Last week/end, Dennis and I drove up to Massachusetts for the 4th annual MerrimackValley Halloween Book Festival, but before that, we made a pit stop in Salem for some witchy fun. Now Salem, MA has been on my travel-list for, quite honestly, as long as I can remember. I’m a huge Nathaniel Hawthorne fan, and obviously I feel a pull there for spiritual reasons as well, so when we rolled into town Thursday morning, I was beyond excited (despite the rain).
I was a tad bit afraid that the commercialism for tourists (like myself) would ruin the experience for me, but honestly, I loved it. All the witches running around, the black/orange streamers and banners, the apple cider donut stands, etc. made it a beautiful fall event, and I was happy to grab a drink at one of many bars that lined Essex Street…which reminds me! If you folks like pumpkin beer, you totally have to try this drink It’s Shipyard Pumpkin with a cinnamon sugar rim and a shot of rum. Delicious!
On our first day there, we tackled the Salem Witch Museum, the Witch Memorial, saw the Hawthorne Statue, the Bewitched Statue, and the Roger Conant statue (the founder of Salem in 1626). Looking back on the trip, the Witch Memorial was easily one of my favorite parts because no matter how much you read or study something, there’s nothing like standing in history. There were individual stones for each person who died as a result of the Salem witch trials, and lots of people were leaving roses and offerings in memory of them. It was surprisingly emotional, and the graveyard itself (The Old Burying Point) was stunningly beautiful. I saw stones from the early 1700s, and more that had no dates and more wear, so I suspect they were probably older.
After that, we did some shopping and grabbed some snacks. I even finally got to get a past-life reading, which was eye opening on a lot of levels, some of which are too personal to write about here, but I suspect they'll end up in my poetry sooner or later. I will say that after hearing everything, certain aspects of my life make a lot more sense, and the themes of my books are obviously trends that have been passionate to me in past lives…particularly Brothel. Wink-wink.
We spent the night at a lovely Aribnb in Manchester-by-the-Sea and had a fantastic seafood dinner (if you ever are near Lobstaland, definitely check it out!). The next morning, we traveled back to Salem for more shopping and relaxation, and by the time we left, I had a bag full of herbs and bones, which honestly, seems just about right. I also got to stop at The Witch House, Count Orlock's Monster Museum, and The House of the Seven Gables, which made my literary heart smile. Also, as a quick aside, my favorite book shop that I visited there was Pyramid Books, and my favorite witch store was easily The Coven's Cottage.
We got up early Saturday morning and headed to the Haverhill Public Library where I got to see my writing tribe, hug lots of friends (and people I consider family), sell books, meet new friends and colleagues, and chat about Halloween. The event itself is huge, and Christopher Golden did a fantastic job (as usual) organizing everything and championing our writing. I sold a ton of books, got to sit on a Halloween reads panel (hat-tip to James Moore, Kat Howard, Thomas Sniegoskii, and Glenn Chadbourne), and get some books signed, too. Afterwards, we all headed over to The Loft where we shared a meal and got to chat some more, and by the end, hugs and drinks were had all around and we called the day a success!
I’d like to say that we finally got to sleep in on our trip today, but that’s not how I roll when I travel. Dennis and I got up and ready, and after a quick breakfast, we drove to Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, where I got to pay my respects to NathanielHawthorne, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and Louisa M. Alcott. I spent some time at each of their headstones, thanked them for their art, and left offerings at the grave.
All in all, this trip was everything that I could have wanted and more. I left with some beautiful memories and some great art and herbs, and I’m happy to have checked another place off my bucket list. I very much expect that Dennis and I will be returning to Salem (and MA in general) sooner rather than later, but until then, I have enough bones, writing, and spellwork to keep me busy.
With graveyard dust and lotus pods,
Stephanie M. Wytovich