|Salem, Massachusetts Guide|
|Think of Salem, think of witches. Although the fame of the Salem witch trials has spread around the world, Salem's real renown comes from its ships, mariners and authors. Actually, there never were any witches in Salem!|
Founded in 1626, by the late 1700s Salem MA, 17 miles (27 km) northeast of Boston (map), had grown and prospered. Its ships sailed around the world, many dealing in trade from the Orient, especially spices, silks, and other luxury goods.
The wealth of the Indies brought great prosperity to this New England port town, which enabled its citizens to build and decorate fine mansions and impressive museums.
Salem's history is really that of its rich maritime commerce, and there are lots of things to see in this regard.
As for witches, there never were any in Salem! The witch-hunt took place in only one year (1692), and the score of people executed met that fate because they would not admit to being witches. Many of the less courageous "admitted" being witches so that they wouldn't be executed.
A memorial park commemorates the suffering and martyrdom of the innocents who were falsely accused and murdered through superstition and abuse of power. More...
The whole witch-calling affair fizzled out when people in power began to be accused. Salem would like to forget it all, no doubt, but the rest of the world enjoys remembering this bizarre episode.
The witch business is thriving, however. In this city that had no real witches there are at least a dozen witch attractions, plus several dozen "dark-arts" paraphernalia shops, bookshops, clothing and costume stores. You'll probably see would-be witches, warlocks and hangers-on wander Salem's pretty streets on any day, and they fill the hotels, inns and pensions every Halloween. More...
The historic heart of Salem around Salem Common (map) is pretty, with a spacious town common and many of its old houses (dating back to the 1600s) and 19th-century mansions intact and in good repair. Several fine mansions have become inns, and Salem has a nice historic hotel.
Part of the historic center has been restored and closed to traffic as the fine pedestrians-only Essex Street Mall (map).
Among the top reasons to visit Salem is to spend time in the wonderful Peabody Essex Museum, a must-see for any visitor interested in art, culture and history. Besides its rich collection of art and artifacts brought back by Salem's world-ranging 19th-century sea captains, The P.E.M. is one of New England's top fine arts museums. More...
—by Tom Brosnahan