February 20, 2011

Salem - Still Destroying History

Tourist season is still a few months away, so nothing much is going on here, but an update is still needed in order to cover the more interesting things going on.

With Destination Salem's new Rorschach test of a logo, they hope to appeal to both the large witch tourism seeking demographic and the much smaller, but much more wealthy, yuppie/merchant history demographic. If you look closely it can be interpreted as either a witch's hat OR a sailboat looking sort of thing.

I hate the dichotomy that people insist exists between these two groups. Does it really exist? As a local tour guide and historian I can attest to the fact that the trading history of Salem can be interesting to everyone, it's just that the tourist institutions and the historians in Salem tell the stories in boring, dry, and uninteresting ways.

The other issue I have with the new logo is the new motto that goes along with it? "Still making history." ARE YOU KIDDING ME? Still making history how? By allowing a national television show to take a crap on our history? By allowing the historic Old Salem Jail to be renovated into condos and a restaurant that betrays and capitalizes on the history of the building at the same time? The Old Burying Point cemetery, one of the only respectable historic tourist destinations in the city has been falling apart for decades and we just allow it (I see people working on restoration in there no more than 1 or 2 days a year)? We allow tour companies to exist that blatantly lie, take advantage of tourists, and disgrace our history.

If by "making history" they mean allowing the past to die and creating a new history to take it's place, then yes, we are creating history every day. But the ultimate goal is to do a service to history a little less like Winston Smith at Minitrue and a little more like detached observers with a desire to simply preserve what once was.

February 19, 2011

A Brief Critique on the Salem Ghost Adventures Episode <|:)

A strange energy hung in the air all day yesterday. Was it the full moon? Maybe the thunderstorm rolling through?

A quick look at my news feed reminded what it was. This was the night that the Salem episode of *shudder* Ghost Adventures was airing. I get goose pimples just thinking about it. o.0

It ended up being mildly entertaining, although there were numerous problems and obvious historical inaccuracies. I mean lots. ...I could just let it go and said I had fun drinking root beer and watching tv on a huge movie screen at Cinema Salem, but that's not what you all want, is it? XD

I showed up five minutes late and slid int the back row after a brief trip to the concession stand. I don't want to complain too much about "reality" tv, because most people know a lot of it is staged, but, man, watching this just pissed me off! They were being really disrespectful towards witchcraft, for one. In one scene they were walking down Essex st as Zak Bagans pretended to run frantically around asking every person he saw "Are you a witch??" Well, I remember that day clearly, and they walked right past me as I stood in front of the Spellbound Museum with my super long hair and wizard beard wearing a shirt with a huge pentacle on it. I said "Hey, we're the local ghost hunters, come here if you want to know what's really going on in Salem." That prompted them to stare at me and film me speaking then all turn their backs on me at the same time and walk away without saying anything. Then my boss went up to them and introduced herself and her dog, Braveheart, and they actually showed a clip of her introducing the dog but not herself! Threatened much?

Later, at the Witch House, the very first time that Zak Bagans whips out his digital voice recorder and asks a question, he gets some scribbles that he claims are electronic voice phenomena ( or EVPs, which he later describes as "phenomenas[sic]" in the same way a child asks for "pesgetti"). And, of course, it's a little girl. Isn't it always?

Any time they mentioned Christian Day or his shop, Hex,there was boisterous laughter and yelling from a section up in the first few rows. I could hear his voice, which can only be described as 'fabulous' exclaiming "That's right, I'm a WARLOCK, baby!" I could only help but giggle at his attempts to troll someone into the witch/warlock debate, which has good and bad evidence on either side and which I am assuming he has been studying extensively lately as his first book is coming out soon and people are saying it might be called something about warlocks or something. He leaked some of it which I have read and I must admit he is truly reveling in his controversial image. Nonetheless, I can't wait to read it. [edit: as an aside, here is a video of him and the extremely magical and wise Lori Bruno helping out their realtor friend with a cleansing ritual that doubles as a fantastic publicity stun. They were just in the Wall street Journal as well for this same stuff.]

Later on, during a mention of the famous mysterious figure some of 1692's accusers claimed to be afflicted by, known as the "Dark/Shadow/Black Man", they showed shaded grainy footage of the statue of Roger Conant. Only the most unperceptive of tourists don't realize that the man with the walking stick and a cloak is not some spooky figure, but the man who founded Salem as a fishing village in 1626 before the ignorant Puritans showed up in 1629. A rookie mistake really.

During the investigation when they were visited by afore mentioned Salem Warlock and his friend Kelly (whom you can get psychic readings from over the phone for only 3.99 per minute!, lol), they were treated to a ritual that was pretty much devoid of any actual ritual, but contained a cute speech. Christian sure did raise a lot of energy in the room and the guys from the show were getting all worked up about him, but mostly about his skull, which he named Robert. The editing was hilarious, and if Christian did do anything respectful or authentic they completely removed it - but made sure to include him talking about blood sacrifice. Hats off to Mr. Day, though, he cut his finger (or faked it convincingly) and did a blood sacrifice on tv! Wicked awesome. I could tell from his cackling laughter he thought the editing made it a little cheesy, too, but it was good. He totally freaked the guys on the show out.

Now, after the ritual the digital voice recorder seemed to actually respond to multiple questions on cue with specific answers. Really? Wow. Let us suspend disbelief for a moment and say that this was true, only problem? Content! Historical accuracy!

They claimed the voice was Bridget Bishop and that Jonathan Corwin presided over her trial and may have even questioned or tortured her in his home. There are multiple issues with this. The first is that Jonathan Corwin was not made a judge in the court of Oyer and Terminer until after Nathanial Saltonstall left, and what motivated him to leave? The first hanging, of Bridget Bishop, and it's basis on spectral evidence.

TL;DR version: Corwin became a judge AFTER Bridget's execution and could not have presided over her trail.

Now, to move on, they moved the investigation to The Lyceum restaurant(a great place, but a bit pricey), which has never been proven to be the site of where Bridget Bishop's property once was, but it is possible. The show did not mention that this was only a theory, and completely accepted it as fact without question. I hope that the fashionable little steampunk kid from Beverly High that was the guest investigator on the show reads this because I wanted to ask, could you tell Zak Bagans was flattering you? This kid, Max, seemed very skeptical at first, but then after a pep talk from Zak about how cool he thought he was, he seemed much more likely to buy into whatever was going on around him. Did anyone else catch that, or am I wrong? Flattery is how a lot of psychics work, as well. It is a very easy way to manipulate someone.

Later on, they caught a suspected EVP - a low and raspy sound that they deduced was the voice of Bridget Bishop saying "Mary". If that was Bridget Bishop, then she must have been fugly as hell, because she sounded like a nasty old drag queen.

A bunch of other stuff happened but, nothing notable or very exciting and this entry is too long already. Tomorrow, a quick update on the rest of what is going on in the world of witches, there has been too much to not update, but then back to winter blog break.

[Also, in researching this entry I found a fantastic article written by someone ten times more skeptical than I about this episode that I had to link because it's extremely funny. http://frothygirlz.com/2011/02/19/ghost-adventures-salem-witch-house/ ]