I’m currently on a two-week holiday around the USA with my husband and our first trip was to Salem, also known as the Witch City. I first heard about Salem when I was a teenager studying The Crucible in English class. I went on to be cast as an elderly lady accused of witchcraft in our school production of the Arthur Miller play (cue lots of talcum powder to make my hair grey).
Now my interest in Salem far surpasses just the witch trials, as the town is home to thousands of witches and the streets are lined with shops selling witchcraft paraphernalia and herbs. There is even a Harry Potter shop.
I had booked us a round trip on the fast ferry to Salem, but sadly the ferries were cancelled due to rough seas so we got there using Uber instead (nothing was going to stop me missing this trip!).
The first sign of witches in Salem was the statue of Samantha from the much-loved tv show Bewitched. A friendly resident Brit told us that the show actually had no connection with Salem and that the statue was simply gifted to the town. Later we were told by our tour guide that a few episodes of Bewitched were filmed on location here, and then, confusingly, one of the guides in the Salem Witch Museum told the group that all the episodes were filmed there. Strange, but only one of numerous inconsistencies I have in this strange but wonderful place.
1. The Salem Witch Walk
After getting some coffee and breakfast pastries for the road, we headed towards the oldest witchcraft shop in Salem, Crow Haven Corner, for our Salem tour, The Salem Witch Walk, the only guided tour run by actual witches, because, let’s face it, I trust their opinion on these matters more (case in point, the misrepresentation of modern-day witches in the Salem Witch Museum, where they told us that all witches are Wiccan – talk about generalising!). Our tour guide, Tom enthusiastically led us through an opening ritual so that those less in the know could see that witchcraft isn’t at all scary and certainly not evil. After that, we were led to the Witch Trials Memorial and the Old Burying Point Cemetery while Tom explained that magic is much more prevalent in modern day life than people would expect, as well as talking about the pagan origins of Easter and the days of the week. We also visited the healing altar in the Omen store on Essex Street, and the Altar of the Dead in Hex. I really enjoyed the tour, and although I’m pretty clued up in witchcraft and didn’t learn anything new there, I certainly learned some interesting facts about the witch trials. You also get a free crystal.
2. Life Alive Cafe
After our tour, my thoughts immediately turned to food. This is nothing new. I love food and my day pretty much revolves around thinking what my next meal will consist of. My husband is vegan and I’m a pescatarian so I often use the website Happycow to find where the best veggie restaurants are. We found Life Alive and it’s veggie paradise. It was very busy in there but we managed to find a table. I had the Love Alive smoothie; blueberries, strawberries, banana, dates, chia seeds and almond milk. It was so delicious, but the real treat was the Green Goddess salad bowl. Made with broccoli, avocado, kale, tofu and an amazingly yummy Ginger Nama Shoyu sauce, I need to try and recreate this at home! That is if I don’t just move into this gorgeous organic cafe and live off their nourishing raw food forever.
3. Hauswitch Home + Healing
After lunch, I made a beeline for the Hauswitch Home + Healing store. I had seen this light, beautiful space on Instagram and just knew that I would love it. While the other witchy shops in Salem are all dark and cramped, this place is spacious and has a chilled out boho vibe going on. I really had to struggle not to buy up everything in there, and in the end I only bought a new moon candle, a Witch City tote and a lovely book called The Herbal Homestead Journal, but I desperately want to go back and buy the ‘We’re the Weirdos Mister’ cushion and basically every gorgeous art print in their stock.
4. The Coven’s Cottage
I also visited The Coven’s Cottage, a cute little witchy shop with a great selection of dried herbs. This was particularly exciting for me as I am yet to find a decent herb stockist where I live, and often have to order the rarer stuff online (although I am cultivating a little herb garden). I was pleased to see that the basket of dried Heather was nearly sold out, but then that hardy little shrub which I’m named after is famous for bringing luck. From there I bought some dried witch hazel bark ( for clearing paths), pink roses (for love and healing, but also for aesthetic reasons), and some Calendula (for respect and admiration). I also got some really lovely parchment paper embedded with dried flowers and my annual purchase of the Llewellyn’s Witches’ Datebook.
On our way to the Salem Witch Museum (apparently the best museum in town), I popped into the Crow Haven Corner to have a browse, and although I didn’t end up buying anything, I was extremely touched to see a couple bring in a tiny mewing ginger kitten, which they had found abandoned nearby. Lorelei, the owner of the shop is also the founder of the charity Salem Saves Animals, a great cause not only helping local animals in need but also promoting the education and awareness of animal care in the community and of the dedication to changing the animal abuse laws in the States.
5. Salem Witch Museum
The Salem Witch Museum has timed presentations, the first taking the audience through the events of the 1696 witch trials, and the second giving a bit of background to the term witch, from the ancient medicine women and midwives through to the popular Hollywood depiction of witches and an overview of Wicca and the Wheel of the Year. I found the museum interesting, but as I mentioned earlier, their information on modern witchcraft was somewhat basic.
6. House of the Seven Gables
From there, my husband and I took a walk through Salem Common and down to The House of the Seven Gables. The house is named after the Nathaniel Hawthorne gothic novel of the same name and served as inspiration to Hawthorne, whose cousin once lived there. The tour took us through the rooms of the house. I particularly liked a hidden staircase leading up to a secret room, and the attic which was once the servants’ quarters. Unfortunately, the tour guide didn’t mention any ghost stories about the house, which was a pity as I got a definite creepy vibe upon entering, although this eased up the further I moved through the house. This place is great to visit if you’re interested in history and want to step inside a genuine Colonial house, and/or if you are interested in Hawthorne. There are also pretty gardens, a great view of the sea and a quaint little museum store which sells literary gifts and lovely notebooks.
7. Nightmare Gallery
From there we headed to Count Orlock’s Nightmare Gallery, a small museum housing life-size figures of cinema’s scariest monsters. I must be becoming more of a scaredy-cat as I get older, because at first I was worried this would be one of those attractions where actors dressed up in creepy gear jump out on you as you walk around in the dark (I still haven’t got over the terrifying clown ripped straight from my nightmares who stalked me through The London Bridge Experience). Thankfully this wasn’t the case, but the incredibly life-like detailed figures were very nightmare-inducing anyway. As a lifelong horror movie fan, it was great coming face to face with all manner of vampires, werewolves and the like.
If you’re a geek and/or comic book fan then head to Harrison’s Comics and Pop culture store. I’m not a comic book reader but as well as the comics they had a great selection of collectibles including old film magazines and vintage print film posters.
Ok so we didn’t actually eat at Howling Wolf Taqueria, but we intended to. I’m a big fan of Mexican food (I could probably live off guacamole) so this was definitely on my places to visit. Unfortunately, it’s so good that the place was crowded and the wait for food was 40 minutes. I was starving so I wasn’t prepared to wait, but it did smell amazing.
Today I’m exploring Boston, before catching a flight to Chicago. After a few days in the Windy city, I’ll be off to Anchorage, Seattle and finally Los Angeles. If you have any recommendations of places to visit, please post below! I’m particularly partial to foodie haunts, book stores, and metaphysical shops. Thanks!