Date Of Visit: Countless times (photo provided was taken Oct. 14, 2018)
Location: Lappin Park, 235 Essex St (corner of Essex and Washington St), Salem, MA
Summary: One of the most popular attractions in Salem, MA was once a divisive topic of debate. The Bewitched statue in Salem, MA, a seemingly innocuous statue, has a hidden history you may not be aware of.
When one thinks of the most controversial witch in the history of Salem, the name that comes to mind, or at least used to come to mind, may not be the one you think of.
Dedicated June 15, 2005, the Bewitched statue shows Samantha Stephens (played by Elizabeth Montgomery) riding a broom (did she ever do that on the show?) with a crescent moon behind her (not even a full moon, jeepers). This statue would prove to be a hotly debated attraction that would create almost as much drama as the trials itself.
While the statue is not exactly hidden, in fact it is one of the most visited attractions in Salem, MA, the history behind the statue may be hidden to many.
Browsing old articles and viewing old videos, which I will attach at the bottom of this post, many people claimed the statue “trivialized” the witch trials. Some protesters claimed it was a tacky kitschy tribute. Clearly, they had never been to Salem before. In fairness, though, it was mostly Salem residents who protested. What I did find to be interesting is that some of the stronger supporters of the statue in the videos I watched were witches. Modern day witches. But witches nevertheless. As an aside, there is a store that has been in Salem for some time that does psychic readings. What’s the name of the store you might ask? Bewitched In Salem. So, there already was a connection albeit loosely with the show.
The “kitschy” and trivialization arguments are specious at best. During the Halloween season, or really all year long, you can go to a “haunted house”, buy a shirt with a tasteless phrase or get your photo taken with a ghost, goblin or, ahem, witch just steps away from the burial ground and memorial to victims of the witch hunt. It almost seems out of left field to choose this one statue to target as being offensive or a device to promote the trivialization of the witch trials. Trust me, there’s lots of things to complain about in this regard in the city of Salem.
It almost seems like people wanted something to vent about and it became a convenient target. As I mentioned above, you can buy tshirts with such phrases as, “I got stoned in Salem.” Besides being tasteless it is inaccurate (witches were never stoned, at least not as a form of punishment by the city). This is just one of the many attempts at humor that you will find on any given day in Salem. It also makes me think of and even yearn for the “salad days” when a statue in a historic city was our biggest concern.
While I do appreciate that we shouldn’t trivialize the witch trials and it’s important to remember this tragedy, it would also be hypocritical of me to say I am in any way above the fray. I love to visit Salem, as my posts probably indicate, and I visit every chance I get. Not just during Halloween. So, this is by no means a “hit job piece” on the city of Salem itself.
I also think, in weird way, it’s okay to offer some entertainment and distraction from the all too real tragedy. And, the city does a good job of remembering and honoring the victims. You could even argue those affected by the witch hunt would rather we celebrate in the city than wallow in the obvious sadness of the history attached it.
There are several misconceptions about the witch trials in Salem which are important to consider when thinking about Salem’s role in the witch trials and peripherally Elizabeth Montgomery and the TV show Bewitched. For one, most of the witch trial drama occurred outside of Salem’s current city limits (a lot of it occurred it what is now known as Danvers). There is actually a memorial dedicated to where the witch trials occurred in Danvers, MA.
Another little known fact that I wasn’t aware of either until after I posted this, Bewitched did film some episodes in Salem. But, Elizabeth Montgomery herself never lived in the area.
Also, as an aside, there really isn’t any correlation in the timeline of events of the witch trials and Halloween chronologically. While many people visit the memorials to the alleged witches during Halloween, the witch hysteria began when Abigail Williams and Betty Parris experienced fits of convulsions in February, 1692. By Halloween the hysteria would have been in full swing and many people would have already been accused and even jailed. It is off putting to think the only connection is that Halloween is considered a scary time, albeit a fake scary time. The Salem witch trials were a very real scary time, though. Before I get too far off track, what would drive the city to promote this pseudo holiday? See paragraph below.
So, why was the statue erected in the city of Salem? Hmmm, let’s think about this. If the words “money grab” come to mind pat yourself on the back. TV Land spent a cool $75,000 to install the 9 foot bronze statue. While that may seem like a pretty big chunk of change to put down for a statue it was a bargain for their marketing purposes. Also, some of the money was spent to revitalize and “spruce up” the Lappin Park area where the statue was installed. “Spruced up” may be in the eye of the beholder. I think they mowed the lawn. They also very subtly (cough cough) put their stamp on the property. This is only one example of how the city profits off the tragedy.
Now, it seems the victor is clear. You’ll be hard pressed to be able to take a photograph at the statue at least during Halloween season. Trust me. I know this first hand. Kids climb the statue. Older folks look fondly on the statue as a tribute to their past. And, perhaps most funny, very young people and tourists can be heard asking “Who is this a statue of?” You’ll rarely, if ever, see anyone protesting the statue (they protest other things but not the statue). It seems the city of Salem has indeed become bewitched.
Below is a video that shows some of the controversy surrounding the statue