Allow me to preface this by stating Salem, Massachusetts and its’ wicked history is just as much fun in the off-season as it is in October.
One mild-morning in January, my fiance and I, feeling the itch to travel this beautiful, bold country of ours, felt like taking a weekend trip somewhere new. At first, we planned on Virginia, but Virginia in the midst of winter seemed futile as we wouldn’t be able to relish in the experience. Salem was the last place we ever thought of visiting outside October because, let’s face it: what is there to do exactly when no one is dressed up like witches and rewatching Hocus Pocus with a crowd of people doing their best Bette Midler impression?
As it turns out, a lot.
The Hawthorne Hotel is beautiful in the early morning, and feels innately sinister at night. I’m sure any hotel would make you feel like there’s this elusive presence when you’re one of three couples staying on all four floors! That being said though, the Hawthorne Hotel is rumored to be haunted – and you can read about my paranormal experiences here.
The air is different in Salem. I realize that’s such a cliched thing to mutter, but it’s absolutely true. We noticed that the town isn’t so much filled with a ton of tourists, but it’s not brimming with a ton of people who live there either. It’s unlike any city I’d visited. There is no buzz in the city and for a city girl like me, that was nice to get away from. The Hawthorne Hotel is in the heart of Salem’s Downtown District, meaning it’s close by to a slew of charming stores lining brick pathways, the Salem Witch Museum, countless Italian bistros, beautiful open parks, and Old Burying Point Cemetery, where the last words of those who were hung in the Salem Witch Trials are eerily etched into stone.
In school, we only ever spent half a class period covering the Salem Witch Trials. Upon visiting the town, it’s such a travesty that we didn’t spend more time learning about these women and their tragic end. It goes without saying that Salem unveils a plethora of information and history on these trials, and none did better than the Salem Witch Museum. At first glance this Gothic church with a red, ignited light beaming into out hotel window at night seems sinister – and then you walk inside to lighthearted chatter and a gift shop, and you immediately think, “oh, this isn’t bad.”
We were the only two people sitting in this auditorium sized space, pitch black and with a sinister silence. The show is extremely intimidating if you’re sitting there alone and mid-way through the act, I almost bolted out of the theater. Each panel goes over the history and events of the Salem Witch Trials, from red glowing pentagrams in the floor, to screaming, to hearing someone being compressed to death by stone. After the show finished, I bolted out of that room so fast only to find the tour guide take me on an easy tour of our nation’s depictions of witches. It was a breathtaking show – and by breathtaking you mean, I almost had a heart attack. If interested in visiting the Salem Witch Museum, I recommend visiting during the tourist season. I guarantee the show isn’t as intimidating with a room full of witnesses.
One interesting tidbit I learned through our travels was that it’s the birthplace of Nathaniel Hawthorne. As a creative writing major, being in the city that birthed the idea of the Seven Gables was being a part of the history itself! Even better is that we not only visited the home where Hawthorne was born – but we got to visit the House of Seven Gables ourselves!
The tour of the house brings you to the center stage of Hawthorne’s mind and inspiration for his work. I picked up a copy of the House of Seven Gables at a local bookstore I still follow on Instagram called Wicked Good Books. You can check them out here.
Despite it being the off season, Salem is an interesting town to visit. It’s quiet during the off season, and you’re able to indulge in experiencing activities individually rather than a herd of onlookers. We drank coffee from Jaho Coffee, a very artistic and hipster-inspired coffee shop located near the water. We visited lighthouses, snagged a picture of Samantha from Bewitched, and had the opportunity to tour the Hawthorne Hotel, all the while being worried that we’d come face to face with a ghost at the end of the hall.
After visiting during the off season, it’s on my bucket-list to visit in October when the town is in full swing. The town has such a somber history but a culture that embraces it. Salem is unlike any town I’ve visited and I promise it’ll be unlike one you’ll visit, too. Just don’t stay on the 4th floor of the Hawthorne Hotel. Unless you’re into that kind of thing..