Sunday, April 10, 2011

Road Trip, day 1

(I've split this up into two entries. One was just too long.)

After Bengal Tiger I knew I'd have a couple of days to kill before I headed home on Wednesday. And at one point or another I mentioned to Julie that I was writing a story about a location in Massachusetts, and I felt like a big fraud because I'd never even been to Massachusetts... and Julie, who used to live in Cambridge, immediately suggested a road trip. Purely for research purposes, of course.

So on Monday morning we rented a car and made for the Bay State with all due speed.

First we went to Salem, home of the infamous Witch Trials of 1692, and of a big gothic-looking former church now housing the Salem Witch Museum. The area which had once been the chapel or sanctuary was kept under very low light conditions, and there was a red circle on the floor containing the names of those who had died. All around the perimeter of the room were cells in the walls, in which there were wax figures to represent those who figured in the witch trials, and there was a somewhat histrionic voice-over discussing what happened. (Some of the details in this presentation are less than accurate, but hey, whatever.)

The most lurid wax figure was the first one: Satan, the Prince of Darkness himself, shown flying through the air complete with horns, cloven hooves, a spear and glowing red eyes. In the half-darkness he already looked considerably creepy, and at various times during the narrative, when people were up to no good, his red eyes would glow out of his little twilit alcove in the wall. The whole thing was full of cheesy goodness. Less fun but still pretty cheesy was the section on the changing face of witchcraft, which was heavy on modern Wicca and lightweight on actual history. I wish I could have gotten some pictures, but they didn't allow photography of any kind inside the exhibits. Pity.

This is the Jonathan Corwin House, more popularly known as the Witch House. It is the only building still standing in Salem with direct ties to the Salem Witch Trials, thus its popular name.

The Corwin House was moved to its present location and restored in the 1940s. It was opened as a museum of 17th century life in 1948. We didn't go inside on this trip, but if I should come back I think I'll have to check it out.

After stopping at a local bakery for some delectable pastries and hot chocolate, we went over to take a look at the Burying Point, Salem's oldest graveyard dating to 1637. A number of its past upright citizens are interred here.

What you will not find inside this graveyard, however, are the graves of any of the people who were executed as part of the Salem witch trials. Most of these were immediately buried after their executions, in unmarked graves somewhere on or near Gallows Hill.

Right beside the Burying Point, however, is a rectangular recessed plot of ground with 20 rough-hewn cantilevered benches sticking out from the walls at regular intervals. Each bench has engraven into its face the name of a person who died, his or her means of death, and the date of execution. You walk into this memorial by stepping across the words of those who were tried. All proclaim their innocence.

Goodman Corey endured two days of agony, having heavy stones placed on his chest in an attempt to force him to plead innocent or guilty of witchcraft. His last recorded words were the defiant phrase, "More weight."

As the fog began to gather, we visited a local state forest to get a feel for its environs...

...and visited a local public library. This happens to be the Flint Public Library in Middleton.

Two of the stained glass windows facing the front of the building.

As you can probably tell from the pictures, it was an idyllic library of awesomeness.

Our founder. Thank you, founder!

I am a bibliophile, so many happy sighs were exhaled here.

Julie and I then went candlepin bowling. Or more specifically, we would have done if it hadn't been bowling league night in the alley we visited; all the lanes were taken. I went over and examined a candlepin bowling ball, which has no finger holes and is about the size of a hulled coconut, and thereby attracted the attention of one of the local bowlers.

"Where you ladies from?" he asked me. I'm sure my curiosity over the ball broadcast the fact that I wasn't local. I smiled and told him I was from Seattle. He urged me to ask again about getting a lane opened up; I think he figured that if I bowled a string or two, I'd be hooked.

We drove around Boston and Cambridge, some of Julie's old stomping grounds, that evening. Picked up (and inhaled) a lamb curry for dinner, then drove back to our hotel in Danvers and promptly hit the hay.

No comments: