Sunday, September 13, 2015

Salem trip & Outfit Post

I think my college friends and I have been meaning to go to Salem since we were first years... now we're fourth years. We're not great at getting everyone together and planning (understandable, as we have a sizable group of friends) but as soon as I got back this semester my friend Kayla and I hatched a plan to go to Salem, to make it concrete and whoever could come would come. In total, four of us ended up going. Not a gigantic group, but enough to make it worth the two hour drive. It ended up being a fantastic day, so here's what we did! 

First, the crew of people who I went with. From left to right, myself, Gen, Kayla, and Bridie (if you're familiar with plus-size fashion Tumblr, you might know her as the ineffable Thriftorama.)

Our first stop was the visitor's center to find out what we wanted to go see.

We signed the guest book, so if you're in the area look for us!

Kayla led the way into the main street where we went poking around shops. Salem has, as you might have guessed, a thriving tourist industry and lots of shops devoted to various aspects of spirituality, especially Wicca and Paganism. 

Along the way we met some interesting people, like this street performer whose cunning plans to pretend to be a statue were ruined by excitable dogs who were not fooled. It was cute.

There were lots of street vendors selling t-shirts and smaller pieces of jewelry.

The standing stores were all kinds of delightful, with pretty signs and insides that smelled strongly of Dragon's Blood and patchouli. Most of them didn't allow photography inside but I'm pretty sure there was something there for everyone with witchy inclinations, religious or touristy.

One of them even had a little black cat lying on the counter named Roxanne half dozing as we browsed the essential oils and herbs. She tolerated a little bit of petting briefly, which was nice. 

I very much appreciated some of the shops, especially New England Magic: A Shop & School of Witchcraft & Wizardry.

A look at one particularly pretty shop window:

Me standing outside one of the shops. Today's outfit:

Skirt: Retroscope fashions
T-shirt: Target
Shawl: Vintage
Necklaces: Various
Purse: Primark
Sunglasses: Five Below (you can't see from here but they have studs on the frame, they're adorable.)

My goal shopping wise was to find a tarot deck that I liked. I found many and eventually settled on one, but some of them were very interesting...

Kayla is a geology major and Gen a biology major and when we found a store full of rock and mineral specimens and fossils, it took us forever to get the two of them back out again.

For my part, I found Pterodactyl Poop. $4 each.

We stopped for lunch and Bridie and I indulged in a little bit of dancing in the fountain.

Then more group pictures:

Before we left for the museum, we were approached by a reader who had recognized me and their companion. It's always super nice to find other Gothy types out and about, and even lovelier to meet people who read my blog. Thanks for saying hello!

The museum we chose was the Salem Witch Museum, contained in this beautiful building. 

The museum wasn't a typical walk-through experience. It was broken up into two presentations, neither of which allowed pictures so bear with me and I try to explain what happened and how I feel about it:
The first room was a somewhat large, dark rectangular room full of benches. On the floor was a large red illuminated circle with the names of the executed 'witches' in Salem in 1692.

Around the perimeter of the room, raised far above eye level, were un-lit dioramas. As we all filed in and sat down, a voice began to narrate the events of the witch trials in Salem. As each part of the story was narrated, the corresponding diorama would light up to illustrate what was going on. The fact that the dioramas were made (we think) out of paper mache, and slightly falling apart, the whole effect was rather creepy.

When the story of the trials was finished, we went on to the second room where our guide explained the history of the term "witch" and its connotations, from applying to pagan midwives to medieval witches to the Wizard of Oz and then onto modern Wicca and Pagan religions.  There were dioramas here too who had voice-overs but we found the presentation...lacking. A lot.

I have what my friends and I like to call "history feels" and, as I find studying folklore very interesting, the notion of witches is very near to my heart. As the exhibit tried to explain how pagan medicine women became the nightmare fodder of early modern Christians, I found it lacking. No mention was made of heresy, of medieval midwifes and christian magic, of any modern theories about how gender acted, or of antisemitism. The perilous connections the presentation made between historical paganism and new paganism/wicca (they used the terms interchangably...) were also grating. 

Not to fear though! The museum made mention of my least favorite theory about why the Salem witch trials happened........ yay. If you weren't aware, many people seem to be under the impression that the Salem witch trials and, indeed, all witch hunts and demonology in the Medieval and Early Modern periods was caused by Ergot poisoning, which causes hallucinations. Ignoring the fact that symptoms of Ergot poisoning had been known for hundreds of years before any of this happened and how unlikely it is that nobody noticed that, it's just mildly insulting to early modern peoples that their world outlook was caused by them "tripping balls" on pseudo-LSD.  

I wouldn't call the Salem Witch Museum a bad museum but it did have a lot of issues historically and the script for both the tour guide and the dioramas badly need to be updated. 

But then on from that experience we went to a nearby cemetery, full of gravemarkers in limestone and slate (many of which were either falling over or heavily weathered.)

Here are some of the stones.

This one was probably my favorite: a tiny little stone up against the back of a larger stone with a five-pointed cross on it.

Stones next to a rusted and overgrown gate.

My favorite stone carving that I found.

We also met a cute dog friend! Fittingly enough, a black dog in a cemetery. We got permission to pet him, but he had important dog business to attend to and ran off. 

Important dog business: being a goof off around the headstones.

Before we went home, we had one other mission: make Bridie touch the ocean. Bridie is from Chicago and has never been to the ocean and has been wanting to go a lot since first year. So, we made a detour to a beach not far from Salem. 

Here I am sitting on a wall. You can't see it from here, but there was about a twenty-foot drop onto rocks on the other side of the wall. We were incautious. 
Beach hair is definitely a thing.

New England:

There were also many tiny hermit crabs, if you can look past my badly chipped manicure. This guy crawled onto my foot. 

And, of course, the ever-present seagulls:

Once the sun started to set we left and headed back west towards home. Overall, it was a really great day. I've heard some people call Salem an underwhelming experience, but I think as long as you're sharing it with friends and not opposed to a bit of touristy kitsch, it's a fun one.

Where was your last trip? Have you ever been to Salem?


  1. Never been to Salem. However, that is a place that I would like to visit someday.

  2. There are so many parts of this post that I planned to comment on but then came the goof off dog pictures and now I can't stop laughing. :D Looks like you all had fun.

    My last trip was to New Orleans. I actually lived in Mass. for a couple of years but that was about 15 years ago.

  3. I've had a few friends give up the NYC life and move with their cats to Salem. I haven't personally went. It seems like a cool place. I know I love a little kitsch. The last place I traveled to was Montreal, which was awesome

    1. It sounds like a fun place to live if you can handle the kitsch, but Montreal I've heard is beautiful!

  4. Were you all in the Howard Street Cemetery by any chance? You didn't happen to run into the ghost of Giles Corey, did you? :)

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