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. It was messy and sometimes confusing, but we jotted notes on those pages, which, all these years later, make us smile.
Nine months later, on our second road trip to South Carolina, we relied on GPS to guide us. As reliable as the technology was on the second trip, I preferred the nostalgia of following a map, so I planned my route, wrote out my directions, but brought the TomTom with me (just in case). These days, with everyone having access to google maps or an alternate map app in their pocket, few rely on printed maps or map books.
I departed 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 (sometimes listed as the standard queen 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. It was very peaceful and quaint.
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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.
Since this was a road trip and I planned on driving, I decided to stay outside of Salem in the nearby charming town of Marblehead, and I'm so glad I did.
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.
Road Trip to Salem, Massachusetts - The Witch Hunt:
It was a cool, but bright sunny morning as I headed to Salem.
I only had the day to explore and, along with my printed map, had lists of places to see and things to do while in Salem, Massachusetts. The weather was perfect, and most of the planned stops were to be outdoors and off the beaten path.
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. There were only a few people visiting the cemetery when I arrived. Casually and quietly walking through the grounds, I easily found a few graves that were linked to the Salem Witch Trials.
Next, the historic district of Salem, where the original Colonial home of Judge Jonathan Corwin (also known as Witch House) still stands. This is the only building that survived that has direct connection to the Salem Witch Trials, originally built in 1675. Judge Corwin presided over many of the accused during the Witch Trials.
You can enter and tour the home (for a small fee), but it is self-guided. The best option, if you're looking for inside information, would be to book a tour that would include the house, or a walking tour prior to visiting, so that you can be armed with information while visiting the former home of Judge Jonathan Corwin.
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.
There is a very popular Salem Witch Trial Historical Tour that walks through the memorial, but if you'd prefer, like me, to not follow a group, there is a Self-guided smart phone Walking Tour that guides you around Salem to visit the main sites, providing you information on your phone.
The one victim that 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.
Also known as the Charter Street Cemetery, it is the oldest maintained cemetery in Salem. Forever linked to the Salem Witch Trials, Judge Jonathan Hawthorn is buried here. 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.
Even if you're not particularly interested in diving deep into the history of the Salem Witch Trials, an autumn road trip to Salem Massachusetts is enjoyable for anyone. The architecture harkens back to an older era, preserving its small town charm within its bricks and gates. Some buildings are run down and dilapidated, which adds to the eerie history the town will forever be associated with.
Bewitched in Salem, Massachusetts:
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. I visited the believed location of Gallows Hill and 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.
NB: In June 2022, the statue of Samantha from Bewitched was vandalized, covered in red paint. Months later, Kylynn Chambers pleaded guilty, claiming he was going through a rough patch and wanted to do something to get himself arrested.
After a full day exploring Salem, Massachusetts, and 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.