Friday, November 5, 2010

The Salem Witch Museum

Fall is my favorite season, especially in Boston. There is no more hot, humid summer weather, the leaves are changing colors, and fireplaces are roaring. People are breaking out their Ugg boots and Northface jackets to brave the cold they know is coming. Boston natives are preparing for Halloween, drinking apple cider and hot cocoa, and doing lots of things around the city they wait all year for.

While there are many fun activities to do in Boston during the fall, my favorite place resides just north of the city in Salem, Massachusetts. Known for its spooky activities in October and home to the infamous Salem witch trials, the town sponsors what they call Haunted Happenings each year. There are museums to visit, historic homes to see, ghost tours, costume balls and dances, a carnival, tons of stores to shop in, and great places to eat. It is a fun place to visit for adults and children alike, especially in October.

One of the most famous museums in Salem is the Salem Witch Museum. It is the most visited and most photographed museum in Salem, and takes visitors back to 1692 when the actual witch trials were taking place. Visitors are given a dramatic history lesson using stage sets with life-size figures, lighting and a narration. Their other exhibit, Witches: Evolving Perceptions, opened in July 1999, and examines the stereotypical witch, aspects of witchcraft in the 17th century, modern witchcraft and the phenomenon of witch hunts.

After a historically accurate look at the Salem Witch Trials in the main exhibit, visitors are invited to challenge their beliefs about the word “witch." “WITCHES: Evolving Perceptions” traces the evolution of the stereotypical witch and presents the beliefs of Wicca as they are practiced today. How does a witch-hunt start? An analysis of the components allows visitors to see for themselves how fear can lead to scape-goating. Examples of modern witch-hunts make “WITCHES” a thought-provoking conclusion to a visit to the Salem Witch Museum.

Admission is $8.50 for adults, $7.00 for senior citizens, and $5.50 for children ages 6-14. Generally open 10 am to 5 pm, they have extended hours for the month of October, staying open until 10 pm on weekends and midnight on Halloween.

Their website provides a brief background of the witch trials and how they transpired over 300 years ago. “In January of 1692, the daughter and niece of Reverend Samuel Parris of Salem Village became ill. When they failed to improve, the village doctor, William Griggs, was called in. His diagnosis of bewitchment put into motion the forces that would ultimately result in the death by hanging of nineteen men and women. In addition, one man was crushed to death; seven others died in prison, and the lives of many were irrevocably changed.”

During the roughly half hour show, visitors sit in a dark room, where there are life-size figures and different settings all around them. For each part of the story being narrated, a new set will light up and show a dramatization of what actually happened. There are different voices used, and can be a bit frightening for younger children with the talk of the devil and girls screaming at some points. There is also a large red circle in the middle of the floor with the names of the 19 people who were hanged during the witch trials going around it.

The Salem Witch Museum can be accessed by bus, train, or car. It is only about a half hour or 45 minutes from Boston.

·By Bus from Boston - From Haymarket, take #450 or #455 to downtown Salem.

·By Commuter Rail (T) from Boston - From North Station, take Ipswich or Rockport trains. At Salem station, exit up stairs to Washington St.

·From Boston - Rt. 1N (Approx. 30 min. drive) - U.S. Rt. 1N, to Rt. 128 N, Exit 25A (Rt. 114 E.). When you enter Salem, look for signs to Salem Visitor Center. The Museum is located on Rt. 1A N, across from the Salem Common, on route to the Salem Visitor Center.

·From Boston - I95 N (Approx. 30 min. drive) - Follow I95 N/128 N, to Exit 45 (Rt. 128 N exclusively), to exit 26 (Lowell St.) or Exit 25A (Rt. 114 E). When you enter Salem look for signs to Salem Visitor Center. The Museum is located on Rt. 1A N, across from the Salem Common, on route to the Salem Visitor Center.

·From Boston - I93 N (Approx. 30 min. drive) - Follow I93 N to Exit 37A (I95 N). Follow directions for I95 N above.

The Museum also has a great gift shop with lots of different things for everyone. They have clothing and apparel, jewelry, books, games, home novelties and much more.

For more information about the Salem Witch Museum, please call 978-744-1692.

They are located in Washington Square, Salem MA 01970

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