Saturday, October 22, 2011

Travels with Kevin Part 2: A Trip to Salem with some Hocus Pocus

Last night was a relaxing night filled with laundry and watching TV.  I needed a night in doing nothing after an incredibly stressful week.  I was glad that my friend Patrick suggested a trip to Salem today.  I needed a day away from Boston and a day away from the chaos of the city.  Salem, Massachusetts is known to many people as home of the famous witch trials during the 1600s.  During the month of October Salem is a huge tourist destination because of the connection with the witch trials, and there being a lot of spooky themed events within the city.  I knew the Salem would be busy, so there was no escaping the chaos, but I did get to have a nice adventure into the suburbs.

While in Salem the lines to do a lot of the events prevented me from getting to experience a lot of the spookier themed things, but I did get to take a trolley ride around the city.  The trolley ride was interesting because it focused on the different aspects of Salem's history beyond the witches.  Salem was home to Nathaniel Hawthorne author of "The Scarlet Letter."  While on the tour I found out that Hawthorne wrote the book because his ancestor was the presiding judge at the trial of all the witches and he wrote that book to shine a light how wrong the witch trials were.  Salem was at one point the sixth highest grossing city in the country.  This was during the Revolutionary War when Boston and New York's ports were closed so shipping went through Salem's port.  Salem was also used as a place to station troops during World War II to look out for German U-Boats, and has one the few remaining airplane hangers.

While on the tour we saw a house that was used in the filming of one of my favorite campy films Hocus Pocus (1993).  The film was about three witches who are cursed and come back to try and live forever.  I love this film it was one of the movies that just reminds me of my childhood. Better Midler was one of my favorite women to watch in movies (it was a sign), and I loved her singing and just being this fun villain. I saw Hocus Pocus twice when I was kid.  The time I remember most was with my grandparents when we ate ice cream from Friendly's before the movie, popcorn and candy during the movie, and we had to have dinner after so we ate Pizza Hut after the movie.  I have never puked more in my life!

The film brings back memories, but also makes me think about my own view of Salem as a town.  When I was younger I had this perception of the town as being all about witches and this incredibly haunted place.  Now based on the tour there are some places that are "haunted" but movies don't always paint a clear picture.

While Salem is filled with numerous historical aspects other than the witch trials the main draw is still the scary.  The town is filled with people in witches hats, Halloween costumes, going on ghost tours, going in haunted houses, and taking on numerous scary events.  Our tour guide did a good job of highlighting the different bits of history, but the town and tourists are drawn to one of the smallest aspects of the town's history.  This is a beautiful town filled with a rich and diverse history, but in order to make money or bring  in the masses from America and around the world people tend to focus on the witches.  I think its interesting when a town gets a reputation for something specific they get pigeon holed into that niche. I love that Salem has the opportunity to flourish and bring in people because of one piece of history that makes it one of America's "spookiest" towns, but there are so many other aspects of its history that people do not know about or don't care about which prevents us from learning about the the town on a deeper level. People do not look at history on a deeper level they see what they and focus on that one aspect.

I hate to say I am guilty of associating this town a film about witches, but as I was strolling around town all I could think about was Jinx the talking cat, a young Thora Birch kidnapped, and Better Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimi singing "I Put a Spell on You."  I am glad I learned more about Salem than the witches today.

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