witches

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After spending half a day in Witch City without encountering anything CLOSE to the sort of witches we came to see, we made it over to the Witch History Musem. Finally! Pointy hats and evil cats ahoy!

What the deuce?! THIS STILL LOOKS LIKE WICCAN B.S.

Oh, this is just the atrium? The real deal’s inside? Alright, witches!

OK WHAT THE HELL IS THIS CRAP.

As we sat in church pews staring at a stage empty save for the ‘Indians’, it dawned on us they were clearly modified from skiing mannequins. Especially the guy on the far right, they didn’t even try and change his stance.

Eventually a doughy young man in historical garb stepped out and gave us a brief history of the Salem Witch Trials, occasionally pointing to blown-up photos of historical landmarks framed around the room. Groups were taken down to the basement by another historically garbed young lady while the rest of us continued sitting there.

Sensing the general unrest the young man made the mistake of saying if we had any questions, we could feel free to ask. While everyone else sat around staring at tiny glowing rectangles I plied him for information he did not have about the debunking of the rye poisoning theory, the validity of psychosomatic group illnesses similar to the German Laughing Sickness of the Middle Ages, why the hell there were Indian mannequins on stage at a Witch History Museum, and if anyone knew the exact current location of Gallows Hill, where the actual hangings took place.

Answers: It probably wasn’t rye poisoning, group hysteria was a possibility but there was also the angle of nabbing a neighbor’s property or getting revenge, the Indian mannequins were there as a reminder of the gross stereotyping and sensationalizing of Native Peoples in the past (oh, irony, considering what we were about to tour), and while no one knew the EXACT location of Gallows Hill the land it once stood on was now a Dunkin Donuts and storage center.

Tour time!

Girls of the Puritan era didn’t have the same freedoms ladies today take for granted, like wearing zebra headbands out in public. They were treated like little hellbound adults, which led to all sorts of fear and repression, some of which may have been responsible for the madness of the witch trials. Here we see the girls wilding; just out of shot, an extremely creepy mannequin of a guy staring at them. Seriously.

All tableaus were accompanied by audio piped from hidden speakers; here the girls wailed and moaned as the adults around them tried to figure out the cause. We were trying to figure out, what, aside from a general lack of anatomial correctness and poor aging/maintenance, made these mannequins look so damn creepy.

Angry Jim realized whoever painted the faces rimmed all orifices in a bright pink-red, especially the eyes, and most of the eyes were painted a few shades too light, giving the impression everyone had just been maced.

Here we see the house of Samuel Parrish, where house servant Tituba and literally-named husband John Indian entertain the girls with stories. Little did they know how badly this would come back to bite them in the ass.

IT’S A DEMON!!! Oh wait, it’s supposed to be Samuel Parrish, the preacher confounded by his ward and her friends suddenly going bonkers for no apparent physical reason.

Eww.

AAAAAH! AAAAH! DEEEEMON! Oh wait, no, this melting face belongs to William Griggs, the doctor who, after closely inspecting all three girls declared no earthly cause afflicted them, and the church should be turned to. That turned out well!

What is a Conquistador doing here? They had their own witches to deal with. Fun fact: there IS a reason the witches of Salem were HANGED and NOT BURNED. The Puritans had moved to the godforsaken no-man’s-land that was America to literally as well as figuratively distance themselves from what they saw as the decadence of the Catholic (and pretty much every other) church. No reason why this shouldn’t apply to dealing with witchery as well! While the Catholic Inquisition labeled practicing witchcraft as a heresy,  punishable by burning at the stake, the Puritans made afflicting someone by witchcraft an offense against the state, and therefore punishable by hanging.

Puritan Andrew W.K. protects his family.

In the midst of numerous families crying and being rent apart- a wee tiny boy and his wee tiny horse. I cannot explain, just enjoy.

Not all Puritans went quietly into that good night; I forget his name but this fellow took out most of the men sent to arrest him and broke the chains they attempted to bind him in. Check out this ACTION SHOT! See kids? History is just as bloody and violent as your favorite video games.  He looks a lot like Charlie Gazin here.

Uhh…huh.  I see we improvised the mannequin representing a servant testifying against her mistress. We were told she’s holding a doll of cheese and grass…I honestly wasn’t listening why as I was too distracted by the blackface. Featuring guest judge Robert DeNiro…

and Harrison Ford as Guy In The Background!

And here all pretense of education gives way to sheer witchsploitation. The cat seems mildly bored.

“Haaay guyys, there’s a tiny hanging going on over herrre!”


Insert Misfits lyrics here.

The further we went into the museum the more the mannequins looked like Lon Cheney in ‘Phantom of the Opera’.

Issac Newton measures a skull.

Back on the streets of Salem we took in the sights:

But further horror awaited us at…THE WITCHES’ DUNGEON…..museum.

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A gorgeous Fall weekend before Halloween. What better time for a road trip to the site of young America’s shameful cave-in to fear,  Salem! Yes, Salem, Massachusetts, place where the witch trials of 1692 sort-of happened. Most of the real action took place in nearby Danvers (formerly Salem Village), with only two direct ties to Salem proper, but why let ‘facts’ or ‘history’ get in the way of Salem’s current existence as an amazingly cheesy tourist trap?

When traveling to New England, this is what’s expected. Wide expanses of ocean under icy blue skies, distant islets, proper trees all the way up to the water. Ships with rigging. Fishing crews.  Houses and people of a modest, solid mein, strong and conservative. Possibly Stephen King, if you go up far enough north.

New Englanders are very proud of their history; even here on this beach, within earshot of three locals complaining about The Government messing with their business we saw a Historical Rock.

I have my doubts about the rock’s historic value.

Our first stop was a sign of things to come- an enormous thrift store filled with gewgaws and knicknacks heaped at random filled with crowds in costumes and hats, and nary a thing to do with witches save for ridiculous haberdashery.

Perhaps going to the self-proclaimed Witch City during peak season was not the smartest idea, but we came for campy, corny Witchery and damned if we weren’t going to get it! So, witches ahoy!

Or not. Here you see one of the only direct ties Salem has with the witch trials- the Witch House. Not actually belonging to anyone accused, nor even haunted, the house belonged to one of the judges presiding over the trials. Inside you see the horrors of tourists wandering confused through a properly recreated historical dwelling! Ooooooh!

Whoever runs the place must’ve realized just a house would’ve had folks crying foul, so they spiced it up a bit with lore and a tableau of medical techniques of the era, including this page from a treatise on illnesses:

Winthrop’s Black Powder

“My black powder against the plague, small-pox; purples, all sorts of feavers; Poyson, either, by Way of Prevention or after Infection.” This marvellous remedy was made by putting live toads into an earthen pot so as to half fill it, and baking and burning them “in the open ayre, not in an house,: –John Winthrop the Younger

Ok, so the Witch House was a bust. We still had the Witch Museum, Salem Witch Museum, Witch History Museum, and Witch’s Dungeon to check out. Witches ahoy!

This is the best welcome ever.

The streets were packed with costumed performers yelling, ‘reenacting’ and generally doing whatever they could to get unwary tourist to sign up for their Magic Show or Haunted  Tour.

This mask is spooky for a whole different set of reasons than its sellers intended.

Ok, no witches so far, but what’s this? Tiny folk terrorized by a wee ship? That’s right, it’s…

The Pirate Museum! While witches mostly corner the market in Salem, New England has a rich history of piracy up and down its coast that also makes for excellent tourist trapping.

This beardy bedazzled fellow and….whatever the hell that thing is stood outside posing for photos. Once inside, we saw the first of many decaying, anatomically incorrect mannequins. Here my friend poses with a dapper looking fellow who…I don’t know, I think he got caught on his second pirating venture out or something. I was too stunned by the construction and set-up to pay close attention to names and dates.

Here sits The Saddest Pirate.

Our tour guide, the bandanna’d fellow on the steps, regaled us with tales of the most notorious pirates in local waters.

Here we see a classic Pirate game of Bridge.

And here, a barwench stops a drunken Captain from hitting on a mounted deer head.

For the guy not about to be hung this fellow looks awfully surprised. I believe that’s supposed to be Cotton Mather, who tried and failed to get William Fly to repent before dying.

Here be William Fly, a pirate unrepentant to the end. Calm throughout sentencing he became animated and upset upon approaching the gallows – the hangman had tied the noose with the wrong knot. A sailor worth his salt, Fly retied the noose properly and placed it around his own neck, chiding the hangman while doing so. While many a pirate warned of the grave dangers of drink, godlessness, piracy, and other moral lessons in hopes of catching a last minute reprieve, Fly instead warned Captains not to treat their men cruelly as piracy would surely result.

And here be the body of William Kid, gibbeted and hung for over 20 years on the Execution Dock in London as a warning to other would-be pirates. Kid denied being a pirate up to his dying day, and after his first hanging failed, many believed it a divine sign from God he was telling the truth. Not that it mattered to the judge, who ordered him strung up again with stronger rope.

This captain was put in charge of gathering a crew to fight piracy in the New England bays. Unfortunately for him, the crew mutinied pretty much right after they got on the ship, knocked out the captain and tossed him overboard.

Here’s my friend posing with the soon-to-be-tossed captain.

Here be a motley crüe of pirates having a super fun sleepover:

OMG SO MUCH FUN!

HAAAAY GIRLFRIEND!

I forget what the story was with these fellows but they sure beheaded that one guy but good.

I love the expression on both their faces.

Apparently lots of  pirates are rumored to have buried their loot in New England Woods. Metal detector enthusiasts, start your time wasting!

The second-saddest pirate in New England.

Behold the horrors of the Pirate Dungeon!

It was so scary we fled in mortal terror.

However before exiting we were greeted by Pirate Howard Stern swinging in from the ceiling.

Alright! We got our fill of Pirates, but what about the wiiiiitcches?

That is not a witch, however 7th-grade-me is dying inside right now.

Uh, still not quite the witches I was hoping to see…

Wait a minute, this isn’t witchery, it’s Wiccanism! We wandered into a NEW AGE SHOP!

Talk about false promises.

What’s stranger, that you too can smell like Chivalry or Witches and Weeds, or that they’re sold out of everything but the Tester bottles?

For negative or positive purposes. It must be ph neutral.

In retrospect I should’ve bought this to shake at the next Ultimate Kickball tournament taking over McCarren Park.

Oh look, a charming wallfull of gentle wiccan wood-art. Wait, what the…

NOOOO!

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