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Neatolicious Fun Facts: Salem, Massachusetts

In 1692, Salem, Massachusetts became the setting for a series of trials in which 19 people were hanged for the crime of witchcraft. Another was pressed under heavy stones until he died, and at least four others died in prison. Over 300 years later, Salem is a very different place. Although some of the very same buildings survive, the residents of the 17th century would not recognize the town it has become.

1. Beginning in the 1970s, Salem began to actively embrace its past as a draw for tourism. The TV series Bewitched recorded six episodes in the town in 1970. As tourists came, more businesses sprung up to accommodate their interest in witches and witchcraft. Practitioners of Wicca and Neo-Paganism moved to Salem, at first to open businesses and later to be among those who shared the same beliefs and lifestyle. A rift grew between the townspeople who wanted to emphasize the town's historic sites and those who wanted to make money by giving tourists what they want. The controversy came to a head in 2005 when TV Land erected a statue of Samantha Stevens, the lead character of Bewitched, in the town center.

2. Salem has historic sites that have nothing to do with the witch trials. The House of the Seven Gables, also known as the Turner-Ingersoll Mansion, is an actual house built in 1668 that inspired Nathaniel Hawthorne to write his book The House of the Seven Gables. Salem was an important port in the trade with East India, and shipping merchants built lavish mansions in town. One, the Gardner Pingree House, is now owned by the Peabody Essex Museum. Both buildings are among many in Salem that are open for tours.

3. Salem is home to several Wiccan and/or Pagan organizations, like the W.E.B., the Witches Education Bureau; P.R.A.N.C.E., The Pagan Resource and Network Council of Educators; the Witches' League for Public Awareness; and The Witches' Voice.

4. Salem has three museums in which you can learn the history of witchcraft and the famous trials: The Salem Witch Museum, the Witch Dungeon Museum, and the Witch History Museum. These are in addition to several general history and art museums.

5. Salem takes advantage of its reputation with a dizzying schedule of Halloween events. You can watch a recreation of the events that led to the witch trials performed downtown, enjoy the festival of the dead, or listen to scary stories told at various locations everyday through the weeks leading up to Halloween. Every day in October is jammed with witchy events.

Salem is so much more interesting than this article suggests (it makes me think it was written by someone who has never been there). We're so much more than Halloween. I've lived there for ten years and it has great restaurants, unique shops, a fantastic art museum, a national historic site that includes a replica 1798 East Indiaman ship that you can tour among other things. The October events are great, but crowded and the witch museums are a fun dose of camp. Salem: it's not just for October.
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I'm with Huntress. I'm guessing the art museum she's referring to is the Peabody Essex Museum which is a fantastic museum of international art, architecture and culture particularly known for its asian art and culture collection. It's remarkable to find a museum of its breadth and depth outside a major metropolis!
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I grew up in Massachusetts (born & bred) near Salem. It's a nice town/village but pretty touristy. There used to be a Psychiatric Hospital in Danvers up on a hill and everyone always said that that was where the witches has been hung. I believe the hospital was torn down years ago but have no idea what's in it's place since I have moved away. Anyone know?
Side note: A few years ago some idjit decided to do a summoning in the Salem cemetery to try to raise the spirit of one of the women who was hung from the witch trials and had a nasty experience. Apparently the spirit resented the intrusion of her eternal rest...
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I do hope that no city or state money is being used to support Salem. We can't have Government supporting religious activities. That would be unconstitutional.
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Salem is pretty awesome. I went to college there. Dreaded the traffic and tourist downtown (especially the year I lived in the point. talk about a nightmare). Obviously this article is just a breeze through of what the town has to offer, but the down town has great shops that aren't all pagan/tourist traps. AND might I add that the Salem Witch Museum was the biggest waste of money ever. The whole thing was a "show" on the witch trails that featured decrepit wax figures.
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I remember the Salem witch museum when I was a kid. I don't think they've changed a thing on it in decades.

Salem is great. The witch stuff is nonsense, of course, but I love the whole coastline and architecture there.
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Miss Cellania,
Thanks for the update. My aunt was a head nurse at that "hospital" and she quit because she said the entire staff was crazy.Not funny crazy but 'possessed'
crazy. She said it was the scariest place she ever worked. I wonder if the apartments on the land where the hospital now sit are experiencing any paranormal activity...?
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