History,  Travel,  Uncategorized

Salem on My Mind

Photo by my sister-in-law Sarah.

My sister-in-law Sarah recently blogged the following about her summer trip to New England:

Later that afternoon, we went to Salem so that I could get my witch hunt/The Crucible fix.  Maybe I had my hopes set too high, but I found myself fairly disappointed in what I’ll call the over-commercialization of the witch hunts.  The National Park Service had great free exhibits to Salem’s maritime history (which is totally overshadowed by the witch hunts, in my opinion), but everything related to witches cost money.  And I wasn’t sure what would be worth the money and what wouldn’t.  I didn’t want us to end up paying $20+ for something that was ridiculously cheesy.  And the girl at the visitor center was less than helpful in giving advice.  But I got some good pictures of the memorial to the accused — which included the names of some of my favorite characters from The Crucible.

I have never been to Salem, but have thought that I would like to visit. However, Sarah’s comments seem to be in line with those of another Sarah. The Partly Cloudy Patriot, by Sarah Vowell, includes an essay titled  “God Will Give You Blood to Drink in a Souvenir Shot Glass.” This story recollects the author’s own trip to Salem. What I remember most from the essay is that the author ends up standing in line at a Salem gift shop behind a customer who is looking for a souvenir “Witch Trivet.”

Does anybody have any recommendations for “must-see” historical sites in Salem? If so, please feel free to post them in the comments. I would still like to visit Salem someday if I were going to visit something highly regarded.

My sister Liz and I discussed the witch trials last night. She recently put herself into the Halloween mood in part by reading Nathaniel Hawthorne’s short story “Young Goodman Brown.” Hawthorne was the direct descendant of one of the judges who presided over the witch trials, as is the main character of this tale. In the story, the title character meets up with the devil, and their conversation includes references to this event.

My own favorite historical fiction about life in New England actually comes from children’s books. For instance, I love “The Witch of Blackbird Pond” by Elizabeth George Speare. However, no kid needs to wait until middle school to read about the Puritans. I found a children’s picture book called “The Salem Witch Trials,” and since it was on clearance at a United Way fundraiser, I bought a copy for myself. The book appears to be actually written for young children. Yet – somehow, I don’t think that it would make an appropriate bedtime story. It would work better as a middle-of-the-day story. Especially for a child in a family that enjoys “The Crucible” and Nathaniel Hawthorne. I wonder if my sister-in-law Sarah will mind if her child someday receives a copy of this from Aunt Jenny?


One Comment

  • Sarah

    I would be more than happy to welcome a copy of that into my house! The Crucible is, by far, one of my favorite literary texts.