Saturday, August 20, 2011

Jenkins Family Road Trip Day 11, July 11

Today was the day we visited Salem. I have always been fascinated by the history of Salem, specifically the witch trials, since I first heard about them years ago. We started out with the Salem Witch Museum. Just outside the museum is the impressive statue of the founder of Salem, Roger Conant facing the Salem common.

The Salem Witch Museum is housed in an old church. No pictures were allowed inside, but both Dave and I were impressed with the presentation. We start out in what use to be the sanctuary and is now a sitting area surrounded by dioramas depicting various scenes in the story of the Witch Trials of 1692 where 20 people were killed and more than 180 people accused and imprisoned on charges of witchcraft. All started by some girls showing "symptoms" some experts speculate what they did was out of boredom, basically 17th century mean girls, Puritan style. Other experts also speculate that the girls' symptoms were from a bacteria in wheat flour. I guess no one will know for sure. If you don't know the full story and are interested I recommend reading more information here. There is far too much for me to post here on my blog.

After the presentation on the witch trials and the horrors that were caused by these young girls and the beliefs at that time, we were ushered into another room which I was more than impressed with. They have a new exhibit titled WITCHES: EVOLVING PERCEPTIONS . The exhibit examines the evolution of the word witch and thankfully dispels many myths and misconceptions of the term "witch". Starting with the Celtic Wise woman, who was the local healer of her village and would help with delivery of children, taking care of the ill etc. Enter the early Christian church and for some reason the early church leaders were threatened by these wise women, and instilled fear of Satan and convinced people that these wise women were in league with the devil. Thus the witch hunts began, and unfortunately, though the Salem Witch Trials are famous, hundreds and thousands of people were killed at the hands of the Church, on charges of witchcraft. The exhibit ends with a recorded explanation from modern Wiccans what their religion is really about, and talks about how witch hunts still go on today, just in a different form i.e. Senator McCarthy, aids epidemic.

Afterwards went to see the the Witch Trial Memorial. The memorial is located next to the 17th Century Charter Street Burying Point.. Entering the memorial you will see an inscription of the victims' protests of innocence, which are interrupted mid sentence by the wall, "symbolizing society's indifference to oppression". In the centre are six locust trees, last to flower and first to lose their leaves "represents the stark injustice of the trials". At the rear, you see the wall is "crumbled" and looks out into the burying ground, "a reminder to all who stood mute witness to the hysteria". Along the wall, are 20 stone benches, each bearing the name and execution dates of each victim, in chronological order which they were killed.

Found this tombstone in the old burying ground from one of the original residents of Salem who came across the Mayflower. Totally fascinating.

While walking through Salem we found Daniels St. and we had to get a picture of Daniel standing under the street sign.

Also in Salem is America's oldest candy shop, the YeOlde Pepper Candy Companie The candy shop was started in 1806 by Mrs. Spencer who lost everything in a shipwreck on her way to America with her family, the citizens of Salem decided to help her out knowing she was a candy maker and gave her a barrel of sugar, which led to the Candy Shoppe. You can read the full history here. In the store, they had a huge jar full of Gibraltars, the candy Mrs. Spencer was famous for, the jar was found in the Hawthorne hotel during renovations, they believe the candy was made in the mid-late 1800's. Not sure how good it is now though.

Laura, Amanda and I decided to explore some shops, I was looking for a something special for Laura as an early 16th birthday present, and Dave and Daniel decided to explore the ship "Friendship". This is a replica of the original Friendship . The original ship was built in Salem in 1796 and travelled all around the world carrying all sorts of goods from spices to sugar to coffee. On her last voyage back to Salem, the war of 1812 had begun, but the crew didn't know about the war. They were captured by the British and were surprised to learn that the U.S. was at war with Britain. Friendship was then used by the British for the rest of the war to transport goods and troops. A model of the original ship is also on display at the Peabody Essex Museum .

I like to finish this post off with a couple of photos of Laura and Amanda hunting for shells along the shore in Salem. A beautiful port town as well. Unfortunately we didn't have enough time to see everything we wanted, which means I have to come back to Salem again. Hopefully soon.

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