November 13, 2012

October is Over - Camera Crews Descend

Not sure if it's an official rule or not, but I noticed Cabot trained witches always put their holiday trees up November 1st!

With the holiday on a Wednesday and the threat of hurricane Sandy, this year only about 40,000 people came to the Witch  City for Halloween night. Compared to previous years that's nothing, but it still means the population of the city doubled for one night. Things got insane either way and I saw so many hilarious costumes, even one guy I thought was dressed as Vermin Supreme that ended up actually being him! The previous Saturday may have been just as busy and most of the best Halloween parties happened the weekend before.

I went to The Official Salem Witches' Ball for the first time this year. People come from all over the world and spend lots of money for tickets so it's considered one of the coolest parties in all of witchdom. I'm a big fan of the DJ that works the night and his playlist had a good amount of appropriately witchy songs mixed in with the poppy dance stuff. It's kind of like a classy rave with a ritual in the middle. Lot's of strange people and strange things happening. The costume contest theme was "Witch and Famous" and the woman that won was the Wicked Witch of the West on a huge stilt-like contraption that stood towering above the rest of the crowd the entire night. My personal choice for best costume was the girl who was dressed as Laurie Cabot - her hair and glasses were perfect and I was surprised so many people didn't recognize the costume! It was adorable!

Bloody vampire of some sort on Essex st near the Peabody Essex Museum.

Now that October is over it's boring in town... but the perfect time for film crews to sweep in and shoot. One was shooting a small independent movie where a dying vampire was getting fake blood all over Essex St.

Crew setting up in front of Crow Haven Corner.

Christian Day, Lorelei, and Lori Bruno started filming for their much anticipated reality show last week. Word on the street is it's for TLC, so Honey Boo Boo is going to have some competition next year! I am so worried that these guys are just out to make all my bosses look crazy, but they are all grown adults and knew what they were getting themselves into!  Once this show airs there are going to be so many haters with stupid loud opinions. ...I'm sure there will be lots to write about and tons of rumors to dismiss. The folks at TMZ will be lifting stories from my blog, no doubt!

Crews filming the wicked witches in Rockefellas

The other big news in town is that Salem has been blessed with another beautiful witch shop. Lori Bruno surprised everyone by suddenly opening up her own shop without warning right at the end of October and leaving Hex! It is an absolutely beautiful space.... Ladies and gents, your first sneak peak at MAGIKA:

Owls, and walnuts and pomegranates, oh my.

See who's on the altar? "Mama loves Obama" - Lori

October 26, 2012

Zombies, Zombie, and Halloween in The Witch City

Every year I anticipate October so much that when it actually finally comes it's gone as quick as the autumn leaves falling off the trees. It seems like one day they're there, the next it's just a pile of red and gold for someone to rake, bag up, and put out on the curb.

The Salem Zombie Walk went surprisingly smoothly this year. It felt like after all this time they finally did it right. The crowd all stayed together, the officer leading us around was on a motorcycle and did a great job stopping traffic and clearing the streets for us.

The absolute highlight of the walk was as we turned up Hawthorne Boulevard and the rain started to pour right as the Catholic church bell was tolling 6pm. We all started to yell along with the bells and everyone was getting really rowdy and cheering in the rain - then we noticed the bagpiper standing outside of the church. Right then, with the absolute worst timing ever, he started to play and march and a wedding party appeared at the doors. They looked horrified and shocked as they walked through the hundreds of zombies, many of us stopping to clap and congratulate them. I felt kind of bad for them, but it was their fault for getting married in Salem in October!

Leading the zombies across Washington Square near the commons. (Picture via Haunted Happenings)

This October, Salem has been it's usual mix of witches, psychics, pervert clowns, wacko preachers, and Cenobite Teletubbies, but the one thing we all thought would be here by now and isn't? Rob Zombie's new movie, LORDS OF SALEM - the release date was moved to 2013.
In the trailer he showed during concerts, which ended up on youtube via audience camera phones, it said 2012 at the end. I don't think I can wait any longer, I am dying to see this movie. Those are some hot naked witches. When he filmed in town the crew certainly left their mark... Apparently a murder scene must have been filmed inside Engine House Pizza because there's fake blood leftover on the ceiling and they plan on leaving it there as a souvenir!
That's not marinara.
There's just a few days left to have fun in town, and with the Frankenstorm hysteria spreading it looks like Halloween might not be so awesome, so wear your costume all weekend!
The tourists are ready to occupy salem.

October 2, 2012

October 2012 in Salem: How to Not Be a Stupid Tourist!

             After living and working in Salem for as many Octobers as I have you start to notice the patterns and cycles of tourist behavior much like a primatologist notices the patterns of apes eating insects off each other and picking at their butts. In this entry I hope to create a handy guide for any tourist visiting this month not hoping to look stupid or have a horrible time.

B. What to Visit
 1. Witch Museums
 2. Other Tourist Museums
 3. Classy Stuff
 4. Etc
C. Spooky Stuff
D. Where to Eat
E. Modern Witchcraft
F. Random Tips

Salem Witch Wiles' Guide to Not Being A Stupid Tourist  

A. FAQs - Most Frequently Asked Questions
   1. Where is the House of Seven Gables?
   2. Where is the Witch Museum?
   3. Where is a bathroom?
   4. Where can I get a trolley ticket?
   5. Where is ____?

Answer: GET A FUCKING MAP. Seriously, they are free and all over the damn city. There are three or four different maps from a few different companies and they all compete and make all their revenue off advertising. Sit your ass down and look at the map, read the stupid guides with all the info and figure out what you're doing BEFORE you start aimlessly wandering around like a drunk guy in a Goofy hat in Disneyland. I find it highly ironic that people are so worried about "looking like a tourist" they don't look at their map and end up getting lost.

Also, the people at the information booth at the end of Essex st. (pictured above), as well as the friendly guides inside the Visitor's Center.

B. What to Visit Whatever the hell you want! Seriously, you can't make your own decisions with the internet and all the free brochures everyone showers you with the moment you get into town? OK, fine. I will sum up for you, but keep in mind there is more:  

1. Witch Museums -

   The similar names of these museums are not only confusing to tourists, locals usually just choose one favorite and never even check the others out. Before we get into how these attractions are different let me sum up their similarities: They all seem to have broken animatronics that haven't worked in a long time, they all cost around the same amount and last around the same amount of time, and I have heard equally great and horrible reviews for each. Also, each one of these museums is about the hysteria of 1692, almost forgot to mention that.

The Salem Witch Museum - Stand and learn while scenes light up around you.
The Witch History Museum - Walk through the scenes as some educational stuff happens.
Witch Dungeon Museum - Trial scene followed by a walk through some scenes.  

2. Other Tourist Museums -

There are other things to learn about in town besides 1692. Here is our list of other tourist museums. Reviews vary drastically.

Count Orlok's Nightmare Gallery - One of the few places in town I never feel uneasy recommending, even though it's not about Salem at all! It's a museum about the history of horror cinema, everything from Wolfman and The Creature from the Black Lagoon, to Freddy and Jason. It's an educational history museum for huge horror film nerds. Celebrity appearances and autograph signings all the time in October!
The Pirate Museum - Walk through scenes talking about Salem's pirate history, *SPOILER (lulz)* dude jumps out at you at the end.
The Wax Museum/Witch Village - The Wax Museum is one large room with scenes of Salem's history around it. If you don't read all the plaques and take your time you might think it's too short/small. The Witch Village is a guided tour half about Salem and half about witchcraft. BOTH of these attractions may or may not suddenly become dry ice filled strobe lit haunted houses during high-traffic times.
The Witch House - The name of this place has always bugged me. It's a way of tricking tourists into going there. They even painted it black to make it more "witchy". See, it is the only home still standing with direct ties to the hysteria trials - it's the house of Jonathan Corwin, who joined the Court of Oyer and Terminer to replace Nathaniel Saltonstall, who resigned after the first execution. So really, he was just a replacement, not even a first choice for the court. This museum isn't about 1692 at all, but more about the home itself, architecture, furnishings, and the history of the Corwin family. It has historic validity, it should just be called The Corwin House. The rumors about some of the examinations of victims of 1692 happening here are just bogus.
Salem Toy Museum - Totally random, has nothing to do with Salem history. Just for fun! This place is great, vintage toys, hilarious things on sale, and super nerdy things! It's inside the Museum Place Mall so it's in a weird spot, don't miss it! Also, while you're in the mall check out the new chip shop, 3 Potato 4, they are AMAZING.

3. Classy Stuff -
 The PEM - class and style.

A few of the things that the average tourist wont have time for in October.

Salem Maritime National Historic Site - Check out the replica of The Friendship ship, museum, Custom House, etc.
Peabody Essex Museum - Super classy and cultural. If it isn't October or you have some extra time, dedicate a bunch of hours or a whole day to this place.
The House of Seven Gables - Historic house museum on which Nathaniel Hawthorne's book was based. Also, the author's birthplace has been moved here.
Salem Willows Park - A nice little ocean-side park with arcades, cotton candy, and a carousel.
There are lots of other guided tours through historic homes and such, but most of them are pretty similar.

4. Etc.

Things I can't quite classify.

The Witch Trials Memorial - The only place you can pay respect to all the innocent people killed in 1692. Remember, we all have so much fun in Salem because a bunch of people were tortured and killed unjustly - how's that for a guilt trip? Take a little bit of time to reflect at the memorial and pay your respects.

The Bewitched Statue - A cheese-tastic homage to tourism in Salem. A huge amount of the seventh season of the show was filmed right in Salem!


Wynott's Wands - Remember Salem has been so successful in it's conversion into a Harry Potter themed shop they have also opened up Salem's first wand shop! I really wonder if there's enough of a market for authentic wands in October though... Especially with so many actual witch shops that carry them

C. Spooky Stuff
I found this picture of an actual Salem tourist entering one of our most horrific haunted attractions!

First things first, this is not Disney World. This is not even Spooky World. Things in Salem tend to be on a much smaller budget than standard haunted attractions you'll find in other places. I am not going to rate these because there are just so many variables involved in any individual experience, but I will say that The Boston Phoenix best described it by saying one "resembles a ransacked party store" . All last about the same amount of time and cost around the same amount of money. As of today there are exactly 4 haunted attractions in Salem (not including the few that become haunted mentioned above):
The Witch Mansion - Newly renovated and exits into the mall directly in front of the entrance to:
The Nightmare Factory - newly renovated as well.
13 Ghosts (The shortest) - This year they are boasting some kind of "haunted time machine", whatever that means...
Frankenstien's Laboratory (The longest) - Looks like they might have fixed this one up a bit, too. I sure hope so, the place was falling apart.
Whatever this thing is on Pickering Wharf - The space for a haunted attraction on Pickering Wharf has something going on, not sure what though. Don't know if they haven't yet decided or are keeping it a secret. Odds are it's another standard haunted house type thing.

D. Where to Eat -
 Awesome Vegginess at Life Alive. Pic via their tumblr.

With over 60 places to eat in Salem, it's pretty much impossible for me to review everything or make any recommendations, just a few things:

--If you are vegetarian you can check out my blog entry all about the best veggie places in Salem.

--Salem has just about every different type of food you can imagine - pubs, Chinese, pizza, cafes, classy expensive places, cheap family fare, a brewery, Thai, Indian, Caribbean, Polish and everything else - don't waste your money getting nasty sausages and junk from street vendors (no offense to my street vendor friends!)

--There are ice cream shops all over town. If you can't find one just keep walking until you do.

--If you go to Dunkin Donuts I will fucking slap you. Sure, many New-Englanders have bad taste and prefer them over anything else, but there are some of us who would rather recommend one of our many many local cafes for your caffeine fix.

E. Modern Witchcraft

These are places that witches visiting Salem will want to see. Mostly just shops, and there are lots more.

Crow Haven Corner - The oldest witch shop in the country, first opened up by Laurie Cabot.
The Salem Witch Walk Ever wonder why, if everyone in 1692 was an innocent victim and not a real witch, there are so many witches in Salem today? This tour explains what real witchcraft is while discussing the hysteria from a modern witch's perspective and starts with a participatory ritual at Crow Haven Corner. And I don't just love the tour because it helps clear things up for witches and Salemites alike, I'm also the tour guide!
Hex, Omen, & Festival of the Dead events - Halloween ringmaster Christian Day's October Circus
Laurie Cabot's Shop - Is closed! So many people keep asking where to find it, sorry guys!
Bewitched in Salem - Talk about eclectic, this witch shop has so many random things it's not even a witch shop anymore - it's an everything shop. From their website "A 4 inch ivory Jesus and a 4 foot steel Baphomet can share the same space.  We do not discriminate."
Site of Laurie Cabot's first shop! - What the hell is a Crotchet, much less an entire box of them? 100 Derby st is where Laurie Cabot opened the very first (and extremely short-lived) witchcraft shop in America before she gave it a second try and succeeded with Crow Haven Corner. Nowadays it's an awkward looking red house with a sign that makes no sense and many tourists assume is some kind of dirty joke they just don't get..

Line waiting to go into Laurie's Cabot's shop two years ago. It's closed forever now.

F.  Random tips

1. Dress appropriately - If you are wearing an expensive costume in Salem on Halloween night don't be upset if it gets stepped on, squashed, or otherwise soiled. That's right, I said soiled. All kinds of things are possible.
2. Be prepared to wait in line - Everywhere you go. Your whole trip. It sucks, I know, but just get used to it and get over it. The picture above is of people waiting in line just to get into Laurie Cabot's shop. The crowds can get a little dense, too, so be careful not to lose your friends.
3. Don't be fooled by signs - Apparently the laws about being able to say you are the "Official", "highest rated", "most popular", or "scariest" are pretty lax, because everything in town claims to be "the best".
4. Be weary of advice on the street - Unless it is someone dressed as a park ranger from the visitor center, someone from the official city tourist info booth (picture at top of page), or you just get lucky, odds are the person offering you friendly advice on what attraction to visit is being paid to do so by said attraction. Also, if you are stupid enough to keep taking flyers, DON'T LITTER!
5. And THE MOST IMPORTANT TIP for not being a stupid tourist is don't worry about being a stupid tourist! Relax, don't schedule every little thing, and don't be upset if things don't work out how you expect them to! With so much insanity all over the city all month you are bound to get caught up in something - make sure it's not drama!

I'm in this book!

July 17, 2012

13 Quick Ways to Tell if You're a Witch

Working in a tourist town and explaining witchcraft to average people can be very challenging and one of the questions I get most often is "How can I tell if I'm a witch?" Well, that question could mean a lot of different things, but I find when a tourist asks it they just want a quick rundown of some of the ideals, philosophies, and traits of the average witch so they can see if it's something they would be into... So I'm bored today and made this list which is by no means comprehensive and certainly doesn't apply to everyone. This is just a general and generic list of traits the average witch stereotypically follows.

If you find that more than a few of these traits apply to you, then I suggest the study of witchcraft would probably be an intellectual and spiritual benefit to you:

1. Have you ever confessed to loving an animal more than a person? Do you generally love animals?

2. Do respect the environment/nature or worry about mankind's impact on it? Do you enjoy camping, hiking, hunting, etc?

3. Do you love science?

4. Do you believe that all religions have something to teach us?

5. Do you believe that men and women are equal?

6. Do you respect the elderly and those older than you?

7. Do you feel a connection to the dead?

8. Have you ever had paranormal or psychic experiences?

9. Do you have an interest in ancient history?

10. Have you ever considered yourself an "outsider" or someone who observes others? But, on the other hand, when you are in a comfortable setting with like-minded people can be outgoing?

11. Have you ever considered yourself a philosopher?

12. Are you a fan of haunted houses or roller coasters, not afraid of the dark, or generally brave when it comes to the unknown?

13. Do you enjoy learning new things even when it means you are wrong?

Witchcraft has nothing to do with what religion you are, how you dress, the music you listen to, or the people you hang out with. It has everything to do with what kind of human being you are and how you interact with your environment. If more than a few of these traits apply to you, you might be a witch.

Tom the Tour Guide

[WOW, I had no idea this would go viral so quickly! It's great to see this reposted so much all over Facebook and that so many non-witches find it interesting! Just one thing I wanted to clear up because a few arguments were starting:

Witchcraft is not a religion. It is a spiritual practice influenced by many religions. Some people prefer to call it a "way of life" or a "spiritual path", Laurie Cabot famously calls her style "Witchcraft as a Science". So, WICCA is one new religion based on witchcraft that comes from the middle of the 1900s. Every Wiccan is a witch, but not every witch is a Wiccan. Wicca is one denomination of witchcraft and the vast majority of witches prefer to draw on their own personal mix of religions that influence their own personal version of witchcraft. Thanks!]

So anyways, Salem is BUSY. Stuff is really blowing up this year. Everything is so exciting people keep saying "And it's not even October!" By then, the city will be whipped up into a frenzy. :)

In other news...

"Looking back, the lion was a bad idea. That's why Dr. Shockla is gonna hook us up with a monkey. I'm gonna teach it taekwondo."

Adam Sandler and his ragtag band of misfits (I don't know how else to refer to them) keep getting spotted all over the city this summer. The above picture is Peter Dante with some Salem locals and their baby! He's one of those people that is in just about every single movie Sandler does, but most famous as the pot dealer in Grandma's Boy. Rumor is that they actually filmed a bit of indoor scenes in Salem by renting out some cheap office space and putting up temporary sets, but no one can find out for sure. They've been filming primarily in Marblehead and Swampscott, the next towns over. Regardless of if they have been filming in Salem, they are definitely hanging out. Adam Sandler was even spotted outside Witch Dr.!

"Lifting the spirits of all who enter..."

Witch Dr. is the name of the new artist gallery and glassblowing studio in Salem "Where the Witches Burn". Boy, I love a good pun. They're doing pretty well and I'm glad. Good artsy hippie nonsense is a great thing for Salem.

The owner of Life Alive. 

Speaking of hippies, the much anticipated vegetarian restaurant, Life Alive, has been in town long enough for everyone to have an opinion and people are saying great things. I personally have eaten there four times and keep getting the same dish every time because it's so damn good. If this one selection is that good I can imagine the rest is just as good.

The girls from Paranormal Salem were on A&E Bio's My Ghost Story the other day. You can watch it online here. In the past few weeks the History Channel, something only referred to as "the English version of the Travel Channel", National Geographic, and a few other film crews have been spotted downtown. I Party was even just filming a scene for a commercial in Count Orlok's Nightmare Gallery (They just confirmed KANE HODDER as a celebrity guest appearance again this October, too!).

And last but not least, the Hocus Pocus movie sequel was shot down as just a rumor by Disney! I say good riddance, if they did make a sequel it would be some lame straight-to-DVD nonsense.

April 24, 2012

Climate Change did NOT Cause the Salem Witch Trials

This just in...

I always get worried when I bump into TV cameras downtown Salem because a lot of shows just aim to make the whole city look goofy or mock witchcraft ( which tends to be pretty easy around here). So when I dropped into Hex yesterday and almost tripped over camera wires and noticed a whole crew surrounding Lori Bruno I got a bit suspicious and paranoid.

I asked around and apparently this production company just got green-lit for a show on National Geographic called American Chainsaw which "showcases the artistry New England-based hard rock star Jesse 'The Machine' Green and his team of chainsaw sculptors as they create artworks for prestigious clients." 

Actually sounds pretty cool. Maybe it's a bit cheesy in the description, but you can't go wrong with chainsaw sculpting. Apparently they are making something amazing for Lori Bruno and coming back later in the week to unveil it. (hint: it's a dragon!)

In other news...

The other big story about Salem this week has been so prolific that it's become quite an annoyance.

Everywhere I look I see the headline "Did Climate Change Cause the Salem Witch Trials?" and I just want to respond angrily to every single article with a big "NO!"

People still coming up with theories as to what caused the trials are always people new to the subject. Any person who has actually studied the trials knows that there was no one single "cause" and looking for a single "theory" is pretty uneducated. This theory is being posited in a paper written EIGHT YEARS AGO by a Harvard student as her senior thesis. The woman, Emily Oster, was previously most well known for her PhD dissertation on the subject of Hepatitis B and is a teacher of economics at The University of Chicago, so obviously this is yet another person who dabbled into the Salem Witch Trials as a pet project. As an historian and tour guide in Salem I have been approached by dozens of university students writing papers on the trials, and most of them claim that they "have always been drawn" to the Witch Trials or "always found it fascinating," but the bottom line is, you can't just take a vacation to Salem and do a few months of research and then consider yourself an expert. (Not to say Oster isn't awesome, her analysis of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Africa is extremely important and made huge waves a few years ago.)

Too easy.

This reminds me of the much disproven Ergot Theory (Excellent article in that link by the way! A must read for anyone interested in the hysteria.), which still gets brought up by know-it-alls and stoners trying to come up with an easy answer to explain away the trials. Ergot is what LSD is a synthetically derived from, so it would be an easy way to explain things - of course, they were all just tripping! 

"Today, a young man on acid realized that all matter is merely energy condensed to a slow vibration. That we are all one consciousness experiencing itself subjectively. There is no such thing as death, life is only a dream and we're the imagination of ourselves" - Bill Hicks

But trying to come up with a theory to explain the trials is absolutely ignorant considering these types of persecutions still happen today! Is it so impossible for us to admit that human kind is just a little messed up? Do we have to come up with theories because we are ashamed to admit the people seen as the founders of the Americas were capable of such atrocities? These things happen in undeveloped and socially backwards countries all the time, and back in 1692 Salem MA was like a third world country. Mind you, that was mostly by choice - the Puritans were not big on education, every single thing a child learned was straight from the Bible, not science or history books.

I have been studying the trials in a professional and official capacity for years and work in the tourist industry in Salem. When a tourists asks me what "caused" the trials I answer simply: The Puritans!

The Puritans were not the cute little pious people you learned about in school, they were a cult of ignorant fanatics. What happened to cause the trials was more of a "perfect storm" type scenario, where a perfect combination of actual events, psychological stressors, and social problems came together in just the right way to result in such a conflagration of circumstances. 

One enlightening fact people never tend to know about the Puritans is that they were an apocalyptic cult! A Puritan minister, leader, and author who was one of the main villains during the trials is a man named Cotton Mather who posited that the end of the world would happen in 1697. That's right, the Puritans were like Y2k people. They were like that crazy libertarian Ron Paul supporting friend of yours that says fluoride in the drinking water controls our minds and the Mayans predicted the end of the world was in 2012. They're like that idiot last year who said the world was going to end and bought up all those billboards

The point being that we tend tend to romanticize the Puritans when in fact we should look at them for who they really were - 


April 3, 2012

Rob Zombie Comes Out of Nerd Closet - Does Tom Baker Impression

I've been following Rob Zombie news religiously for more than a year now, scouring for Lords of Salem news. As a huge nerd and an insane Doctor Who fan I freaked out when I saw this video of Rob Zombie doing a Tom Baker impression. Apparently he is going to be making videos for Chris Hardwick's "The Nerdist", and having been a fan of Chris' for a while now I couldn't be happier for everyone involved. Chris has also gotten Weird Al to make videos for The Nerdist and the first one debuted today!

The internet freaked out and geeked out over this clip to which Rob replied via Twitter "Why is everybody so surprised I know who Tom Baker is? I've been a fan of his Dr. Who since the 70's." XD

Further evidence of his nerd-dom can be found in this picture he posted to Facebook a few months ago, edited by myself:

March 12, 2012

What's Been Banished and What is Sacred Space - Changing Businesses in Downtown Salem 2012

[I can't believe it's already been a year. Spring is here and the usual musical-chairs of businesses coming and going has left us with lots of interesting stories. So, here's What's Been Banished and What is Sacred Space 2012.]

Many people make the mistake of thinking Salem is a tourist town, but with the many faces the city wears we have infinite varieties of businesses.

One of the things I have always found fascinating is the ever-changing storefronts on Essex st, and the failure and success of local businesses. So what's new in downtown Salem this year? What businesses have gone to the gallows? Here are a few of the ones I consider noteworthy.

But first, A Salem Witch meme.
 The Upper Crust Falls Down - Lots of people, including myself, had no idea about the allegations of corruption at this franchise's Salem location. Most locals hardly went there because the pizza was way too expensive. Suddenly the place was closed and lots of people were talking about how badly the owner treated the workers. Apparently, after being "ordered to pay more than $80,000 in back pay by the Department of Labor for violating federal overtime and record-keeping laws", they just couldn't afford to stay open! Public sentiment is strongly against them.

 An upper-downward spiral.

The Coven has Disbanded - The best new place in town just up and leaves. Now there is nowhere to get Vegan BLTs (VLTs), gluten-free vegan cupcakes, or sandwiches named after famous pop-culture icons and 80s cartoon superheroes. W - T - F. Coven announced the news via their Facebook page which has since become a sad memorial full of people commenting begging them not to leave and saying how much they'll be missed. Luckily, the space was sold to an AMAZING vegetarian restaurant called Life Alive which will be opening soon, so it's not a complete loss. Still sucks, the menu at Life Alive looks absolutely awesome, but I don't see any mention of vegan BLTs. :(

Life Alive, coming soon. [via: midge]

Bangkok's Back - Looks like Salem's loudest Thai food bar is back with a vengeance. I live on Washington st right near them and can testify to this. Last night (Sunday) Bangkok Paradise was the very last bar in the area still open and seemed busy. I honestly love this place, mostly just for their food. The old owner always tried to keep the nights varied with different genres of music, lets hope the new owners keep it diverse. [Edit: Looks like they are. I wonder if they'll do that goth night again? They actually did dubstep last night, I could hear it out my window! wubwubwub]

That Place that Replaced Asahi is Gone - I never even got a chance to go to Lakay Island before they shut down. It's crazy that business can't succeed there just because of lack of traffic. The location is right in the center of Essex st so you have to park and walk there, but it's just a great location, someone really needs to do something with it that will last.

Laurie Cabot's Shop Closes Forever - It's the end of an era. See full story here.

The World of Witches Gets a Bit Smaller - When the guys from The World of Witches Museum first opened up we were confused about what they were exactly. Were they a school? A Youtube channel? A tourist attraction? A branch of a tradition of a coven? Reality TV stars? Either way - the dreaded winter slow season, the same barren winter the first settlers in Salem faced, has claimed another victim. Even a desperate Kickstarter campaign and tons of eBay posts couldn't get them enough funding to survive. For more info and some quotes, The Wild Hunt did a write-up. [EDIT: Added 3/30/12]

Witch Shops Get Dissed on Central st. - Well well, then. Apparently the owner of a certain building on Central st would prefer to get rid of the witch/psychic shops and replace them with some cute yuppie nonsense. Both The Broom Closet and Angelica's of the Angels have relocated to new places, both are actually better and more visible. The interesting part of this is simply the fact that the community has become so aware of the building owner's anti-witch shop opinions. Is that really true? Did the dude want to get rid of them? That's what word around town is... Either way, they left peacefully it seems.

Life and Death has Resurrected Spellbound Tours - Stitching together the pieces of two deceased tours into an undoubtedly wonderful monster, the former owner  of Life and Death Tours (and shop),  Nichole (of Orange Nichole) is the proud new owner of Spellbound Tours. Her trusty sideshow freak performer friend, who, years ago, was Spellbound's original top rated tour guide is back in town after traveling with America's last traveling sideshow, World of Wonders. If anybody can save the company they can. No word yet on if or where they will have a store front. I expect they will.

Speaking of Tours... - Tour Season officially starts April 1st, but the weather has been so nice, some of the ghost tours have already had decent groups for a while. The Salem Witch Walk had unprecedented success last year and we're expecting big things to come in 2012. Salem's newest tour, Paranormal Salem, has been doing great as well. The Salem Trolley is out and about, and that's really how locals tell tourist season is back. Also, there is a new RUNNING tours company which is a hilarious trend sweeping the tourism industry in every major city in the same way that segway tours have.

 Always makes me think of Mr. Rogers.

Salem is always changing, so expect another post next year, or even sooner, to see what's been banished and what is sacred space in the Witch City.

January 19, 2012

The Salem Witches Hex Tim Tebow?

This started off with The Boston Herald calling the owner of local witch shop Crow Haven Corner, Lorelei and asking about curses. Apparently the New England Patriots' star quarterback Tom Brady made the cover of Sports Illustrated, which is considered some sort of curse in the sports world. When she mentioned that rituals can be used to neutralize negative energy it became a bigger scoop for the Herald, as they were the ones to break the news that the ritual would be held a few days later at the shop. It also became a surprising opportunity for good publicity for Lorelei and the store, as the story was picked up by local news outlets and quickly spread to syndication and national news outlets.

I figured the story was cute and would get a bit of coverage, but had no idea that when I showed up to witness the ritual at Crow Haven Corner at 12pm on Friday the 13th I would have to shove past gigantic news cameras just to get into the store. Fox, CBS, NBC, etc etc - they were all there. Must have been a slow news day!

 This doll isn't supposed to be scary, but tell that to my nightmares.

Honestly, I expected the ritual itself to be really cheesy after that whole Charlie Sheen thing last year, but it was surprisingly well-thought-out, politically correct, and positive. Lorelei even mentioned Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow saying he had "powerful energy..., magic[, and was] a force to be reckoned with," but went out of her way to say she wished him well, but wanted the Patriots to win. The whole thing was meant to be for neutralizing the Sports Illustrated "jinx" and to ask for victory for the team in the upcoming game, but still many news outlets sensationalized the story or just got it plain wrong, some going so far as to say things like " SALEM WITCHES HEX TIM TEBOW..."

Suddenly the story was everywhere, and the videos had gone viral.

That little circle second from the right represent bloggers.

All the publicity has been great in the eyes of the majority of most people. I have personally seen in the comments of may of these articles professed Christians and atheists going out of their way to say how this makes witches and religions associated with witchcraft look good. They are used to seeing witches in the media portrayed as a bunch of circus freaks, weirdos, and publicity whores and many noted how relieving it was to see a legitimate ritual; done in a fun way for a good cause.

The backlash, as always, came from the pagan community. Some pagans are so obsessed with the embarrassment associated with the aforementioned freaks and publicity whores they assume every witch in the news is just out to make a buck. This comes as no surprise to any witch that's ever been in the media. The moment you put yourself out there there are throngs of people shouting about how you're a sell out and judging you guilty of the crime of simply being in the media at all. These detractors inevitably end up resorting to making fun of the way you do your make-up, your weight, or accusing you of living in your parents basement playing Dungeons and Dragons.

Although sometimes the mockery is warranted.

It's just how it is. Don't know if that will ever change.

January 9, 2012

Laurie Cabot Closes Shop - Christian Day Opens Hex: New Orleans

The Salem Witch Wars: Never Again. 

When this cartoon was published in the newspaper October 2007 Laurie Cabot was a tiny bit annoyed by it. She always ran her business as well as her coven with integrity and class, and spent time being an activist and donating time and money to charity. Sure sometimes she was in the news for embarrassing things, but that was her personal life and no one else's business.

Christian Day, on the other hand, thought it was hilarious. He started his business knowing very well that regardless of all else haters gonna hate. I'm sure that on some level being compared to someone he looked up to was kind of an honor, and on the other hand, he just really loves controversy.

In the long run, it ended up that the witch wars all the gossipy folk in the pagan community were supposing went on between Christian and Laurie were much imagined and embellished. In fact, even after he went to her birthday party a few years ago, proving once and for all they were still friends, some people still say they hate each other.

And now, after 42 years, Salem's Official Witch, the most respected and beloved freak in New England, Laurie Cabot is closing her shop for good. Most people heard the news via her Facebook page where she wrote a lengthy status update explaining everything:

"As you can imagine running a store and trying to be available to the temple is a lot of work, and so I have decided to align myself with my new goals and close my store, The Official Witch Shoppe."

Of course, this wasn't her first shop. Over the years Laurie has become successful and world famous, but business has always been hard for her. Over the years she has been in the news for all kinds of things, some of them related to mistakes she had made business-wise, sometimes her problem was simply trusting people too much. But she is ending things on a good note...

She goes on, "...from the first, The Witch Shoppe to Crow Haven Corner and then The Cat, The Crow and The Crown and finally to The Official Witch Shoppe. It has been a dream come true to have had the experience of operating my stores and the countless wonderful people I have met and interacted with at each of my shop locations. "

 1971(?) - The Witch Shoppe, Salem, MA

'Crow Haven Corner', now owned by a student/friend of Laurie's, Lorelei.

The location of 'The Cat, The Crow, & the Crown', which then became The Official Witch Shoppe.

Now, when it really comes down to it this isn't really all that shocking to someone that knows her. She really loves being who she is, interacting with people, etc., but everyone could always tell that Laurie didn't really like being a tourist attraction! I'm not sure how different she used to be, but for a long time now it's been clear she'd rather not harassed by pushy tourists, choosing rather to be more elusive and mysterious.

I'm sure at this point she can sell her products online and get more business than the physical shop does, and she will still be busy teaching classes - not to mention most psychics have regulars that call in for readings and I'm sure hers are extremely dedicated. In the long run, maybe the shop just wasn't worth her time and money anymore. Odds are she'll do more good for the community, make more money, and have more fun without it. I don't think she'll ever fully retire, so this might be the closest she ever comes.

 Keep your eyes peeled for this sign at 1219 Decatur Street in The French Quarter.

The other big news in Salem is also big news for Vieux Carre. Salem's own Christian Day is opening up another incarnation of his successful shop, Hex, in the oldest neighborhood in New Orleans. "It happened very quickly," he said on his Facebook page. He's already headed down there and plans on opening as early as February. Rumor has it he plans on opening a third shop in Saudi Arabia in the future. 


So watch out, N'awlins, the Howard Stern/Kathy Griffin/Joan Crawford of witchcraft is on his way...

Oh wait, add Winifred Sanderson to that.[credit]