For our second anniversary, Daniel and I took a fun weekend trip to Salem, Massachusetts. I’d like to tell you that it was all about romance … but what kind of scholar-author team would that make us?
While we did enjoy a fancy dinner and a quaint bed-and-breakfast (complete with a wine and cheese hour!), the main focus of our trip was research. Daniel is studying the Salem Witch Trials for a class project, and I’ve always been fascinated with the event … and just may have a book idea brewing. If you’ve ever thought about a trip to Salem, I highly recommend all the attractions in this blog post (and going in fall – such gorgeous weather!). In the interest of brevity, I’ll just hit the highlights:
Salem Burying Point
A lovely little spot that holds the graves of important townspeople, including several of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s ancestors (including Judge Hathorne, who presided over the Witch Trials). While the bodies are not buried there, it does include a set of beautiful stone benches engraved with the Witch Trial victims’ names. (My header image shows a few tombstones – visible on the main blog page.)
House of the Seven Gables & Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Birth House
Probably my favorite part of the trip. The original home that inspired the famous novel still stands. It’s filled with era-appropriate recreations and there’s even a secret staircase visitors can climb! Hawthorne’s birth home was moved to the property in the 1950s, and it holds several of his letters and books, as well as the desk on which he wrote The Scarlet Letter. As you can imagine, this author geeked out.
The Witch House
Home to Witch Trial Judge Jonathan Corwin, this is the only house in Salem with direct ties to the Witch Trials. History buffs: this is your jam. Authentic household items and writings from the 1600s (only a few things were recreations), with knowledgeable and friendly tour guides on both floors. If you want to know what life was like as Puritan, this is your stop.
Danvers, MA – aka Salem Village
What many people don’t realize is that modern-day Salem is actually “Salem Town.” The hangings and some trial activity happened here, but the accusations and most trials actually happened in Salem Village, which is modern-day Danvers. Unlike modern Salem, Danvers has tried to separate itself from the Witch Trials. While important monuments remain, they’re mixed right in with neighborhoods.
While Hawthorne holds the most special place in my heart, this was by far the coolest part of the trip. We saw the official Witch Trials monument, the site of the meeting house (where the accusations happened), and toured the homestead of Rebecca Nurse (one of the victims). But the highlight for me? Walking in the parsonage foundations, the exact place where Reverend Samuel Parris’ daughter and niece made the first accusation and started the entire spectacle. I couldn’t stop the goosebumps!
Now that I’ve gushed about the amazing things we saw, I want to take a moment to impart my biggest lesson from the weekend. So many people depict the Witch Trial victims as A) actual witches or B) vengeful spirits. After learning about these individuals, those impressions couldn’t be farther from the truth. The victims went to the gallows (not the stake) pitying their misinformed community members and trusting completely that they would be absolved in Heaven. Throughout my entire trip, I didn’t hear a single account of revenge or hatred from the victims (their families, a bit).
Being in the victims’ town and standing where they stood gave me an appreciation for their faith and a new perspective on their stories. If I do include Salem and the Witch Trials in a future novel, you can bet those themes will feature in my work. There’s no substitute for in-person interaction, and I’m so grateful Daniel and I were able to take this trip. I can’t wait to travel to more inspiring places and share my experiences with you on this blog … and in my books!