I’ve been to Salem, MA twice – the first time was on a gloomy, rainy day when I had to fight the wind to keep my umbrella from breaking, and the other on a sunny Sunday afternoon. Given Salem’s history (the 1692-1693 Witch trials!), it’s definitely better to come visit when it’s a bit rainy and misty to add to the city’s mysterious atmosphere 😉
Out of all American cities I’ve been to , Salem’s the only place whose history remains a core element of its present-day identity. But even in Salem, the history demonstrates itself in a true capitalistic fashion – mainly through ‘witch shops’ strategically located on almost every main street corner, selling tongue-in-cheek reminders of the trials – crystal balls, broomsticks, talismans, Pagan jewellery – you name it! Essex St., one of the main shopping streets in Downtown Salem, is full of them – some of them look (and smell!) suspiciously like second-hand shops turned ‘witch stores’ with a help of a few creepy mannequins, witch dolls and magic wands. There’s also a lot of tarot readings centres – I haven’t seen so many of them in one place since I left LA back in May!
However, If you get slightly off the main street you’ll find some really interesting places, like HEX: Old World Witchery. This Witchcraft store has a bit of a dark feel to it, and looks like something from a film! They sell everything from books on herbalism and voodoo to ritual tools, spell kits and wolf hair (!). So if you happen to dabble on the darker side, this place is definitely for you 😉
Another store I really liked was Crow Haven Corner – the oldest witch shop in Salem (which makes you wonder why it’s only 30 years old…you’d think someone would come up with this idea sooner!). The place is owned by a very friendly local lady Lorelei, who also offers Spiritual Readings.
Witch stores aside, I really enjoyed wandering around the town looking at the beautiful historical buildings – there’s a lot of pretty Georgian and Victorian residences, and quite a few houses are directly linked to the Witch trials, for example Sarah Osborne’s house (Sarah was one of the first three women accussed of witchcraft).
But what I found most interesting was that the ‘witch thing’ seems to go beyond the tacky souvenir stores – many locals are genuinely interested and fascinated by the witchcraft and have a very open-minded attitude to religion. I met quite a few people who were practicing Wiccans, and the were all happy to talk about their believes and Salem’s history. There are so many facinating things you can learn just by walking around a city and talking to people, it’s what makes visiting a new place really worthwhile :).
Ps. I almost forgot to mention that if you want to learn a bit more about the Witch Trials, you should visit The Salem Witch Museum!