Whitney Lauritsen celebrates Halloween by sharing fond memories of her Salem trip, diving deep into the city’s curious yet wicked history. She shares how she fought anxiety to attend a Halloween costume party, gave in to FOMO to check out tourist stores and restaurants, and watched Hocus Pocus to feel like a child all over again. Whitney also pulls up some historical resources and falls into a rabbit hole about the Salem Witch Trials and the region’s haunting origins. She connects these horrifying events to her personal struggles, as well as their impact on current social issues such as discrimination, racism, and capital punishment.
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Haunted Happenings: A Trip Through Salem’s Wicked History
Now happens to be Halloween on the show. I don’t go out of my way to do themed episodes as I did at the beginning. In the first year of the show, when Jason was the cohost with me, we tried doing all these thematic episodes. If you go back, probably in the first 100 episodes, we will pull up a calendar, and we pick random days of the month or the year and talk about it. I remember sometimes it would be fun, and sometimes it would be lame.
I was looking at the upcoming episodes, and I thought, “I will talk about my experience in Salem, Massachusetts, for this episode.” I went there on October 5th, 2022, and I’m recording on the 6th of October, 2022. I’m batching some episodes before I leave for my next cross-country trip back to Los Angeles. I have been wanting to go to Salem, Massachusetts, for quite some time, and growing up in Massachusetts is a big surprise that I had never been there.
It is one of those places I feel like I might have been and don’t remember. Although that seemed implausible given that it has such a big cultural story behind it. It is interesting to go somewhere historical and experience it in contrast to what your beliefs are around. You go with preconceived notions, or at least I did. I think of Salem as this town where the witch trials happened and thought maybe it would be spooky.
I’m going to share with you a little bit behind the scenes of what it was like for me and maybe talk about the history of Salem because going there inspired me to look it up. In real-time, I’m going to pull up some data if you have not ever looked it up yourself, you don’t remember beyond school, associate it with movies like Hocus Pocus, or any witch-related content out there.
Watching Hocus Pocus
Speaking of Hocus Pocus, that is part of my story here and a sweet part of it because Hocus Pocus 2 came out at the end of September 2022. I felt more compelled to watch it than I thought I was going to. I like Sarah Jessica Parker. I find her an interesting actress to watch. I like Disney. I don’t necessarily go out of my way to watch Disney movies or shows. I’m not like a Disney adult. Not that there is anything wrong with that but it is a subtle interest of mine, not like some people who get passionate about Disney. I don’t put myself in that bucket.
The marketing perhaps was decent for Hocus Pocus 2 and it made me want to see it. I had made plans to go to Salem with my friend who lives in Massachusetts named Elizabeth. She was a guest on this show. She and I met through being vegan keto eaters. That is the way I have been eating for a long time. I still dabble in the keto diet, and both of us have written cookbooks on vegan ketogenic foods. She came on the show and it is one of my favorite episodes if you want to read it. It also happens to be one of the most popular episodes of the show that I have ever done. You can get a feel for what Elizabeth is like and what our friendship is like.
We met for the first time in Massachusetts, also in another historical area because Massachusetts has so much history and places you can go to experience history and learn about it. We were walking through Concord. It might have been Lexington but somewhere around there. There are all these trails that you can walk on, see these old buildings, and be part of the beautiful nature around there. That was the first time we met in person. Since then, we have been to Walden Pond. We went there in 2021. Doing historical Massachusetts things has been part of our friendship.
However, another thing that we did in 2022 was to watch both Hocus Pocus movies, and we did them backward. We got together a few days ago. She came over to my parent’s house. We set up my sister’s projector, which is awesome. I became obsessed with this projector. It’s a little mini portable projector that you can project any media onto any surface, although it works well when it is in a dark space. It is not good when there is light out. We figured this out because we started trying to watch Hocus Pocus 2 at 3:00 in the afternoon. We had to cover the windows in the room that we were in, my childhood bedroom specifically because the light impacted the projector.
If you are thinking about getting a projector, I highly recommend doing some research because that was the only drawback to this one I have, which I think is Kodak. Aside from that little challenge, it’s an awesome little device. It is tiny. It is a different shape than a phone, but maybe like a mini hard drive is a good way to describe it. It is square, lightweight, and designed to be able to bring anywhere with you. The battery life, I heard, isn’t great so I always plug it in.
We set it up. I put up an old white sheet, hung it up on the wall, and we projected Hocus Pocus 2 onto there. It was so much fun. My childhood bedroom had two twin beds in it. Elizabeth laid on one and I laid on another. We had a bowl of vegan keto candy. We made it to feel as if we had returned from trick or treating. We were intentional about this. We had our favorite, which is Evolved Chocolate. Their new white chocolate brownie butter cups are to die for.
I’m being particular about my language here to make it Halloween-themed. I wish this episode were coming out pre-Halloween because that is a big recommendation I would have to pass out or enjoy. If you want to have some Halloween festivities, this is a candy that I would highly recommend, but I eat it year-round. I love Evolved’s Hazelnut Butter Cups. All of this stuff is great and the fact that it is low sugar is incredible. I think they might use monk fruit, but I’m not 100% sure. It is well formulated.
We also had a plethora of items I brought back from the Natural Products Expo, which I did a whole separate episode of the show. I can’t remember all of the other brands, but they may come to me. It was fun like adults hanging out and watching a Disney movie in a childhood bedroom with a projector and a bowl of delicious plant-based low-sugar candy and treats.
It was awesome and that was nourishing. Maybe I will inspire you to do something similar. You don’t even have to have kids or be around children to have that child-like experience. We loved Hocus Pocus 2. I was amazed. If you have been on the fence about watching it, it is worth the shot. There have been mixed reactions to it and I can see why. It is certainly not like the original.
Speaking of the original, we ended up watching the original as part of our Salem experience, which I will get to later on in this episode. After watching the contrast between Hocus Pocus 2 and the original Hocus Pocus, which came out in 1993, I can’t believe it has been that long because I distinctly remember it as a kid. Hocus Pocus, the original, is a better film but Hocus Pocus 2 was funny. It had a great pace. It was enjoyable.
The biggest disappointment is that it wasn’t filmed in Salem like the original. It was filmed in Rhode Island. I guess they did that because the director preferred Rhode Island for some reason. I don’t know if I mentioned this in a previous episode, but I want to mention now, speaking of Rhode Island, that in Providence, there is a phenomenal vegan restaurant called Plant City that I went to, and it blew my mind. If I have mentioned it before, it is worth mentioning it again because it is one of the best restaurants I have been out to on the East Coast.
After we watched Hocus Pocus 2, we planned out our day to go to Salem. It happened to be a very rainy day, which was completely fine because it was still on the warm side. I didn’t have to completely bundle up. I did get to wear my new favorite shoes. Another plug and it is not sponsored, but maybe I will use an affiliate link for Vessi. I got this shoe brand because I kept seeing ads for it on TikTok and throughout social media.
They are 100% waterproof shoes, all vegan. They look pretty cool. I got a pair of them and have worn them off and on. I now look forward to it when it is raining because I feel cool walking around in my waterproof shoes, and they are black. They match this fall-Halloween style outfit I had with maroon pants and a black shirt. I didn’t wear much else to dress up. I’m not a big costume person.
Elizabeth asked me about some of my favorite Halloween outfits or what I like to dress up on. I realized that Halloween gives me anxiety because I never have a great idea for a costume, but I want to. There is almost a FOMO feeling that I get with Halloween, where I feel all this pressure to find a cool outfit, but it is too much for me. My brain does not work well in that context. The years that I have tried hard to come up with a cool Halloween costume have felt frustrating. My creativity does not span clothing.
I look back on all the weird stuff I have put on. There have been some huge failures a few years ago. It was 2019. I got together with a few friends. One of my friends did my face makeup and it looked awful. It was not her fault whatsoever. It was mine. I showed some references and we didn’t have the right colors. I didn’t even realize how bad the face makeup looked until I looked back on the pictures. I was mortified.
That’s part of it too. Not only do I struggle to come up with a cool costume, but when I see photos of what I look like, I experience shame. It has been almost traumatizing. Halloween would feel best for me if somebody else could pick out a cool look for me and do it all fine, but maybe moving forward, I’m not going to try.
There is also that pressure, for me, at least. If you are invited to a Halloween party, there is part of me that is like, “That sounds fun.” I want to go to a Halloween party but walking in there and having everyone ask, “What is your costume?” Everyone is comparing their costumes to each other. Who is wearing the best ones? There is all that competition. You feel that pressure to find something and you don’t feel satisfied with what you picked out.Going to Halloween parties almost feels like a competition. Everyone compares costumes with one another to determine the best ones. Click To Tweet
All of that sounds awful the more I describe it. I’m hoping that I don’t get invited to anything Halloween-related, but there is that FOMO. Even as I shared that out loud, I’m thinking to myself, “Halloween parties sound fun.” If you didn’t know this about me, I don’t like parties that much in general because I get bored quickly or I get anxious. I haven’t fully been able to identify my emotions yet.
Generally, I like the idea of a party more than I like going. I will show up, walk around whatever space I’m in, and be ready to leave in 5 or 10 minutes. I often end up going to parties with people that want to stay much longer than me. I will stay longer for them but feel unhappy or I’m trying to fake being happy. The small talk at parties is awful. I will sprinkle in more Halloween memories as positively as possible.
Going back to Salem, there was this one girl walking around with incredible pants. She said she got them from Target. Now that I’m talking this through, I could see myself going to Target to get these pants and make them my Halloween outfit if I do end up doing anything else Halloween-related. They were these black pants with metallic orange pumpkin designs on them. They were super flattering, at least on her body. She was wearing tall black boots with them. We ended up going to talk to her underneath the umbrella that she was carrying around in the rain. She had this cool witch hat on, and she looked cool.
There were a number of different people that were semi-dressed up, but because it’s early October, we didn’t see the full Halloween experience in Salem. Apparently, as it gets closer to Halloween, Salem becomes crowded and festive. Even that, I kept thinking. I like the energy of a big holiday experience like that, but the overwhelmed I feel from crowds is intense.
Salem’s Halloween Spirit
That was something interesting about being in Salem this time of year, which is starting October 1st to the end of October every year, Salem has October happenings or something like that. The whole city starts to shift into the Halloween spirit and they set up lines to get into the stores. I don’t know if this is a pandemic thing or if it was a space-related thing, but in many of the stores in Salem, you had to wait in line to go inside and look around.
In general, I don’t love super touristy shops, but I also felt the pressure to experience some of that, which is interesting. I feel this when I travel anywhere where I want to go into the stores and consider buying something. Even though I don’t need it or want anything, it feels like part of the travel experience. I went into a “witchy” store that had all sorts of themes and spiritual things.
Elizabeth and I were laughing because we both subscribed to the Goddess Provisions box. We said, “It feels like a Goddess Provisions store.” They have crystals, aromatherapy and herbs, and all sorts of cute things to put around your house.” In hindsight, I’m like, “Subscribe to Goddess Provisions so you do not need to go into one of these stores, and it probably would save you a lot of money.”
The store was cool. A lot of them have neat decorations inside. If you go off the Beaten Path in Salem, much like any other tourist city, there are stores that are less expensive and have less touristy feeling trinkets and odds and ends to get. There were some cool clothing stores we went into. I felt tempted to buy some items, but I’m trying not to overbuy things. Not because I’m traveling, but becoming aware of how I’m spending my money and what things I’m accumulating. I left Salem without purchasing anything beyond a meal.
I didn’t even purchase that because Elizabeth wanted to treat me to a meal at one of our favorite Massachusetts restaurants called Life Alive. I haven’t been to that restaurant in so long. It was neat because they have almost the exact same menu from what I remember. The atmosphere doesn’t seem like it has changed. I have never been to the one in Salem, but they have a few locations across Eastern Massachusetts.
It is a lovely health-forward restaurant with dishes for pretty much any health desire or dietary preferences and needs, vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free, nut-free, and maybe even soy free, I’m not sure. They have all these delicious bowls, salads, and coffee drinks. They have a laid-back atmosphere. It reminds me a lot of Cafe Gratitude for those of you who have been to one of those restaurants. They got great formulations. They put a lot of intention into their meals, and it is also relaxed.
Cafe Gratitude isn’t quite like that. For those who don’t know what Cafe Gratitude is, it is a well-known restaurant in California. They have locations in Los Angeles. I don’t know if they still have them in San Francisco, but that is where the restaurant started. It was known as this hippie raw food restaurant. Now it has become this high-end posh Los Angeles vegan restaurant.
You feel like you almost have to dress to impress there. That is how I feel. You are not supposed to because Cafe Gratitude is meant to be this organic, natural, everyone’s accepted type of atmosphere, but to contrast that to Life Alive, which feels that way. Everyone is keeping to themselves in Life Alive. It is not a see-and-be-seen place.
Cafe Gratitude has felt to me in Los Angeles. You want to show up looking your best because you never know who you are going to run into there type of feeling, which also gives me anxiety. That is why I haven’t been there in so long. Life Alive was a nice experience. They have this bowl I have been getting for several years. I went there a lot in 2012, now that I think about it. It is called the Swami Bowl, and it has got curry rice and raisins in it. They usually put almonds in, but I didn’t get any almonds. It got broccoli and carrots. I added some avocado. It got this delicious dressing that is perfectly balanced. I have tried to make it at home, but I haven’t been able to replicate it.
It was neat to go there with Elizabeth because rice is not considered keto, but both of us are mindful, as we talked about in the episode we did together. We are not incredibly strict. Elizabeth is more focused on the keto diet than I am right now in my life, but she still eats rice and will have other high-carb foods. I remember when I first met her that that was such a relieving experience because someone who has created a whole career around vegan keto to know that she doesn’t eat super strict was relieving to me. I tend to feel pressure around other people about how I eat. To have that relaxing, accepting vibe around food was nice.
Before we went to Salem, we were in a different part of Massachusetts that day for lunch called West Concord. It is one of my favorite places to visit. It is not too far from where my parents live or where Elizabeth lives. There is this lovely market called Debra’s Natural Gourmet. They expanded their space to open up this wonderful deli. They always had a deli, but this is now in its own building. They have indoor seating and even more options than they used to. They have phenomenal soups, salads, sushi, and baked goods.
We met up there. I got this immunity soup, a kale salad, and a tika masala tofu bowl which was unbelievable. That is about an hour’s drive from Salem. If you’re thinking about going to Salem at some point, it might not make sense for the itinerary, but I highly recommend checking out Debra’s sometimes when you are in Massachusetts. If you live here and have never been there, it is a must-go if you like natural foods as I do.
We go to Life Alive, sit by the window, watching the rain come down where people watching inside the restaurant is lovely. We left and we walked around. There are all these brick buildings, and the streets were cobblestone, but I’m not even 100% sure. It feels like an old city. It feels historical and not in a fake way. They have retained so much. Some of the buildings from the 1600s are still standing. There are old cemeteries. They did a nice job of incorporating touristy things. There are tours, museums, and gift shops, but they were well integrated into the city, which was nice.
We didn’t realize this. Because of the timing of our meal at Life Alive, we missed the opportunity to go into some of the museums before they closed. This is another piece of advice. A lot of stores and museums close by 5:00 or 6:00 PM. We wanted to be there at night to experience the nighttime feel of the city, but there is not much going on after 6:00 PM there, at least not that early in the month of October.
That was a slight letdown. However, we decided to watch the original Hocus Pocus movie in my car while parked on a side street next to the big Salem Park. I don’t know if that is the right term for it, but I will pull it up when I get to the historical side of Salem. My car has a huge screen in it with a connection to Disney+.
If you want to know the technical details of how it works, you can tether the internet from your phone. You turn on your personal hotspot from your phone and it connects to my car. There is a Disney+ integration with my car, which is cool. We sat in there. We brought more snacks. We had the Evolved Cups again. She bought some of the Catalina Crunch Cookies, which are like an Oreo cookie, but vegan and keto. We sat in the car and snacked away again. We brought some blankets and pillows and made another cozy experience while the rain is coming down and people are walking by. That was a neat time.
Speaking of parking, I always loved to give insight into that. I was surprised because when we watched the movie, we moved out of the paid parking lot, which was not expensive. It was $1.25 an hour to park there. We moved the car and we found a free parking space. Word to the wise. If you are trying to understand Salem, I don’t know if you have to pay for parking in a lot as we did originally. Parking was quite easy. Getting around there was easy. There was a little bit of traffic earlier in the evening and there was a surprising amount of people walking around.
I thought early October, it was a Wednesday rainy day that there weren’t going to be a lot of people around, but there certainly were. It was surprising and I can’t even imagine what a night on the weekend or closer to Halloween would be like. I had a lovely time. My only regret is that I would have loved to have gone into the Salem Witch Museum. Elizabeth has been in there. She said they have animatronics. They recreate some of the history of the witches and the trials through the animatronics. That sounded intriguing.
They also have another museum there called the Peabody Essex Museum, which looks appealing. You can even see some of the buildings from Hocus Pocus if you walk around. We passed by the house from that movie, and that was cool to see. Other than that, I feel like there is still a lot to explore. I’m considering my time there to be my first time, not my only time.
I’m going to pull up some Salem historical information and I will start on their website. Salem.org is the official website. They have a history section. It is cool. It is laid out at the top of the website through the different years. They have the 1600s, 1700s, 1800s, 1900s, and 2000s. Salem was founded in 1626 by a group of immigrants from Cape Ann. The settlement was first titled Naumkeag. The settlers preferred to call it Salem, which is derived from the Hebrew word for peace. I did not know that, and that is interesting.
The First Congregational Society was founded by Puritan Pioneers in 1629. In 1637, the first Salem ship sale to the West Indies. It went to trade salted cod. I have never been that into history, but looking back, this is so long ago, and it is wild. Their first cemetery, which was the one that I went to, was built in 1637. That cemetery was interesting because it had all of these markings on the outside of it from some of the people that were hanged in these trials. Let’s get to that interesting history.
Salem Witch Trials
The Salem Witch Trials began in 1692, which is the event that Salem is most known. It was only in three months’ time that 19 innocent people, 14 women and 5 men, were hanged, and one man was pressed to death. At this time, the courts believed in the devil’s spectral evidence in a teenage girl. These trials ended when a governor disbanded the court after his wife was accused of being a witch herself. Even this terminology witch fascinates me.
There is a whole separate section on this website I’m going to go to. I want to better understand what that is meant exactly because when you watch a movie like Hocus Pocus, the exaggerated media versions of what a witch is. When I mention something like Goddess Provisions, people use terms like witchy, it is seen almost in a positive way. I perceive it to be the spiritual side of it, the Earth connection, and the appreciation for taking care of ourselves. I’m fascinated by how the costume version of a witch, and there is the spiritual side of being witchy, witch-like, or interested in all this. We have movies like The Craft, which was one of my favorite movies growing up. I was so drawn to the magical side of it, like having powers and casting spells.
One thing I’m looking for now as I go through the history of Salem is what exactly was a witch back then. In January 1692, the daughter and niece of Reverend Samuel Parris became ill and the village doctor was called in. His diagnosis of bewitchment put into motion the forces that would ultimately result in the hanging deaths of these people I mentioned. Some people also died in prison and the lives of many were changed for good.
I’m reading all of this from the Salem.org website. To understand the events of the Salem Witch Trials, it is necessary to examine the times in which accusations of witchcraft occurred. There were the ordinary stresses of 17th-century life in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. A strong belief in the devil fractions among Salem Village families and rivalry with nearby Salem Town combined with a recent smallpox epidemic and the threat of attack by warring tribes created a fertile ground for fear and suspicion.
Perhaps this is why this feels interesting because here we are in a pandemic time. We have all sorts of wars going on and rivalries. A lot of this stuff is still happening in its own way. It doesn’t feel that far off. I would be willing to bet if I thought about this long enough or did some research that we have our version of our witch trials happening as we live. This is part of where history helps us understand what’s happening in life right now.Understanding history helps us understand what is happening in life right now. Click To Tweet
As I was saying that this terminology about witches has changed over time and has a whole different meaning. I want to make sure that my understanding of what happened in the 1600s is not my current-day understanding. Going back to the history on this website, prisons were full of people that were tormented as the cause of their pain.
One hundred fifty men and women were in these prisons and awaiting trial for a crime punishable by death, which was the practice of witchcraft. I don’t even know how they are defining witchcraft. Let’s see if they get into this, but Bridget Bishop of Salem was found guilty and hanged on June 10th, 1962, and then 13 women and 5 men from all stations of life followed her to the gallows on 3 successive hanging days. This is such a short period of time.
The belief in the power of the accused to use their invisible shapes of specs to torture their victims had sealed the fates of those tried by the court. The new court released those awaiting trial and part in those awaiting executions, and in fact, the Salem Witch Trials were over. If I would have guessed before reading this, I thought that this went on way longer. It also shows how horrific things can happen in such a short period of time. Here’s an example of more current-day history.
The parallels between the Salem Witch Trials and more modern examples of witch hunting, like the McCarthy hearings of the 1950s, are remarkable. As years passed, apologies were offered and restitution was made to the victim’s families. Historians and sociologists have examined this most complex episode in our history so that we may understand the issues of that era and view the subsequent event with heightened awareness.
Salem.org links to another website, SalemWitchMuseum.com, which talks about what a witch hunt is. When studying the history of witchcraft, it is important to understand that witchcraft was a crime created and imposed on innocent people. No individual had the power to cause hail storms, spread mass disease or fly through the night to a gathering of evil beings. This was a crime imposed on innocent people during times of mass fear in hysteria. While the legal prosecution of witchcraft came to an end in the 18th century, the pattern of behavior that caused witch hunts can be identified throughout history and in the modern day. This is fascinating to me.
The formula that they used is fear plus a trigger equals a scapegoat. A scapegoat is defined as a person who is unfairly or irrationally the object of blame. If you go to the Salem Witch Museum, and this was the one that I wanted to go to, they have a mission to give the public a voice to interact with the concept of a witch hunt.
You can go to this website. It is highly recommended because this is well laid out, and it gets into all of the details of the history of how all this worked back then. The website goes into a little bit more detail. I mentioned how this daughter suddenly fell ill in 1962. There was a daughter and a niece. Both of them were making these sounds, hiding under furniture and clutching their heads. These symptoms were alarming and astonishing to their parents and neighbors. When neither prayer nor medicine succeeded in alleviating the girl’s agony, the worried parents turned to the only other explanation that they were suffering the effects of witchcraft.
Isn’t that interesting how human beings have such a desire to explain things? It feels like the opposite often happens, or at least in my experience, where if a doctor and medicine can’t heal something, it often goes ignored. I have struggled a lot with this for my health. So much of my food sensitivities, for example, I haven’t been able to get answers. I haven’t even been able to figure it out myself. I end up silently suffering, feeling frustrated or ignoring it, wondering if something is in my head. My sleep issues, too, I haven’t found a resolution to them.
If I were living in a different time, would my unexplained symptoms be seen as something awful like witchcraft? I’m going to have to reflect on this more because, at this moment, I can’t think of how we might do something more related to that. We do certainly cast a lot of judgment on people that we don’t understand. We prosecute them in ways of making them outcasts or we harm people.
If we look at racism, for example, we treat people differently based on the color of their skin. It is still happening as much as we want to believe or hope that it isn’t. There are still awful crimes happening, and marginalized communities, in general, are still suffering every single day and are targeted because of the way that they look and the communities that they are from. It is not just a race issue. There are religious, ableism, homophobia, and on and on people that anybody can put in a bucket as being different, being treated differently, and being treated poorly.
The connection that I can make here is there is a human tendency to want to explain something badly, and if we can’t find an answer, we are going to ignore somebody or treat them worse. If it is not explainable, the name must have brought it upon themselves or they must have something deeply wrong with them and we have to get rid of it. Also, looking at the holocaust. I’m not an expert on that but when I summarize it, I see how some people wanted to rid the world of somebody or a group of people that were different than them. The hope is that if we get rid of them, we can all be the same and we can create more purity.When humans cannot find a definite answer to something, they either ignore somebody or treat them worse. If it is not explainable, they are considered in the wrong and must be gotten rid of. Click To Tweet
Purity culture was so big in Massachusetts and in some ways still is. This desire to try to rid the world of something that scares us is upsetting when you break it down. I’m going to go back to the website and see what else I can gather from it. The lessons that I can continue to process. What I’m also finding on this website that is interesting to me is the ripple effect and the length in which the apologies over these witch trials were carried out. Those started in 1697 and have continued to fairly recent times. It documents how a resolution was passed in 1711. Twelve years later, people were pardoned.
In 2001, five of the missing names were added to this resolve, formally declaring innocence of them. One last name was missed in that resolution. They still have not formally cleared the name of this woman, Elizabeth Johnson Jr., as of now, which is interesting. All this time has passed. We are still learning and apologizing. It shows how things carry on for so long. They might not be right in our faces, but they are still a big part of our society.
This museum, where I’m reading this information from, was founded during Salem’s push to redevelop its core. The market itself is a city of unique historical importance. It was developed in the 1960s. Public interest in Salem’s connection to the witch trials was piqued by The Crucible. That was one of the references I was trying to think of earlier.
However, fascination with everything related to witches and witchcraft increased dramatically after several episodes of the sitcom, Bewitched. I didn’t realize that show was filmed at various locations throughout Salem. They have a statue of Elizabeth Montgomery, who is the star of that show. In Salem, There is a big statue of her there. The museum was founded shortly after that show to educate the public about the 1692 trials. They are aiming to be the voice of innocent victims from 1692 to the present day.
More Salem Tidbits
Here are a few more tidbits about Salem from the Salem.org website. They have an FAQ here that I find interesting. Number one, did the Salem witch trials happen in modern-day Salem or Danvers, Massachusetts? This is something my friend Elizabeth was sharing with me. The witchcraft hysteria of 1692 happened throughout the region of this area, with accused and accusers coming from various different communities. Salem Village is now the Town of Danvers, Massachusetts. Some of the sites associated with the trials and hysteria are located there.
Salem Town, which is modern-day Salem, is where the trials took place, as well as the hangings and the pressing of that one person. That person I’m interested in too. Why were some people hung and this one person pressed? I don’t know if this will be on the FAQ page, but that’s horrific. I also thought that some people were burned. In various TV shows and movies about witches, they will show them being burned up at the stake or something. That didn’t happen with these witch trials. It was just through the hanging.
Can you imagine? This is something that I try to wrap my head around, and it is morbid, but living in a time where the communities would come together to watch things like this is disturbing to me. I can’t imagine going to public execution, and that still happens nowadays. I don’t know if anybody can go to them, but we still have the death penalty and there are those rooms where people can go watch somebody. I don’t know if they use the electric chair anymore. I think they inject the prisoners with that.
That is awful to me if that still happens. The death penalty is an issue that is still widely debated, and it’s a complex thing. Does somebody deserve to receive the death penalty? Each state in the US handles it differently. That is something else I would like to learn about because it is more complex than making a knee-jerk judgment on it.The death penalty is still a widely-debated issue. It is more complex than just making a knee-jerk judgment. Click To Tweet
Going back to the witch trial FAQ. How was the practice of witchcraft viewed in 17th-century New England? Under British Law, the basis for Massachusetts Bay colony legal structure in the 17th century, those who were accused of consorting with the devil were considered felons having committed a crime against their government. The punishment for such a crime was hanging.
What is the difference between afflicted and accused? Afflicted were people who were supposedly possessed and tormented. It was they who accused or cried out the names of those who were supposedly possessing them whereas only women were accused of practicing witchcraft. Men were accused as well. Five men were convicted and hanged, and one man, Giles Corey, was pressed to death for refusing to cooperate with the court. I’m still fascinated with the idea of pressing someone to death. It is disturbing.
There was a practice of swimming a witch used in Europe and Connecticut, but not in Salem, Massachusetts. This goes beyond. Other states and countries were also determining people as witches. Here is the burned-at-the-stake point. Burning at stake was a punishment for hearsay, a crime against the church in Europe. Witchcraft was a felony in the colonies, a crime against the government.
Beyond The Witch Trials
There you have it. The details about the witch trials. There is more to Salem than that. If you go again to the Salem.org website, there are all sorts of things that happened in the 1700s, like the Armed Resistance and the Friendship, which was the name of a boat, and the Peabody Essex Museum that I mentioned. That was founded in 1799. It is the oldest continually operated museum in the country.
That museum looked cool. It was very modern on the outside and seemed to have some interesting exhibits inside of it. Over time, my interest in history has evolved. My road trips have brought it out of me because I go across the country and wonder, “What happened here? Why are the people like this here? Why do the buildings look like this? What is the difference between this area and that area?” It is fascinating. Taking the time to learn a little bit of history can be enlightening.
In the 1800s, one of the big parts of Salem’s history was the book, The Scarlet Letter, which was published by Nathaniel Hawthorne. That book is also interesting. I read that in high school. Another novel called The House of the Seven Gables was inspired by an actual mansion that has become one of the most famous historical houses in America. I walked by that. The buildings in Salem were also quite interesting.
In 1877, the first public demonstration of a long-distance phone conversation was held in Salem. There is history about the 1900s. It is interesting when you get to that. You were like, “That wasn’t that long ago.” The Haunted Happenings is the name of the time of year that’s going on right now. That is all of October there. That started in 1982. They are celebrating its 40th anniversary in 2022. It is the largest celebration of Halloween in the world, and they welcome more than 500,000 visitors to parties, parades, vendor fairs, and walking towards museums, attractions, and special events.
I guess I experienced that without even fully recognizing it. I knew that October would be a fun time to go there, but I did not realize quite the context. For example, I saw the Salem Psychic Fair, which was interesting, to say the least. I don’t know how much was represented in it on October 5th, but it was inside this Witch Mall. I forget what that mall was called. It was called the Witch Mall or something. It’s a super old outdated mall with a few touristy gift shops, restaurants, and an old movie theater. There is parking there. That is why I was even in this mall.
I felt run down and surprised by it. Out of everything I experienced at Salem, this bizarre, creepy, and unpleasant, not like a witchy creepy, but dirty and run down. There was the psychic fair in there with all these little tables and psychics sitting around. It did not appeal to me because the atmosphere was not nice. If you are interested in haunted happenings or any other part of Salem, they have good websites with guides to the city and all this history that I have been reading. Even Hocus Pocus is listed on this website as part of its history. You can go through it and learn all about it.
There are multiple vegan places there. Life Alive is a staple for me, but there were many other places to choose from. There is even a vegan bakery there that looks cool. I did not have a chance to go in because they were closed. I highly recommend going there earlier in the day. That was a mistake I made because you have more of a chance to experience things before it all closes down. I did go to a nice bookshop. It was called Wicked Good. That was a phenomenal name because wicked is a word that many of us in Massachusetts use. It is also perfect for Salem.
I wonder what the history of the term wicked is. When I was growing up, that was a word I would use to describe things like wicked good. It was a phrase that I trained myself to stop saying because outside of Massachusetts, people would make fun of me for saying wicked good. I wonder if there is any historical context to the word wicked. Maybe like Urban Dictionary will give me an explanation.
It is Boston slang. Boston Magazine coming in. Where Did the Word Wicked Come From and Who Popularized it in Boston and New England? Somebody wrote in this question and asked, “I grew up saying wicked as a synonym for very or extremely, which clearly means awesome. It has been around forever. Where did it come from?”
There is a long answer here, but I will summarize it. In 1942, the former mayor had something to do with it. His campaign was crippled by his torrid affair with Margaret Hamilton, who had the role of the Wicked Witch of the West in the Wizard of Oz. Somebody referred to this mayor as the wicked man who has become wicked good, and the rest is local slang history.
That is not very exciting. This person tried to do all this research to find if the use of wicked for good had further context, but it was usually used to describe something as bad, and that dates back to the 13th century. It was perhaps an alteration of the Middle English Wicke or the old English Wicca. The Dictionary’s website posits that the modern incarnation may stem from the old practice of crediting an intense quality to a curse or supernatural force. One weird rumor is that Salem City officials devised the usage to promote tourism, turning the word’s meaning around to transform the Burg’s witch trial reputation.
They also credit it to the Oscar-winning movie Good Will Hunting. I remember them using the word wicked, Matt Damon and Ben Affleck. SNL did some sketches. SNL sketch for Dunkin Donuts, which is a big Massachusetts staple. It is fascinating. This is an episode full of Massachusetts history. All that to say, the bookstore Wicked Good was pleasant to visit. There are candy shops there that were also closed. I was sad I didn’t get to go in there.
I also want to mention the hotels look awesome and they have camping. It is a little too close for me to justify camping, but there is a park there that, apparently, you can go camping at. That could be neat too. There is a lot to do. At the very least, it’s a beautiful little town to walk around. You don’t have to do anything witch-hunt-related to enjoy this area.
With all that said, I hope you enjoyed this slightly Halloween-themed episode. If you do celebrate Halloween, do anything fun. If you already did it and are reading this episode after Halloween and you feel like sharing anything, I like to hear it. I’d love to hear if you have been to Salem and you are interested in history. Did you spend any time in Massachusetts and also start saying, “Wicked?” Whatever the context, I love hearing from you. Please send me a message via email, direct message, or my private community, Beyond Measure. I would love to connect with you more, get to know you, and hear your stories too.
Stay tuned. There are lots of great episodes coming up. The next episode after this is an interesting one about mother-daughter relationships. I have many other guests queued up beyond. I hope you tune in and subscribe to this show. If you go into Apple Podcast, you can leave a review and a star rating. That is much appreciated and something I rarely even think to mention. If you have been enjoying this show beyond connecting with me, giving the show a rating is much appreciated to help other people discover it. Lastly, I love hearing from you in terms of getting ideas for future episodes, topics you want me to cover, subject matter, or styles. Whatever feedback you like to give me for this show, I want to hear it. I hope you have a wicked good rest of your day, and I will be back. Bye until then.
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- Life Alive
- Cafe Gratitude
- Debra’s Natural Gourmet
- Salem Witch Trials
- The Scarlet Letter
- The House of the Seven Gables
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- Salem Psychic Fair
- Wicked Good
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