carefully squeezed the shutter button, holding the camera very still in order to get the shot. I wasn’t always successful as the crowd of people in the room was constantly moving and bumping.

Vignette depicting Witch hanging.
They all had gift shops and every “witchy thing” you could imagine. We thought it was enough that I would be spending an additional $100 on film processing when I got back home instead of buying souvenirs. How many coffee mugs and t-shirts do you really need?  LOL Besides, I shoot a lot of film. This pictures will last long after the t-shirt designs have faded in the wash.

It was about 8:30 pm as we finished our walking tour and window shopping, so we grabbed a bite to eat and gathered with the others by the bus stop waiting transportation for the plane ride home.  It was dark, the old fashioned street lights glowed over the dark red brick streets and sidewalks of this historic town.  We were tired, but excited at having been there, enjoyed the day and been a “witness” (of sorts) to history.  I love to travel but I love to go home too.

ARGH !! Pirate Jim visits Salem near Halloween.
I wish the travel club still existed, but it was absorbed and dismantled when some big conglomerate purchased controlling interest in American Trans Air Airlines. They were the only airline to travel non-stop from Indy to Florida or the Caribbean.  Everybody else stops in Atlanta - bar none.  There’s another ‘transition’ for you.