October 8, 2007

Salem - Seven Gables & Witch Trials!

Rooted deep in our country's history, Salem is a unique visit with the past. Our adventure here started a couple of nights ago, wandering through narrow streets of old downtown, confused by numerous intersections, signs and signals...none seemingly leading us to Winter Island. This tiny point jutting out from the harbor is maintained as a camping park by the City of Salem.
Once found, we were delighted to have such a cozy nest literally inside of old Salem. Adding to this delight, we ran into three other RV'ers from South Louisiana, complete with LSU Tigers T-shirts, crawfish in the pot, and beers in hand. It was fun catching up with the Cajuns.

Yesterday started with a tour of the House of Seven Gables, which served as the setting & title for one of Nathaniel Hawthorne's famous books. http://www.online-literature.com/hawthorne/

Unfortunately, no photos were allowed inside, but this 340+ year old chunk of history is in amazing shape. Unique amoung tours we have taken, our exploration started with a climb through a narrow, twisty, steep "secret" staircase hidden within the chimney structure into the attic. All of the old hand-hewn beams, planks, pegs, hand-cut mortess & tenon joints are open to see...it;s amazing! I must commend the House Society for allowing hundreds of tourist to be guided through the entire structure, and show many details of unique features and the old construction, which has all been preserved near to original. http://www.7gables.org/tour_gables.shtml

Next door, you tour the original house that Hawthorne was born in, not quite as old, but similarly preserved. The gift shop is housed within another old home that predates the Gables and Hawthorne houses! It's exposed beams, pegs and hand construction are all there to see.

If you are ever in this area, this should be a must on your list! http://www.7gables.org/tour_nh_birthplace.shtml

No visit to Salem would be complete without delving into the history of the 1692 witch trials, which resulted in the hanging of 19 innocent members of the community. All of the histeria, and trauma were the result of the strange behavior of two young girls living there. There's plenty of info on this on the web. http://www.law.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/salem/SALEM.HTM

We were fortunate enough to find a small booklet written by the Village of Salem archivist. The booklet led us off the "tourist path", and to discover the true location of hangings, the fissure in the hill where the bodies were thrown, and after much driving down tiny back streets, an old cemetary where five of the accused are buried.
Kim & I had never seen the likes of the tombstones found here, many bearing skulls with wings on them, and a few with skull & crossbones on them. All dating back to 1690-1730's, the oldest cemetary we've ever visited. We have yet to find an explanation of the significance on the internet, perhaps you can help?

Finding the twenty-some sites of interest listed in the pamplet took most of the day. Our journey back to the Island, took us by the old wharf where trade goods were brought in during the 17th century! A fully seaworthy "Friendship", replica of an East Indian trading ship of the times sits in port where some two hundred others had three centuries ago! Those who ventured too close to her treasures were arrested, led up the original cobblestone road and left in front of the customs house for all to see. http://www.salemweb.com/frndship/

It was nice returning to the Island at dusk, where a beautiful view of the Harbor lay before us!
But, walking back to the trailer, we met one of the local residents who seemed to be a bit confused. From the looks of his costume, one might surmise it was the 2nd of February rather than Halloween.....