My mom and I planned a recent trip to the North East and loved it! One of my goals this year was to make it up there for one reason or another. There’s so much to see and do in this condensed part of the country, it’s a matter of narrowing down your priorities.
After much deliberation, I decided to visit Salem in October. We would do some “witchy stuff” and learn more about the Puritans and early settlers.
In addition, I’ve dreamed of Rhode Island for some time now. I remember being in elementary school, and every year we had to pick a state to report on. Rhode Island interested me, because it’s the smallest state in the country and has lighthouses–nothing more, nothing less. When I realized Providence was only an hour and a half from Salem, I knew we had to do both.
And lastly, my friend Jason moved to Boston, and we hadn’t caught up in forever. Hence, we agreed to a day trip to Boston, as well.
Mom and I took the red eye and met in Providence early Wednesday morning. We picked up the rental and headed to Newport. On the way, we grabbed breakfast at Brickway on Wickenden. I’m honestly a traditional breakfast kinda gal: Sausage, eggs, hash browns and toast make me immensely happy.
Mom and I drove to Newport’s Cliff Walk: A beautiful walkway that separates the land from the sea. Guests can stroll through the backyards of notable mansions, such as the Breakers, the first stop on our trip.
This extravagant mansion, designated a National Historical Landmark, offers 70 rooms and breathtaking views of the ocean. The audio tour was thorough, informative and interesting.
Once we exited the gift shop, we continued our walk and passed McAuley of Salve Regina University and Ochre Court. Everything about the Cliff Walk is stunning, remarkable and quite frankly, surreal. Is this the same Rhode Island I reported on as a child? My write-ups failed to capture the essence of this tiny state with such enormous personality.
We returned to the car and headed towards Castle Hill Lighthouse. It wasn’t exactly accessible but still pretty from a distance.
My friend recommended Brick Alley Pub for lunch, so we tried the lobster roll. Between that and my strong chocolate martini, this vacation was off to a great start.
We headed towards Salem that evening and had to drive around Boston to get to Salem. This marked our first glance of the craziness–more to come soon.
We arrived to the Airbnb late Wednesday evening. Even though we felt exhausted from our overnight flights and commute, we mustered the energy to grab pizza.
Our Lyft driver convinced us to try Flying Saucer–we changed our destination and did not regret the decision. This pie topped with burrata tasted like lasagna–no wonder it’s award-winning.
Thursday was all about the tours. We dedicated the entire day to Salem. One Lyft in the morning, one in the evening and walk everywhere in between. Salem is so quaint and small and easy to navigate, you really don’t have to walk too far to see anything historically relevant. Plus I figured we ought to take all the tours on Thursday, before flocks of other tourists arrived on Friday. Take all the tours!!
We started with the Witch History Museum on accident, to be honest. My GPS led us to WHM when we should’ve arrived at the Salem Witch Museum. Ugh. We could’ve stressed ourselves out and squeezed it in, but I refuse to allow FOMO to rule my life. I accepted my mistake with a grimace after purchasing the wrong tickets that morning.
Turns out, it was a funny accident. The tour begins with a brief overview of the Puritan period in the auditorium. Then the group proceeds to the basement for the remainder of the tour featuring animatronics that would probably infuriate the direct descendants of the witch hysteria. It was gaudy and hoaky but amusing nonetheless.
Mom and I had two hours to kill before the much-anticipated boat tour. We took a Lyft to Max and Dani’s house from Hocus Pocus. The driver was nice enough to wait and bring us back to town. Poor guy had never watched the movie before–we had a good laugh as another man jogging by offered to take our picture and knew exactly why we were posing in front of this house.
I’m beyond excited by this point. Salem has so much to offer! From the factual, historical information to the Hocus Pocus houses, I enjoyed a solid mix of competing realities. You could easily lose yourself in this town.
We shopped for a few then hopped on the boat! I’ve taken one other boat tour so far, and that one was in San Diego. It was nice, but this one was even better.
I signed us up for a lighthouse/fall foliage tour. This tour was fancy, tasteful and decadent. Not only did the boat feature a bar, we also had a grill and warm, simmering soups. Frank Sinatra in the background was the icing on the cake.
The boat marked one of my favorite moments of the trip. The bartender was so nice and made a pretty stiff drink for cheap. I loved learning about the lighthouses and taking in the coast. I felt so relaxed and content.
We had another small gap in our schedule before the walking historical tour. My friend Ashley recommended New England Soup Factory, and lemme tell ya, I wanted all the soup.
This place hit the spot–Thursday was a bit chilly, so what better food to have than chili? You can sample as many soups as you please and choose between seasonal options or year-around favorites.
Mom and I explored the cemetery on the way to the Salem Witch Memorial Site. The Burying Point, a solemn reminder to respect the dead, brought the folklore to reality; this sense of sadness and pain washed over me as we entered the cemetery. The morose expression on a woman’s face as she quietly left the vicinity set the mood.
A random stranger approached me and asked if I could take a picture of her with her mirror, and I agreed. Like others nearby, I wondered what she was up to and wasn’t afraid to ask. She explained that you can use the mirror to “light up the headstones.” This was unbeknownst to me; I’ve sense Googled and Youtubed videos of how to do this to no avail, but I did find this link which provides more detail.
Given the woman’s knowledge and title (Caregiver of 5 Salem Cemeteries), I asked if she could help me find Mary Corry, first wife of Giles Corry. Without hesitation, she dropped what she was doing to help me out. We spent the next 20 minutes shining light on one headstone after another until we found it.
I was elated to find this grave with the help of our new friend! She handed me her card and sadly, I lost it. I went through my purse three times and tried to find her online. I hope we find each other somehow–I would love to pick that woman’s brain.
This experience really makes me want to explore cemeteries more often. Lord only knows what we’ll get into this winter.
Next, we have the Witch Trial Memorial right next to the Burying Point. This area brought me to tears with the quotes etched along the ground. These quotes came from the victims and included such remarks as “God knows I am innocent”, “Oh Lord help me!!”, “I do plead not guilty”, and “I am wholly innocent of such wickedness”.
Mom and I left the cemetery and memorial feeling moved and humbled by the experience. Our afternoon in Salem wasn’t quite what I anticipated–enjoying myself on a boat and hours later feeling such remorse for the victims. Ultimately, these were real people’s lives, and it’s easy to lose sight of this when you’re so far removed from the commotion and chaos of the late 1600s.
Our walking tour began at 4:30 that afternoon with Salem Historical Tours. I was pretty excited for this one, because a podcast I listened to led me to it. Witch Hunt by Nancy Mades-Byrd details the real-life accounts of the victim’s of the witch hysteria. I listened to several episodes before our trip and loved it. I had hoped that Nancy would guide our tour, but Matt was still pretty great. I let him know I listened to the podcast, and he relayed how excited Nancy would be, to have a listener in Colorado.
The tour came to an end at sunset, and we had yet another few hours to kill before our last tour of the day. We shopped and I purchased Gumby, my new Poppet from Hex, I believe? We visited so many witch shops, it’s hard to remember what was purchased where.
Wherever, I purchased Gumby from, we also received past life readings. I won’t elaborate, but it was the most fascinating experience I’ve had in awhile.
Mom and I grabbed drinks before we boarded the trolley. My absinthe hot chocolate was surprisingly good!
Our trolley tour was probably the least historically accurate and so much fun. We listened to tales of alleged hauntings throughout the area. I’m glad we decided to book the trolley at night; a walking tour any later would’ve been frigid!
We passed another Hocus Pocus House, the House of Seven Gables and other areas of interest. I can’t even remember what all we saw, but our tour guide was delightful.
We were pretty tired after the trolley tour–going all day long will wear you out. But we dragged ourselves to a supposed haunted hotel called Hawthorne Hotel. I snapped quite a few pics on different floors; no orbs, but it was still neat to explore the hotel.
Saturday morning, we visited Proctor’s Ledge. This is the spot where the victims were hung in 1692. I was confused on vacation and thought a debate continued on where exactly this spot was located. I read Gallows Hill initially, but Proctor’s Ledge is located within Gallow’s Hill, while Gallows Hill spans several acres. So there you have it.
We forged ahead to Bagel World; I figured we should try at least one bagel, since we were so close to New York. I received strange looks for pairing the egg salad with pastrami, but having tried it in Denver, I knew what I was doing!!
Mom and I were scheduled to meet my friend Jason for lunch in Boston, but first she wanted to return to a shop from the day before. By the time we got to Boston, traffic was crazy, and I took us in the wrong direction. Downtown Boston is insane–unless you take the train, stay far away from the roads.
It was nice catching up with Jason! We worked together at North Range before he returned to the Northeast. We tried Legal Seafood, and that shit was so good. That was probably the best roll we had on the trip–crab instead of lobster.
We parted ways, and Mom and I pulled over for one last look at the ocean before returning to Salem. I was too tired to go out again, so we chilled at the Airbnb.
One last thing we had to do was visit Dunkin on the way to the airport. Dunkin Donuts began in Boston, and I absolutely love their coffee. I bought a pound for Keegan and stuffed it in my bag.
All in all, we had a wonderful time. It was nice to take a trip with my Mom and explore the witch hysteria together. My takeaway is wanting to learn more about historical happenings in my local vicinity and hometown. With the gold rush in Colorado and the Appalachian folklore in Tennessee, who knows what all you could discover.
In addition, I’m now consumed by audio books about death. I recommend Smoke Gets in Your Eyes by Caitlin Doughty and look forward to reading From Here to Eternity: Traveling the World to Find the Good Death by Doughty, as well. I’ve always found existential matters fascinating, and this trip to Salem has peaked my interest in history, death and cemeteries. I’m excited to explore my own backyard and highly encourage others to do the same.
That’s all I have for now, but in the meantime, here’s this: