January 24, 2015

Real Witches Use Eye of Newt and Tongue of Dog??

It's something most people hear about but never actually consider - if witches are real, do we actually use the strange ingredients you hear about in fairy tales and literature?

Should we lock up our pets?? What does this mean? WON'T SOMEONE THINK OF THE CHILDREN!? :p

But seriously, Tom the Tour Guide explains:

That's right, no need to worry. In fact, I'm even a vegetarian witch and my black cat's name is Brachleagh! Here's a video of him being annoyed with me:

January 20, 2015

Why is Salem Called "The Witch City"?

Many people wonder, is there were no witches in 1692, why is Salem called "The Witch City"? Shouldn't we be "The Hysteria City"? It's a horrible thing to say, but instead of a witch flying across the moon on a broomstick, would it not be more appropriate for the symbol for our city to be a lady hanging from a tree?

To understand why real witches are in Salem we first have to understand how we became known as "The Witch City".

January 11, 2015

Ancient Gods and the Names for the Days of the Week

Salem 2014: The Witch City's Year in Photos

SALEM 2014

2014 was fantastic for Salem and I figured the best way to commemorate the year was to compile my favorite moments using photos rather than a crappy top ten list! I know everyone hates reading and "has ADD" these days so lets get right to it!

Salem in the Media!

The promotional posters for WGN's SALEM are cooler than the actual show

The most prominent mention of Salem in the media for the year was related to the new show on WGN, which was by most accounts a huge letdown. Honestly, my Salem witch friends and I like the show because we weren't expecting it to be historically accurate. I love the campiness. If you know it's all in fun and know what you're getting yourself into it's a decent show.

Why do animators always make the Puritans so adorable?

The second most popular mention of Salem in the media this year was definitely the cult game hit "Town of Salem". It's based on the "mafia" style game genre, which is reminiscent of Clue or other murder mystery games. To be honest, the setting of the game is completely incidental and irrelevant, but it's still cool that it's set in Salem. There are two other video games set in Salem that people were playing in 2014, and neither of them were particularly popular or groundbreaking, Murdered: Soul Suspect by Square-Enix was a terrible letdown.

Why so serious?

And the most viral news story of 2014 was the sensationalist headline of a grave digger in Salem's oldest cemetery. In this picture from the cover of The Salem News you can see by his expression that dude thinks all the media attention was hilarious. His story was that he was only trying to perform amateur archaeological excavation on two gravestone submerged beneath the soil that he alleged are his ancestors. "Yep, he's probably just insane" we all said. Well, it turns out we should all feel bad for laughing at the guy, his mother said in an interview that he's literally schizophrenic and she had been trying to get him involuntarily committed for years because he wouldn't take his medication. Yikes. 

What's been banished and what's sacred space?

The end of an era

Everyone loved the big stacks and piles of books in Derby Square Bookstore, but anyone that spent any time in there could tell it was long overdue for an update - some of those stacks of books were kind of gross and smelly... To fill the void Wicked Good Books opened, and I have only heard good things about them.

Coven's Cottage opening day.

Pagan Moon opening day.

Here are two of the new witch shops that opened on Essex street this year, The Coven's Cottage and Pagan Moon. I think that makes 7 authentic witchcraft stores within about a quarter mile. They're all doing very well and, if you ask me, the success of the stores on Essex street can be attributed not just to a general rise in tourism during the off-season, but a rising trend of interest in western paganism.

Another place locals are very sad is closing.

Penelope's Pet Boutique is closing which is disappointing because they have the largest selection of dog Halloween costumes in the city. Sure there are other pet shops in town, but this one has become a staple.

Celebrity Salem!

This year, as always, we had lots of celebrities visiting Salem, here are just a few of my favorite!

Katy Perry came to Salem to take The Salem Witch Walk! Here she is with Salem witches Lorelei, Leanne, and Jody Cabot! (also the dogs Dolly, Chico, and Lucky!) She also went to The Salem Witch Museum.

Scottish actor Graham McTavish. He was in the area filming Disney's "The Finest Hour" with Chris Pine.

Ben Vereen was spotted on Essex street this September! 

If you're not a fan of musical theatre and dance, you might not understand why us drama geeks got so excited that Ben Vereen graced Salem with his almighty presence. 

Renee Zellweger with the guy fromthe cafe, Jaho. I couldn't figure out why she was in town, most likely just relaxing.

Boston celebrity Keytar Bear at Gulu Gulu in Salem!


And my favorite celebrity appearance in Salem this year was Elizabeth Warren, my champion. Obviously. Yes, this is me fanboying with her taking a selfie. Luckily, John from Creative Salem got a photo of the photo so I could create this meta collage. This is how the conversation went 

ME: "Hello, have you ever met a Salem witch before?"

HER: (Smiling and noddling excitedly) "Well, no, I have not!"

ME: "Well now you have, let's take a selfie!"

Her: "OK!"

It was basically the highlight of my life even though I was slightly disappointed she was here to endorse the old Democrat guy rather than the new progressive guy, but it's cool because he won anyways. 

My Favorite Police Logs

Presented without comment, here are my three favorite police log entries from Salem this year!

Vampire Steve and the Street Preachers

Vampire Steve being fucking badass.

Most local's favorite story of the year was the turf feud between the street preachers and street performers. The basic gist of the feud is that street performers have to pay the city for licensing and have always been good about developing good relationships with the residents and business owners in the area, whereas the street preachers don't need to pay, and constantly harass people and cause problems. It's not a matter of free speech, the street preachers can say whatever they want, the issue is that they are rude, loud, offensive, and they create an atmosphere of anarchy in the already busy streets.

Vampire Steve became somewhat of a hero of Essex street by standing his ground and telling them off multiple times. He's not a hero though, he's just out there trying to live his life and be a fucking awesome vampire smoking cigarettes and making witty remarks. Also worth noting, he has gotten many nicknames in town and there seems to be some confusion about his costume - which is his own take on Mr. Barlow from Salem's Lot.

Anyways, this one guy who likes to create videos got a couple of really good moments that are worth mentioning. Here is his video of Vampire Steve righteously telling off a preacher, for more check out his Youtube channel.

Historic Renovations

Many of the important historical sites around the city have been getting repairs this year, too many to document. 

Working on Salem's City Hall

The city wanted to get rid of it, but people raised their voices and the town square fountain sculpture was instead fixed up and made smaller so it wouldn't keep getting in the way of emergency and delivery vehicles. Locals are worried it's just another step towards Essex street becoming less pedestrian.

Other Noteworthy Moments

Salem witch trials historian Marilynne Roach was on The Daily Show and when the Salem Witch Museum posted about it look what picture came up. LOL Sorry, I'm wicked immature sometimes.

I asked Vampire Steve to pose next to an antique car during the show on Essex street.

Motorcycles completely taking over Derby street during this October's Halloween Witch Ride for the MDA.

Lorelei, Christian Day and his new husband Brian looking wicked cool posing for a photographer from The Boston Globe this October. Moments after this picture was taken oneof the dogs started barking and freaking out, gotta love chihuahuas! 

A decent turnout for a march and candlelight vigil in honor of Mike Brown and other black lives lost to police violence. 

So what did I miss? Too much has been happening  for me to even keep track. It's been a great year for the city and 2015 is looking to be even better!

December 19, 2013

The Internet is Saying "Witches are the new Vampires"

We finally have a teaser trailer for WGN's new series, SALEM. 

The show got funded straight to it's first season without a pilot and is WGN's first original series so it might be a little budget, but it sure looks like they're putting a lot of time and energy into it. They are filming on a set designed to look like 17th century Salem built like a ghost town in Shreveport, LA. There's a cemetery, public square, church, and of course, the gallows. Its located on the Red River, which apparently is a great place to film scenes of accused witches being dunked.

With Salem witches playing a prominent role in shows like 'American Horror Story: Coven' and two separate reality shows in production focusing on the lives of average witches in The Witch City, it's starting to get a little crazy. Articles around the internet are saying things like "Witches are the new vampires!" But is it just a fad?

There are two different production companies trolling Craigslist, Reddit, etc. looking for local witches for reality shows, of course trying to stay ahead of the curve and ride the wave of the trend. Unfortunately, like most reality shows, they have a warped and idealized view about what exactly they want to film, asking for replies only from young women.

I wish I had the means to produce a documentary show about Salem, there's so much real magic and so many hilarious people to focus on, but what the '"reality show" types don't understand is that an authentic and intelligent show has a much more dedicated demographic - nerds. Sure, the assholes from Duck Dynasty can make lots of money really fast, but it's fleeting. Real success comes only from the types of dedicated fans that appreciate not being pandered  to. IMHO.

Even Jenji Kohan, creator of Netflix's 'Orange is the New Black', and Showtime's 'Weeds' is developing a new untitled drama for HBO based on the Salem witch trials and with the insane critical and commercial success of those two shows, it's hard to imagine that her show is going to be anything but amazing. It's also worth noting that, while WGN's show claims to involve the supernatural, it seems so far that Kohan's Salem is being toted as 'drama', so here's hoping it will be a completely different angle than what we are used to. 

Here's the teaser trailer:

September 14, 2013

What Salem Businesses have been Banished and which are Sacred Space? 2013 Edition

Maybe all the ghost tours should start mentioning that every time a restaurant tries to open up in the Lyceum building it fails... It could it be a new story they call The Curse of Bridget Bishop?

Keeping a business open in Salem is very difficult, the  downtown district is like a wild garden. Every year I see all the storefronts shifting and blinking, fading and blooming with enterprise and the hope of success. Some make it and some don't. 

Some are banished and others become sacred space.

Witch Shops - Most of the local witch shops are doing great  this year, and a few new ones are in town.

Archangel Michael holding down the spot at Magicka.

Things are getting confusing for tourists when they visit Pickering Wharf now that two well-respected local elders with similar sounding names are teaching classes and doing readings out of their new spaces! Firstly, the famous Laurie Cabot has some students that opened up a shop called Enchanted, where she can sometimes be found, but Lori Bruno, who has also become a local fixture in recent years, had just opened up her new shop Magicka in the space previously left open by Laurie Cabot when her shop "The Official Witch" shut down. 

The Salem Witch House, often confused for a witch shop.

Crow Haven Corner, Laurie Cabot's old shop on Essex Street, has been owned by a student/friend of hers ALSO named Laurie, who goes by Lorelei to try to avoid confusion. Tourists already get so bewildered I don't know how they are going to handle this further Laurie/Lori complication! Regardless, I wish the best to both of them. They are each in their own way the epitome of what we expect for and love in an elder.

The big three witch shops on Essex street (Crow, Hex, and Omen) are doing great. Word is that Hex New Orleans is doing great as well, people are joking saying soon it will be a franchise and we'll see a Hex in every mall, like Hot Topic. 

Also, it ends up that the guys from the World of Witches Museum that failed last year left town while they still owed a bunch of their employees money. Their whole "Young Witches of Salem" reality show idea ended up being a huge embarrassment of a failure so they blamed the city and left.

Same thing just happened with another guy who moved to Salem and suddenly started acting like he was an important witch and demanding respect. After a couple years of sashaying around downtown he opened up a shop and when it failed he blamed the city. The thing is, the witches around here are already established, successful, and respected - you can not just barge into the city and begin speaking on behalf of all Salem witches. It's a recipe for failure. Anyone with a successful witch shop in this city has lived around here for decades.

From the outside they may just look like a bunch of crazy people but that's only because Salem witches have to deal with so much ridiculous nonsense all the time and they have learned to to take it in stride and have fun with it. And that is what they are teaching me to do. After all, our mission is to educate people on our craft and in some cases entertain as well. You can't be grumpy and do that, you have to laugh!

Restaurants - Honestly I'm getting really annoyed with all the people who keep trying to open up restaurants in Salem that are just slightly too classy for our local atmosphere, but their successes and failures make a really interesting competitive local restaurant economy. This year a bunch of boring classy restaurants have opened or are opening up, but I want to move on to more interesting things like cupcakes, candy, and ice cream.
This sign is on the window across the street from my apartment on Washington st.:

We have a few very good places to get local baked goods like a & J kings and coffee time, but is this going to be a shop devoted specifically to cupcakes? That is something unique in Salem but becoming a trend in many cities across the country, so you know it is a sure-fire business plan, kind of like food trucks. When is Salem going to start getting food trucks? I'm telling you there's money in that.

We also have a new candy shop on Essex Street called Sugar Rush(no website yet). it offers some different things than the other candy shops in town but is pretty standard. it's an awesome location so they will do it extremely well, I mean you can't go wrong with candy.

And, as if we didn't have enough ice cream shops, Salem Screamery opened up where Ben and Jerry's used to be. They have some unique flavors but for the most part get their ice cream from Richardson's like all the other places in town, which is the favorite dairy of most locals.

Tourist attractions - This year one of the haunted houses in the mall is shut down, and another on Essex Street stopped being haunted and it changed its subject to general Salem history. Another one on the wharf keeps changing and no one can quite figure out what it is. During high season a few more places will become haunted house attractions, but right now there is only one in the city, The Witch Mansion. We'll see how this develops as October approaches.

Salem's 3D Time Machine tour museum thingy.

The haunted house 13 Ghosts has been changed into a really cute and cheesy history tour thing that I surprisingly enjoyed and hope tourists check out. It looks like a college kid constructed it with a low budget, but has a lot of heart, takes like 15 minutes and mentions a lot of random Salem history in a way tourists can easily understand. It also looks as though it can easily be converted into a haunted house for when it gets busy.

The Griffin Theater has now re-branded itself as the Gallows Hill Theater. I can only assume this is a conscious effort to confuse tourists into going there. 

Pioneer Village has been neglected and utilized on and off throughout the years, and this year an enthusiastic group of people is planning a "haunted event" called Terror at the Village:

The city is buzzing with energy and about to bubble over as we get closer to October. At any moment most business downtown could disappear for any reason - but some seem blessed, some seem lucky, and others are sacred space.