A Tale of Two Statues in Salem

I took my daughter to Salem, Massachusetts again yesterday. It’s a lose place for a fun visit. We saw the Roger Corwin House (AKA “THe Witch House”, although it’s judge who lived there, not one of the witches. I don’t know if it has anything to do with the Lovecraft story, and neither do they), the rebecca Nurse Homestead in nearby Danvers (Pepper Mill is distantly related to this oldest victim of the witchcraft hysteria), the local Comic Book Shop, and two statues.

It turns out that they recently refurbished the Roger Conant Statue that stands opposite Salem Commons and across the street from the most flamboyant of the half dozen or so witch museumsd in town. I must’ve missed it entirely, or else they did it really quickly, because the last I recall it was still covered in verdigris. Now it’s been carefully stripped of all the corrosion and is a bronzish color again. They rededicated it at 4 PM yesterday.

(Visitors often think this is a statue of a witch, because he’s wearing a pointed hat and is next to the Witch Museum. Interesting town, Salem.)

Coincidentally, the Elizabeth Montgormery “Bewitched” statue is going in on Wednesday about 5 blocks away. This is the one paid for by TVLand, timed to coincide with the release of the NicoleKidman/Will Ferrell film. (There was a sweepstakes box at The Witch House for the flick). I’m surprised – after the recent controversy (that I reported on this Board) I thought the issue was still up in the air. But here they’ve got a Park prepared for it and everything. We saw the prepared site – no sign of a statue, yet.



Barely related to the topic on hand, but I saw that The McCarthy Witch Hunt is available online. Samantha Stevens being summoned before HUAAC.

From the Salem, Masachusetts town site (http://www.salemweb.com/calendar/#e14 ):

I’ve always found it interesting how man seems to produce different incantations of dieties, philosophies, religions, etc, to represent or help make sense of his environment (my opinion, not intended to offend the religious). Were the witches of Salem a uniquely American institution or did the nothion of witches exist prior to this particular outbreak of paranoia and persecution?

Oh, there were withcraft trials aplenty in Europe. I haven’t looked into those extensively, but the numbers executed are supposed to be outrageously huge. (See, for instance, Marvin Harris’ Cows, Pigs, Wars, and Witches). In salem only 19 were executed, and all but one were hanged. A great many more were tried and jailed, though, and it’s a sad chapter in American History. Even those responsible recognized this within a year or so of the trials.

But you aren’t going to get the popular concdept of Holloweeny Witches out of Salem, so I suppose they figure they might as well accept this as another publicity stunt for the town. Every new tourist is someone who can visit Crowhaven Corner, and the Peabody Essex Museum, and the Salem Witch Memorial, and so can be educated (and taken for a few dollars).

And be confused about the Roger Conant Statue.

Oh no, they’d been having witch hunts like this in Europe for over 300 years or so at this point - at least since the Great Plague.

Thinking back on my memories of Python skits, I’m remembering witchcraft was at least an earlier British product. I guess what I’m asking is were witches previously persecuted to the degree that they were in Salem? Were they at other times blamed and burned for happenings (like sickness, crop failure, etc) that we now know happened for completely natural, less sinister reasons?

Y’all are faster typers. Thanks.

I went to Salem once about 12 years ago, and it always struck me that the town was really in love with a rather dark chapter in its own history. “Look! We killed people!”

Not to Godwin it, and I know it’s hyperbole, but it would be like making a ‘happy’ tourist attraction out of a concentration camp.

I grew up in Beverly, one town over from Salem. In my teenage years we noticed that if you look at that statue at just the right angle it looks like Roger is holding onto something other than a walking stick. We got no ends of laughs about it. When I saw this thread I figured that would be the topic. :slight_smile:

On the Salem front, while a quaint New Englandly kind of place, they overplay the witch thing. They have made it into a Halloween destination causing traffic jams and general craziness.

[off topic]
My personal favorite place in Salem has nothing to do with the history of Salem. If you get a chance go to Salem Willows. It has the best collection of old time arcade and pinball games. We are talking nickel/dime machines kept in great working order. I loved that place. They also sell great taffy/fair food there.

If you have any questions about the general area, I grew up there so ask away…

Well, in Salem’s defense, I think you’d find that just about any historic site “killed people” – therre were executions at Williamsburg and just about every other colonial city of size. But getting worked up over witchcraft does havean aura of strangeness about it. There was plenty of magical thought and practice in early New England, and a lot of good historical books on nthe topic have come out over the past twenty years or so. There might even have been one or two executions on account of it elsewhere (although I don’t recall any), but the case odf Salem was unique, at least in the American colonies. The acceptance of spectral evidence as a valid form of evidence at trial opened up a dangerous floodgate that people at the time should have realized was unacceptable. It’s a lesson worth repeating, and I suspect that a lot of folks put up with the sugar-coating of Halloween witches and Bewitched statues in part for that reason.

Why do they do this? Unless they’ve figured out how to passivate the bronze, whatever coating they’ve put on it is just going to weather and peel, and leave a cruddy looking striped green and bronze looking mess. Someone needs to be held accountable, someone needs to be put under a board and pressed with large stones!

Well, the claim they’re making is that the statue is not being preserved by the verdigris, but badly corroded, and that details are being lost. The newly-cleaned statue is coated, and they say that a yearly polishing with bowling alley wax (!) will keep it preserved. We’ll see if they manage to keep it up.

Pictures of the Statue Site pre-ceremony (and pre-statue). They were supposed to have dedicated it at 11:30 today:


Tourist: So, kid, what’s your job?
Local: Waxing the bronze statue.
Tourist: Is that what they call it nowadays?

So, if the Roger Conant Statue weighs the same as a duck…

Pictures of the statue from Wednesday:

Local Discussion: