Trip To Salem, Massachusetts

Being together with someone who pushes me to be the best possible version of me was what made it the best.

Travel has always been a dream of mine. Maybe it relates back to my childhood and the few times that my parents took me places. Maybe it’s the idea of going to a place that I’ve always dreamed about. Or it could be the escape factor, getting away from my reality to go someplace where no one knows me and I can just blend in. Whatever the reason, I want to travel, whether I have had the courage to or not.

Early travel with family

The earliest memory I have of travel was when I was between the age of 2 and 4. My parents packed me up and we headed to the NE to visit family. As a baby, whenever I was fussy, my parents would put me in the car and drive around and I would fall asleep. This trip was no different. I slept the entire way and would stay awake whenever we stopped at a hotel.

We stopped in Massachusetts so they could sleep, and again I was wide awake running around. Keys were a fascination for me and I would play with them all the time. On this stop, my mother was jerked awake by the sounds of the toilet flushing in the other room and me giggling. The keys were nowhere to be found and it dawned on my mother that maybe I had flushed them. She wakes my father and they frantically start searching everywhere for the car keys. After hours of searching, they see me playing with the keys and the suitcase. I had apparently stashed them away there and was only playing with the toilet.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Dreams of travel

From an early age, I had a fascination with history and especially early American history. My mother was an avid reader and encouraged my sister and I to read as children. I remember her having the Grapes of Wrath, Valley of the Dolls, and Wuthering Heights (to name a few) always laying around. My mother introduced me to the likes of Edgar Allen Poe and Nathaniel Hawthorne and these authors created a fascination with witches.

From there, I learned about the Salem Witch trials and it became somewhat of an obsession. I fell in love with Bewitched for similar reasons. This created my longing to go to Salem, Massachusetts to visit and be near a place that persecuted so many people for an alleged association to witchcraft. This became a destination that I absolutely had to go to. Unfortunately, I never got up the nerve to go by myself or with others. I buried my dream but it always burned away in my mind.

That was until I met someone who would push and encourage me to go after the things that I wanted.

What dreams may come

This year was my 48th birthday. There has been a lot of change, as well. The one strong point in my life is my boyfriend, Karl. He has pushed me to go to the doctor, strive to be better, and to live my dreams. We have been wanting to travel for over a year now, I even got my passport in hopes of traveling. Covid, unfortunately, had other plans for our trip.

We were fed up…

Karl asked me what I wanted to do for my birthday and we went over a list of options and what it could cost. After many destinations that just were not feasible for us, I remember my childhood dream of going to Salem. I mentioned it and he went to work finding and planning the trip. Our plans were set and my dreams were about to be realized.

going on an adventure

Going on an adventure

The plan for us was simple. Karl was going to Allentown for work and I would fly up to meet him and then we would drive the rest of the way. I haven’t flown in almost twenty years and never was a huge fan, due to being a tall and bigger person. But, I still fly. My roommates drop me off at Cleveland Hopkins airport for my flight and, amazingly enough, I make it through security and get to the gate in no time at all. Two hours later, I board the plane and quickly fly to Detroit.

It felt like we were in the air for five minutes before we landed.

I exited the gate and realized that my next gate was only a few down from where I landed. I got into Detroit around eight and my connecting flight wasn’t until 10:30, so I pulled out my tablet and watched some Drag Race and a few other things. This is where the issues started. First our flight crew weren’t there, then our flight needed to reduce weight due to issues in Allentown, and finally it was delayed due to weather. So, I ended up staying in the airport until the flight the next morning at 7:30am.

I arrived in Allentown about an hour and a half later and the vacation started.

Northbound and down

After a short rest in the hotel, we packed up and headed north to Salem. An hour later, we stopped in Somerville, NJ, his hometown, for lunch and sightseeing. We went to a local pizza joint so he could share the pizza he grew up with. We ordered a few slices to sample and they had one of the best margherita pizzas I have ever had. We walked around Somerville with him walking me through his childhood. Somerville is a quaint little town that seems at a crossroads in time. It has the small main street town feel that is struggling to catch up to the modern world. Each corner offers just a small glimpse into a frozen moment in its history. Hearing Karl talk about how it was during his childhood gave me a similar impression as a Norman Rockwell painting or looking into It’s A Wonderful Life.

Afterwards, we were back on the road.

A short four-hour drive later, we arrived in Revere, Ma. This was on Friday, August 13th, my birthday.

Being that it was my birthday, we decided to go out for dinner. Karl picked a local seafood restaurant called Turner’s. We got to the restaurant and walked through this little alley to get inside. We decided that we wanted to eat outside and the alley had these cute little string lights and ambiance that made it perfect for a birthday dinner. I opted for a stuffed lobster dinner, having never really eaten a full lobster before. We also had oysters on a half shell and buffalo scallops. OMG!! So amazing

After an amassing dinner, we head back to our room to crash for the night.

Salem sightseeing

The next morning we made our way to Salem.

**Pause here for a moment and let me point out that it is an odd change to go to a state and see advertisements for legal marijuana dispensaries. The odd part comes from being in a state that seems so far back in time that it wouldn’t be possible to see this.**

Salem is a mix of old and new architecture, some of the new architecture is very reminiscent of colonial styles. Immediately I am noticing places from various movies I have watched or books I have read. But what really stands out to me is the sheer amount of pride flags that are everywhere. Rainbow flags, transgender flags, and every other flavor of queer flag you can imagine. It was very nice to be in a town where you don’t have to worry about open judgments from people. There wasn’t a shop or restaurant that didn’t have a queer person on staff, or so it appeared. It was simply amazing.

Our first stop was Gulu Gulu Cafe located at 247 Essex St. This was a highly recommended place for crepes or quick sandwiches. I ordered the Cozy Crunchy Crepe, a vegan crepe filled with blueberries coconut yogurt and topped with maple syrup and house-made grandma ola. It is made completely gluten-free and vegan and it was really good. Karl had a Santa Fe crepe without chicken. It was a good start to the day and I recommend you check it out.

From there we started our tour of Salem. I had bought tickets to go to the Witch House and we had time to kill, so we opted to visit some shops.

Salem Shopping

Across the street from Gulu Gulu was a shop called VampFangs. VampFangs is like a boutique Hot Topic. The coolest part of it for me is they carry a line of clothing by the company Blackcraft Cult. If you are looking for cool trendy goth-style clothing, then this store is for you.

Our next stop was a shop called Hex. Hex is a store that was founded by a Christian D. who is a self-proclaimed Necromancer. The draw of this store is that it is supposed to have an actual human skull on display. I wanted to see this store due to the number of issues that surround Christian. He is known for attacking anyone that doesn’t agree with his viewpoints. A quick look on TripAdvisor will show you how he responded to anyone that feels his store isn’t amazing. In short, this store is very kitschy, in my opinion. As a witch/pagan, I have my favorite shops that sell amazing items and I tend to make my own items as needed. Hex is vastly overpriced for the offerings it has. It definitely fits into the touristy side of Salem. I found much better stores.

The next store we visited that was super cool was called Game Zone. Being a gamer, this place was heaven. If you want a console from a past generation, this place has it. They even had an old Atari 800 computer, not the gaming system mind you. It had a keyboard as well as being able to play video games. I remember when this was sold in department stores in my childhood. This was one of the first times I got to play with a computer and began my fascination with them. This shop was one of my most favorite places in all of Salem.

From there we went on to the Hermetic Arts Learning Center and Witch City Wicks. Hermetic Arts have the most complete set of pagan statuary that I have ever seen in one place. If you need a patron/matron deity, they will probably have it. Witch City Wicks sells store-made candles and gifts. It was just a cool little spot for things that have a more personal feel to them.

We also visited the Essex Street Pedestrian Mall. A small caveat here, this is purely a touristy area. Here you will find Salem, MA t-shirts and gifts. It plays up to the witch environment that Salem has capitalized on. While it isn’t authentic, it is fun. Shops like Coon’s, Wynette Wands, and Wicked Good Books. If you want to learn about the history of Salem and its many famous people, then Wicked Good Books is the place for you.

Hocus Pocus Movie

Hocus Pocus Sites of Salem

The real “T” is that I have been in love with Hocus Pocus since I first saw it. And it only made my desire to go to Salem all the stronger. Since it came out, I wanted to visit and see the locations from the film. Seeing them would give me the feeling of being included in the movie. Because of this, it was a major part of our trip. I looked for every possible reference and spot in the movie that we could see, from Max Dennison’s house to the graveyard he rides through near the beginning of the movie. ALL OF THEM!!!

Now, if you don’t know, the Sanderson house was built on a sound stage and not modeled after anything in Salem. They used a creative license to create it based on how houses may have looked like in the 1600s.

So, here they are for you in as close to the order of appearance as possible.

Salem Pioneer Village

Thackeray Binx’s house

At the beginning of the movie, we see Thackeray Binx waking up and trying to find his sister. As he leaves the house, we see it is set in a small Salem village in the 1600s. This location is actually in Salem, it’s the Salem Pioneer Village and is located at 98 West Ave. The house used in the shot is smaller than it feels in the movie. Mostly because of the tight shot.

Enter Max

As the scene with Thackeray closes, we realize it’s a story being told by a teacher in Jacob Bailey High. This school is actually, now, an apartment building just off of the Salem Common. We see the school twice in the movie, once at the beginning and again with the Sanderson sisters looking for Max, Dani, and Allison. The insides of the school were shot somewhere else, but the outside is there. 

We also see Max flirting with Allison on Salem Common after they leave school for the day. This is a large park in downtown Salem. Where that scene on Max’s bike was shot is hard to find, it was still shot on the Common.

It’s Ice

As Max heads home, we see him cut through a cemetery where he meets Jay and Ernie (I’m sorry… Ice). This cemetery is not in Salem, exactly. Just north of Salem is the town of Marblehead and it is here that Old Burial Hill is located and more specifically is on Orne St. It is a small and very old cemetery. You can see headstones that date back to the 1600s and is very near the bay. An absolutely beautiful place for our story’s hero to lose his cool kicks.

Max's House

Max’s House

After the confrontation with the town bullies, Max heads home upset. This is a cute little house that also sits very close to the bay. The one thing you need to keep in mind with this location is that it is a private residence. So please respect the fact that people do live here.  When we arrived, I felt this was so much smaller than the movie made it out to be. However, the cool part is that Disney rented this house from the owners for the entire duration of filming. And some of it was actually filmed in the house.  If you are in Salem, be sure to stop by for a quick pic. It’s located at 4 Ocean Ave.

Ropes Mansion

They will probably make us drink cider and bob for apples

The next stop is the Ropes Mansion on 318 Essex St. This is the home of Allison, Max’s love interest. The name may confuse you but the location will not. This is where Dani and Max end up after they have a small fight about trick or treating. They enter the house to see a large cauldron filled with candy. This is another location where the outside was all that was used in the movie.

When you enter the house, the entry is much smaller than the movie shows and there is no balcony on the stairs like in the movie.

Old Towne Hall

Dance, Dance until you die

The last site in Salem you can visit is Old Town Hall. This is the site of the Halloween Adults Party. It is where Max comes in to warn the parents that the Sanderson sisters have returned and are trying to take their kids. It’s the big musical number of the movie and where Bette sings I Put A Spell On You. Old Town Hall is located at 32 Derby Square. You will notice that this building is also a bit smaller than what you saw in the movie. 

There you have it, all of the locations in Hocus Pocus.

Other Films in Salem

Salem has been the site for many movies, throughout the years. Little known to many people is that during Bewitched they did a set of episodes called “Salem Saga” and it was filmed in Salem. In honor of that, there is now a statue of Samantha Stephens.

Samantha Stephens

The television series Castle Rock was filmed in Salem and there was an Adam Sadler movie called Hubie Halloween. There was also the Salem Witch Trials starring Kirstie Alley. The documentary Hail Satan? was also shot in Salem.

There is one more movie I want to mention that was also filmed in Salem. In fact, most of it was shot in Salem. Lords of Salem by Rob Zombie. This movie follows Sherri Moon who plays a DJ that works at a radio station in Salem. The movie used a lot of similar sites that Hocus Pocus did like Old Town Hall. Sherri spent a lot of the film walking from her residence to her job and included many places in Salem in and around Derby St.

Just across from the Salem Witch House is the building that Heidi Hawthorne (Sherri Moon) lived in. Essex Street house is located on Essex st. The insides of the apartment building were done on a soundstage, but there are many shots from the outside. You can also see her walking through the Essex Pedestrian Mall. Zombie also shot some of the films at Greenlawn Cemetery.

Return Home

We spent Saturday and Sunday in Salem. We tried many restaurants that were recommended by many visitors and went to places that were said to be places to visit by locals. Salem is a lovely town that balances touristy and history really well. It doesn’t take itself very seriously. And that is what I love most about it. That and the amount of inclusivity in the town. If you haven’t been, then take a weekend and just explore the town and all of its eccentricities.

Make Way For Ducklings

Sunday night, we headed to Beacon Hill in Boston to walk around. Karl wanted to visit Boston Public Garden, the site of his favorite book Make Way For Ducklings. Boston is a beautiful town with immense history. And the Boston Public Garden is simply beautiful. While we were there we saw four different musicians playing to the public. Couples walking hand in hand and kids frolicking about chasing squirrels. We opted for dinner at a place called Tatte Bakery & Cafe.

This spot has a rotating specials menu that is unique. We decided to try a few different dishes. We tried Roasted Peach Tartine. It is made with roasted peaches drizzled with maple syrup over ricotta and topped with mint and cashews all on sourdough bread. We also tried a chickpea and fava plate. Imagine a hummus topped with split fava beans, caramelized red onions, Aleppo chili oil, dukkah, and an herb salad. We also picked out some desserts to finish off the meal with. It was a very nice experience to have in Boston and I would love to go back. 

The next morning, Monday, we headed home. We decided to make a pit stop in Niagara Falls for a quick walkabout and to see the falls. Just a nice break from driving and being together. Then quickly back into the car and headed home.

Reflections

It was an amazing birthday weekend. Being together with someone who pushes me to be the best possible version of me was what made it the best. The getaway was a nice treat and a much-needed reset button. I loved being able to visit a place that I have wanted to for such a long time. A dream came true. Get out and give Salem, Massachusetts a try. Enjoy learning about history and just soak up the culture. Remember, you are also supporting small businesses by visiting Salem or any other town.

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