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Those Souls

I’m a Halloween nut.

Not to the degree that our house is one of “those” houses that is dripping with decorations come October 1st, but a Halloween nut in that I’ve loved the holiday since I was the wee-est of witches. And coming from someone who was a witch every, single year when she was a trick-or-treater, this is saying something (yes, every year. Apparently, in the realm of Halloween costumes, creativity was not my forte).

I love the spookiness of Halloween and the history. I love the mystery and the magic. The orange and sparkly black. The full moon, the glow of a jack-o-lantern peering out into the dark night, the idea of things we can’t really explain.  Watching “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown”. The childlike fun of it.

Love. It. All.

So when the opportunity came to venture to Salem, Massachusetts this past weekend, my two ghouls and I jumped. I had heard that it’s a zany place come October, but had never experienced it before, as we don’t live close by. We’ve visited this city in the summer months many times, and winter too, and I will admit that there is something in the air of this colonial town. Disregarding the commercial aspects of “Witch City”, there is something present in the historic homes and the cobblestones under your feet. Can’t quite put my finger on it, but maybe a bit of magic is afoot?

Salem today, during October…it’s a continual party. A town in which you can don a tall, feathered, black-as-a-cauldron witch hat and no one will blink an eye. That’s because many other passers-by are wearing them, too. It’s a town where bride-and-groom skeletons go for a ride on the back of a passing motorcycle. A place where shops selling herbs and magic potions are as commonplace as tee-shirts shops in a seaside town. A place where ghosts, ghouls and witches are the heralded mascots.

As we wandered the streets of this town, the modern and the historical mix in true New England fashion.  21st century establishments and centuries-old homes meet and mingle. Cobblestone and pavement kiss. And in this town, cars and broomsticks share parking spots. Behind one strip of a pedestrian mall, there lies a graveyard, complete with memorial stones marking those who died during the witch trial hysteria.

And on this day, the graveyard was hopping. It was a truly bizarre vision. Folks-dozen of them-roaming through the cemetery, examining the ornate gravestones that stood at attention, despite their aged status. Curiosity was at hand, unlike the usual reverence and solemnity that typically accompanies a trip to a gravesite. People were actively walking through the pages of a history book, whether they recognized it that way or not.  It’s unfortunate that more of this curiosity doesn’t take place at regular intervals during the year…Halloween and the lure of the unknown spirit world sparks a certain madness, that’s for sure.  The stones themselves are pieces of artwork and offer glimpses of history…the tools, the skills, the language of a time period. As much as any artifact in a museum, there is much to learn here in these spots where souls rest.  I was in awe by the fact that these stones were set there over 200 years ago…200 years ago. And yet they remain and continue to speak to us.

Who was this person? What did they do for a living in their village? How on earth did they manage to make it to the ripe old age of 81 in those difficult times? Were they literate? Did they like turnips? Were they short or tall?

Hopefully, the souls are happy to receive the attention that they do around this time of year, but hopefully, that attention will spur other curiosities about history for the rest of the years days.

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