Day Six or our annual road trip would be our final day in Massachusetts. Though we’d run out of exploration time for Boston, we had two more cities to visit before crossing the state border. After checking out from the our roundhouse hotel that morning, we drove northeast through a maze of highways and disorganized side streets to world-famous Salem, listed in our American history books as a site known for famous trials of considerable controversy. The town’s official tourism literature swears there’s more to Salem than just witches. During our research I got the impression that certain local parties were sick and tired of the whole “witch” debacle and wanted to put it behind them forever. Hard to blame them, all things considered.
To their credit, Salem wasn’t a dull place to wander. Their public parking is affordable, a few local establishments are famous for solid non-witch-based reasons, and public art abounds on every other street corner. A fair number of citizens have done their best to evoke anything but witchcraft and needless executions.
Time travel, for example. Witches don’t do that. Not often, anyway. If they made a habit of time travel, one or more witches surely would have irrevocably tampered with Salem’s history by now and we would all find “witch trials” to be a very confusing word pairing.
The TARDIS was one of several electrical boxes around Salem that were painted as part of the city’s ArtBox project. (We live near an Indiana town that did the same thing, including their own TARDIS, that I should probably share here at some point.) Also starring on a Salem ArtBox: this public-domain distant cousin to Fudgie the Whale.
The oldest authentic municipal building in town is their Old Town Hall, in the middle of Derby Square since the early 1800s. Inside is mostly art, and probably no witches or witch-related accessories.
Remember the part where Salem was around during the Revolution? Salem does. The plaque next to this tree commemorates one fallen soldier of theirs as follows, with the implication being that he was assuredly not a witch:
This liberty tree and plaque were dedicated on Patriots’ Day 1976 to the memory of Benjamin Peirce [sic], a baker, the only Salem Minuteman killed on April 19, 1775 at Menotomy (Arlington). Historic Salem, Inc.
You say you’re into notable religious figures, as long as they’re from religions besides witchcraft? Here’s a statue of Theobald Mathew, a.k.a. Father Mathew,. a notable Catholic friar and one of the most famous Irish non-drinkers ever.
How about that ocean that Salem is somewhat near? This ship welcomes you on behalf of the Salem Maritime National Historic Site, and not on behalf of witches.
Maybe a nod to culture that’s not quite Amerocentric? Behold “Salem’s Gateway to the Far East”, a fountain sculpture in front of East India Square. Granted, the water was a little redundant because it rained all morning and fairly soaked us as we walked around town, but it was objectively serene nonetheless.
Though Salem has a few museums dedicated to the subject of witches, that’s not their only subject matter. Show of hands: who likes pirates? Anyone? Pirates aren’t witches, you know. Totally separate things.
If we’d had an unlimited budget, we might’ve tried entering and perusing. Looking inside their front window, the tickets didn’t seem quite worth it. Note this mural on the side of their building, which I like to imagine is titled “Pirates Desperate to Escape Their Own Exhibit”.
Several local businesses have “Witch” in their names, though not all of them were witchonymous. A few standouts set themselves apart from the pack and used their imaginations to brainstorm other namesakes. With mixed results. Because culture.
(At least it has nothing to do with witches.)
One of the best signs of all that is good in the world was this giant-sized sundae. And only one kind of person would make a sundae this size: an utter genius. Or, one could argue, a witch who casts an enlargement spell on an ordinary sundae.
To be continued! In our next installment: all the witch stuff.
[Link enclosed here to handy checklist for previous and future chapters, and for our complete road trip history to date. Thanks for reading!]