Willows and Witchcraft: A Visit to Salem


Back when I was planning my trip, I had a dilemma deciding where to spend Halloween. It’s never been a huge thing for me or my family in England, so I was kind of looking forward to seeing the Americans go wild over it. My options were New York, Boston or Salem. NYC for the parade, Boston cus I was already there, and Salem, a town to the north famous for its Witch Trials in the 18th century, because I’ve heard they take it unbelievably seriously there. I chose New York, but took the opportunity to visit the latter on my last day in Boston, partly because I love taking ferries. The cost of it was justified within minutes because I got this shot;


The Boston Skyline captured from our ferry as we zipped off up the Atlantic coast

There are two sides to Salem. Part of it is utterly charming. Brightly coloured timber clad houses lining leafy streets, leading to clean and peaceful green spaces perfect for relaxing in. There are several Gothic churches with little graveyards, made actually quite picturesque by the leaf litter and golden foliage. The bay is filled with yachts and boats, even a large period vessel called the “Friendship”… across the bay are large New England style homes with jettys and windows looking out across the sanguine Atlantic.

The Friendship

However, in the centre of town, you cannot escape the other part of Salem. Not during Halloween anyway. The place is overcome by the gaudiest and tackiest spectacle imaginable. Salem’s history of witch trials is what the place is famous for, and if I’m honest, the only reason I considered visiting the place. But oh my god, do Americans go over the top with gimmicky and pointless merchandise, events and decorations. Seeing obese morons dressed up in ridiculous outfits, shovelling fried dough and greasy chips down their faces while guffawing at the woeful tales of witch hangings and forking out extortionate sums for tarot card and psychic readings was nauseating and extremely cringe worthy. I thought I ought to visit at least one of the museums whilst here so walked towards the New England Pirate Museum, cus the boy in me likes pirates, but one glimpse of the guy stood outside dressed up like one was enough to completely turn me off that idea.

So I tried to find something less shameful to do, and instead found myself walking out of town towards Salem Willows. The guidebook made out that it was a lively place with “a historic carousel, kiddie rides, arcades, public beaches, outdoor concerts…” which all sounded like a jolly good romp. Figured I’d get myself some greasy chips and read my book for a bit. I walked for what seemed like several miles as the clouds gathered and grew darker above my head. Past a power plant, then a sewage treatment facility… before reaching a very distant peaceful village. Too peaceful it seemed; I was the only person there.

The Power Plant
Went by Winter Island to check out the lighthouse

Looking for lunch, I did a quick scout of the peninsula and was somewhat dismayed to find nothing was open, and there was absolutely no one around. Places looked like they’d been closed for years, not just winter. There were leaves piled up on the mini golf course, the signs were faded, all the shutters were down on the arcade… it was a ghost town. Faced with a long walk back to town for some food, I was a little incredulous things had come to this. until I walked past an establishment that seemed to be… oh my God, really, open!?

So that’s how I found myself in Genghis Salem Chinese, where Shakira’s Hips Don’t Lie played as I ate teriyaki beef (which was actually rather tasty) and watched the Boston regional news with the pretty news anchors. I tipped the adorable Chinese lady 25%
because I was so pleased to find somewhere that was open (plus she was adorable).

I still had some time to kill before the ferry back so I found a crazy peaceful spot in a calm bay to write some of this blog. The area was so stunning. The water was calm and clear. Colourful foliage, pristine homes, manicured lawns. I decided it had been worth walking all that distance. I was soon disturbed by two plump middle aged ladies who were off kayaking. I didn’t mind, especially cus they told me they loved my accent 😉 Apparently 100,000 people are expected to arrive in Salem tomorrow for Halloween. Glad I came today!


The peaceful bay in Salem Willows where I enjoyed some peaceful solitude. Briefly.


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