Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Witches? Authors, and Natures Reflections

We headed out to a destination of Hailey's choice, Salem, Massachusetts.  Choosing Salem started out with a game we play that I call...."OK Google, I wonder......"  We had looked on the map to discover what laid in our path.  I described what I knew of the Salem Witch Trials.  As we talked about the events, we eventually came up with this question...  How could the people of this area, come to believe they were actually witches?  We consulted our phones authority, Ok Google,  and we wanted to know more....  So we were off to Salem to learn more.

 No pictures of the interior were allowed so this is it.

The museum seems a likely place to gain an overview of the history of this place.  So after a short drive around town we settled in to a auditory performance in the museum the recreates the Salem Witch Trial era. The use of the life size dioramas in an auditorium in the darkened space with spotlights highlighting each scene above us transported us to a time long ago.

It set the stage, but for us it did not completely answer how these people of this era were so vulnerable to believing their neighbors, friends and even family could be so feared and evil. 

 After the museum experience we walked around the historic area.  I  enjoy thoroughly these historic town walks imagining living in the prior time and place.     
Within a few blocks there were many beautiful colonial homes reflecting a time we see through them.

The Salem Witch Trials began in 1692 when 2 young girls began acting oddly and proclaimed to be possessed by the devil and accused several young women of being witches.  While the cause of the girls maladies are not certain, hysteria continued to grow in the largely Puritan Community. 

A church where several of the families of the accused later attended. 

And the Home of Judge Jonathan Corwin who presided over Salem Witch Trials.

A tour of Judge Corwins house, the only standing building from the Salem Witch Trials period was very informational shedding light on the Puritan beliefs and the thinking of the times.
 Puritans believed the children were born with the stain of Adams original stain of sin.  The Puritan Faith was one of profound apprehension and fear where only a few would be allowed into heaven.  Parents were encouraged to dominate this baser self at an early age so as to not ruin the child.


During the house renovation, this part of the wall was left exposed showing the original construction.

People were encouraged to tell of any suspicious activity of anyone.  
 While several reasonable people implored reason during this time, hysteria and misplaced beliefs reigned and set the stage for blindly following accusations to unfounded conclusions.  How quickly in an atmosphere of fear and intolerance humans can turn on one another.

Witch hysteria grew through neighboring towns and before it subsided months later more than 200 were accused of being witches, 19 were hanged, one crushed to death under the weight of rocks and several others died while in prison.

Many of those accused were left in prison until they paid for their board for the time they were held in prison.  

Though the Massachusetts General Court later annulled guilty verdicts against accused witches and granted indemnities to their families, bitterness lingered in the community, and the painful legacy of the Salem witch trials would endure for centuries.

Ordinary people, an ordinary place, sad extraordinary times. 

 I'm not sure I can come to any understanding of peoples inhumanity towards each other.  While I would like to believe that such hysteria cannot take place again,  fear and bigotry lead down paths that seem unbelievable in other contexts.  I am not comforted by these thoughts.

Yet, this community is a mixture of this sad history, and also the evidence of the attraction of modern day witch believers including the silliness of cultural fantasy.

Today, shops devoted to modern day witchcraft are interspersed with traditional tourist shops.

A statue in a nearby park stands
A tribute to "Bewitched"

The television program of the 1960's 

An art installation lending to a 'spooky atmosphere' 

Within this atmosphere, the message and somber take away from the witch trials seemed somewhat lost.

 Later, while in the house of the trial judge, I asked about a memorial or monument dedicated to the Victims of Trials and did not find the one located in Salem.

I sought closure for the sadness of this place.  

There seemed to be no closure for me in this place.

I was able to locate an address in a nearby town of a monument.
No tourist signs directing to its location so, if it hadn't been for my GPS I would not have located it.

The panels behind the memorial contain the names of the victims and their brave words of innocence. .
A simple monument in a public park in the town of Danvers.
Missed by most tourists on a pilgrimage to understanding.

I am grateful for this place and the opportunity for quiet refection.

Some might avoid this as a destination as the history of this place is messy, one that we might not want to know.  I didn't feel that way.  It is important to me to understand as much is possible so that we are able to take the lesson from these times in history and apply them to our lives.  While me may not again encounter these exact circumstances, bigotry and fear still exist an we are responsible to stand up and insure that history will not be repeated.  Together we can stand witness to what happened and ensure that the message of truth shines a light exposing fear and intolerance.

Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts 


After the heaviness of our time in Salem, I was anxious to move on to a destination of that I had long desired to explore in Concord, Massachusetts.     

There are great places of history and other places that draw to itself great minds of philosophy and great thinkers.  Concord, Massachusetts is a place of both.  At this point in my life, I am not a student of battles, nor of war.  Not even a war that led to the freedoms that I enjoy.  Though I did find my self caught up in the excitement of the early days of the Revolutionary War.
Oh, what it must have been like to live in those days.  

First we drive through Lexington, then on the Concord.  Signs mark the sites of historical importance along the way.  The hour of our arrival in this area is late.  It is one of those moments that I wish to have planned more carefully as my interest was peeked without enough time to explore the area adequately.  We drive by great points of history. 
Seeped in history and as a gathering point of great minds.

Buckman Tavern, where Visitors walk in the steps of John Hancock, Samuel Adams, Paul Revere, and George Washington.  The oldest tavern in Lexington, it was here that Minutemen came together in the wee hours of April 19, 1775 waiting for the British regulars.   

Hancock-Clark House -  was the destination of Paul Revere on the night of April 18, 1775, as he and William Dawes rode from Boston to warn the sleeping Samuel Adams and John Hancock (first signer of the Declaration of independence) who were guests in the house, of the coming of British troops.  While most of us know the basic story of Paul Revere, I know I had mixed both truth and myth from the poem from Longfellow, The Midnight ride of Paul Revere.  It is interesting to me to sort out truth from myth.

Some things I learned .....

1.  Paul Revere (according to the CIA) - formed the first group of spies who were patriots gathering intelligence.  

2.  There were many individuals (possibly  as many as 40) who road on horseback or walked to warn citizens of the movement of British troops.

3.   His most famous quote was not accurate.  The warning cry The British are coming, according to Paul Revere, was actually the Regulars are moving.  Two other patriots, William Dawes and Samuel Prescott, rode alongside him that night.  After they separated to avoid detection, it was Samuel Prescott who rode on to Concord to warn the British were coming. 

4.   Four years after his midnight ride, Paul Revere served as commander of land artillery in the disastrous Penobscot Expedition of 1779.  He was charged with cowardice and insubordination, and Revere was court-martialed and dismissed from the militia. (He was acquitted in 1782, but his reputation remained tarnished.)

5.  He went on to open a successful hardware store, a foundry and eventually the first rolling copper mill in the United States. Revere Copper Products, Inc., is still in operation today.

6.  The father of 16 children he lived a long life, (83 years) dying in 1818.

Since I'm not one to enjoy visiting battlefields we didn't stop at the Minute Man National Historical Park instead  we went on to Concord to visit what I consider to be an authors mecca.

 Since a child I was impressed with, Louisa May Alcott, author of Little Women.  Her house located in Concord was a destination that I longed to visit.  We arrived shortly before her home, The Orchard House closed so we were able to join a tour of here homestead.  It turned out to be one of my favorite house tours of the trip.  The tour guides shared stories of her entire life.  The stories were clearly based on some of the details of her childhood here with her family and were interspersed into the favorite childhood story.

                         Orchard House
Raised by her transcendentalist parents, Abigail May and Amos Bronson Alcott in Concord, she grew up among many of the well-known intellectuals of the day such as  Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nataniel Hawthorne, and Henry David Thoreau.

Her father established an experimental school and joined the Transcendental  Club with Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau.  He provided her an early education that was not often afforded girls in that day.

However he was not a financial success and childhood poverty pushed the girls to find success in writing and the arts.

Concord School of Philosophy started by Amos Bronson

Taking photos was not allowed inside the buildings but the home was filled with the original detail that has been preserved.  Framed original artwork and family photos hung in every room.  Hand painted murals painted directly on the walls by her sister still remain in many of the rooms.

                                                 Blocks away is Ralph Waldo Emersons home.

Emerson was so concerned for the Alcott family that he helped to purchase the property and home that the Alcott's would call Orchard House and they returned to Concord.

Henry David Thoreau was an American author, poet, philosopher, abolitionist, naturalist, tax resister, development critic, surveyor and historian. A leading transcendentalist, Thoreau is best known for his book  Walden, a reflection upon simple living in natural surroundings.  I believe one of the great environmentalists of Early America who chose to live in the manner he believed.
          “All good things are wild and free.”

      “I have a room all to myself; it is nature.”

 “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”

 His experience of living simply near Walden Pond where he wrote much of his body of work.  Waldon Pond is a pond typical of the Northeast however the experience changed Thoreau.  Unquestionably, Thoreau enjoys greater national and international popularity today than ever before.  People are particularly drawn to his belief of finding spirituality in nature-a philosophy woven throughout his books and essays. As our lives become ever more complex, we hunger for simplicity and a communion with nature that Thoreau insists will lead to truth and spiritual renewal.

The simple cabin that Thoreau lived in no longer exists, however a replica stands near the pond as it did long ago. 


There is much to absorb in this area but with the last light of evening declining, we left to return to Connecticut to spend our last few days with the kids before beginning our return trip to the Northwest. 

“You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment.”

~ Happy Trails ~



  1. What a great trip you have had I love this post very informative made me feel like I was right there keep up the good work and have fun

  2. Wow you really got around. I am very impressed with your finding the memorial to those who died in the hysteria. Seems it really should be in Salem although I believe these accusations were made in a wide area. I loved visiting Concord and the homes of the Alcotts and Emerson as well as Walden Pond. Their works were all very influential in my life. I taught American Studies for many years and the Transcendental period was one of my favorites. Thanks so much for taking me back there. Wonderful educational stops for Hailey.

  3. What a very educational trip this has been. Great post. Pictures are fantastic.