By: Madelaine Catcho
Halloween may have already passed, but that didn’t stop LIU Brooklyn Honors students from having a spooktacular time in Salem, Massachusetts this past November.
Students in the Salem Witch Trials Honors Elective had a fun and educational opportunity to explore a historical location that has been forever-marked in history, while comparing Salem town to the Salem city it is today.
The witchcraft trials occurred in Salem Village and several surrounding communities in Massachusetts in 1692. They not only affected colonial America, but also impacts American culture today, over 320 years later. Ironically, the Salem witch trials were not the longest nor the bloodiest witchcraft trial in world or American history. Its allure has drawn historians, literary authors, and tourists alike to the popularly dubbed “Witch City” in addition to the origins, history, and aftermath of the trials.
Interestingly enough, the trials did not take place in “Witch City,” but instead in nearby Danvers, which used to be called Salem Village, while the witches themselves were hanged in Salem Town, now simply called Salem.
Upon arriving at Salem, senior Christine Manukov says “We could feel the energy of the historically rich town. It was an exciting yet sad feeling to realize this town is so historic, but for tragic reasons.”
She adds, “I got to experience Salem in all its beauty and quaintness, and simultaneously further educate myself on the infamous city where twenty-five innocent people died from hysterical, random persecution of supposed witchcraft.”
Despite being a small city, there is much to do in Salem. A good portion of the trip involved exploring many of Salem’s historical landmarks. This includes the grave of Judge Hathorne, one of the leaders of the witch trials, and the Salem Witch Trials Memorial, which was dedicated to the victims of the trials. Students also took a separate tour at The House of the Seven Gables, which inspired Nathaniel Hawthorne to write a novel about it.
Junior Ali Saouli said that the most memorable part of the trip was, “definitely the House of The Seven Gables tour. When the tour guide revealed to us the hidden staircase in the house I was stunned. Though the climb up the winding, narrow staircase was a tad bit challenging, it was definitely memorable!”
LIU students also had the opportunity to explore what Salem has to offer for themselves, such as dining in Red’s Sandwich Shop, where portion sizes are larger- than-life. (They even have pancakes larger than the size of your face!) Some made a late night run to Goodnight Fatty, which offers amazing cookies and ice cream (including dairy-free). Many stopped by Ye Olde Pepper Companie, which was the first to commercially sell candy in America.
The students also met Wiccans (contemporary believers in witchcraft), had tarot readings done by psychics, and surveyed the plethora of stores where Wiccans buy herbs, charms, and talismans they use for their religion.
The Hawthorne Hotel, where the LIU students stayed overnight, is widely-known to be haunted. Much to the disappointment of some students, no hauntings were reported, although a handful of students did spend the night attempting to perform séances and telling ghost stories to one another.
One occurrence that seemed too coincidental was a question posed on a Jeopardy! episode playing while students were having dinner at The Derby. The question featured a character in Arthur Miller’s play The Crucible (based on the Salem Trials) who was crushed to death via stones and famously asked for “more weight.” Much to the confusion of local Salemites, the whole group can barely contain their excitement and bewilderment over the coincidence that a question about Giles Corey from Salem Village would be asked while they were actually in Salem.
A special thank you to professor Dr. Louis Parascandola, the LIU Brooklyn’s English Department, the LIU Brooklyn Honors Department, and the Dean of Conolly College, for their generous support! Without them, the trip would not have been possible.