Updated: Mar 1
A year after we took our epic East Coast Canadian-US road trip, I took a solo road trip to Salem, Massachusetts, stopping along the way in Barre, Vermont. I was on the hunt for covered bridges, Salem witches and whatever surprises awaited me along the way.
On our first road trip together, we relied only on printed maps and directions to guide us through the provinces and states. Nine months later, on our second road trip to South Carolina, we relied on GPS to guide us (thankfully). As reliable as the technology was on the second trip, I preferred the nostalgia of following a map. I planned my route, wrote out my directions, but brought the TomTom with me (just in case).
I left early in the dark hours of the morning and reached the US border just after sunrise. It was a sunny morning, and New York state was alive with autumn colours. I stopped frequently to capture photos of picturesque streets and cemeteries, blanketed in fallen leaves. Driving through New York state, one common lawn decoration was visible; homemade (and creepy) scarecrow people dressed up in full autumn/winter wear. It was lovely to see a community tradition, but honestly a little creepy as a passer by. Perfect for the season.
I visited as many covered bridges as I could (without risking my life and car on the country roads), before making my way to Barre, Vermont. I spent one night in a gorgeous old home turned B&B. Mine was the spacious Tower Room of the Maplecroft Bed & Breakfast, so comfortable and cozy I wish I had stayed longer. Breakfast was served to me alone in the dining room on a silver platter, a quiet and delicious meal. I took the time to stroll around the town before making my way to Salem.
This is where my maps and directions failed me. I followed the signs but somehow missed the expected toll road and feared I had taken a wrong turn, until I started seeing signs for Salem. I trusted it would lead me there and continued on. It did lead me to Salem, but in New Hampshire. That's when the TomTom came out of the glove box.
I may have arrived a little later than expected, but I made it to Marblehead, Massachusetts. I booked a charming stay at the Brimblecomb Hill B&B in the historic district of town. The Deck Room (which was ultimately separate from the main house) overlooked the garden. It was cozy and perfect, as was the buffet breakfast the next morning in the sitting room.
The historic district of coastal Marblehead is lined with historic homes, each affixed with a plaque commemorating for whom the home was originally built. Part of the House History and Plaque program, in partnership with the Salem historical society, nearly 600 homes are marked wish a visual reminder of the past.
It was a cool, but bright sunny morning as I headed to Salem. First stop, Old Burial Hill Cemetery, where some of those who died during the Salem Witch trials were laid to rest. Cemeteries can be beautiful and peaceful places to visit, while remaining respectful.
Next, the historic district of Salem, where the original Colonial home of Judge Jonathan Corwin (also known as Witch House) still stands.
Nearby is the Salem Witch Trial Memorial. Along a short stone wall, granite benches protrude, seemingly by nature. Each is engraved with one of the names of the 16 women and 4 men who were sentenced to death during the Salem Witch Trials in 1692, along with the manner in which they died. Though the sun was shining and the sounds of children nearby echoed in my ears, a deep sorrow overtook me as I walked along and read each of the names.
The one the struck me the most was Giles Corey, the only victim who did not die by hanging. After refusing to enter a plea, he was subsequently stripped, boards laid upon him and heavy boulders placed on top. Over the course of three days, more were added until he succumbed to his injuries.
The memorial is set next to The Burying Point Cemetery, the oldest known burying ground for the town of Salem, where many of the notable characters of the Salem Witch Trails are buried.
Though television and movies often portray accused witches being burned at the stake, none of the victims of the Salem Witch Trails were burnt. All (save for Giles Corey) were hung.
Speaking of Television, did you know that the series Bewitched was filmed in Salem? After a fire on set in Hollywood, a few episodes were filmed in Salem, Massachusetts and a statue of Samantha was erected as a reminder.
Though it was not known for certain, it was believed the accused witches in Salem were hung on what is now called Gallows Hill. Eerily, a children's play park exists there today.
A 2016 discovery now believes the victims were hung not too far from Gallows Hill, on a piece of land called Proctors Ledge. A memorial has since been created on that very spot.
After a quick stop in Boston, I packed up and began the long drive north to Toronto, the whispers (and screams) of accused witches keeping me company on the ride.