Please Note: Due to format changes,
English/Spanish text audio is not available
for this addition of The Booo! Blog.
A Tale of Two Salems
Located and landlocked in the heart of Essex County, Danvers, Massachusetts is an unassuming town, much like many others. The familiar juxtaposition of strip malls and rural New England dominates the landscape. It's acceptably pleasant, even very nice, but "Nothing to see here..." might be the initial reaction of a casual visitor, especially when compared to New England's more scenic opportunities. No, there aren't too many 'Kodak Moments' in Danvers. Unless, of course, you happen to be a paranormal investigator...
"Oh Shitteth! We Should Not Have Donneth That..."
Whether due to lingering shame or aggressive marketing on the part of its seaside neighbor (or a bit of both), a frequently-ignored fact is that Danvers voluntarily entered history's version of the Witness Protection Program. You see, until 1752, the Town of Danvers did not exist, and had a completely different identity: Salem Village. Yes, that Salem. Shortly after hanging nineteen innocent people and crushing another, the townsfolk collectively realized they had screwed-up big time and, hoping to bury the past, save their butts and dispense with the stigma attached to the witch trial mess they created, came up with "Danvers" as the slick, guilt-free new name for their village.
The oft-ignored dirty little secret, however, is that most of the witch hysteria did not happen in Salem Town (what we now know as Salem) but in Salem Village (now Danvers). While Salem Town certainly did have some craziness going on back in the day, the bulk of the name calling and finger pointing actually happened in Salem Village. In fact, even the hangings and the "pressing" (a quaint,17th century term to describe crushing someone to death) occurred outside the limits of Salem Town.
Today, Salem is flocked to as the 'Witchcraft Capitol of the World', even though it suffers from a touch of Dissociative Identity Disorder. The business owners embrace all the spooky stuff but, by and large, the permanent residents of Salem do not. For a variety of reasons, they would prefer their city not be invaded every October, available parking not the least among them. Even within the city ranks there is a whiff of conflict, as some would prefer Salem to be known for its rich maritime history instead of black cats and broomsticks, let alone its darker side.
Even though it's actually deeper in witch trial history than Salem, Danvers has, for the most part, successfully deflected all of the hoopla and publicity. It's amazing what a simple name change and some Teflon can do. Sometimes, however, things still stick. And, yes, sometimes, the buried refuse to remain dead...
The Rebecca Nurse Homestead
Rebecca Nurse was one of the twenty innocent people put to death, 'convicted' of witchcraft during the Salem witch trials. Stoic and dignified to the end, she was hanged on July 19, 1692, her story probably the most well-known of the unfortunate victims.
I have heard and read numerous reports of odd sensations and occurrences from people visiting The Rebecca Nurse Homestead, her original home meticulously maintained by the Danvers Alarm List Company, a dedicated group of living history reeanactors in the Danvers, Massachusetts area, and finally had the time to quickly grab some equipment and spend a few hours there.
Date of Visit: Friday, July 24, 2015
Time of Visit: 12:30 PM - 2:30 PM EDT (Time approximate)
Location of Visit: 149 Pine Street, Danvers, Essex County, Massachusetts, USA
Coordinates of Visit: N42° 33' 30.094", W70° 56' 53.885" (WGS84)
Weather Conditions During Visit: Sunny, 78°F
Equipment Used During Visit: 1) Moditronic Deep Infrared Camera 2) Spectercam Full Spectrum HD Camcorder
The Rebecca Nurse Homestead is open varying hours depending on time of year. Please call 978-774-8799 or visit the website for further information. The staff is incredibly knowledgeable and super-pleasant, and are happy to answer any questions you may have. Admission: Adults: $7.00, Seniors (65 and older): $5.00, Children 16 and under: $4.00, Children under 6: Free. Guided tours begin at 10:30, 11:30, 1:00 and 2:00 and last 40 minutes to an hour. All information is believed accurate at the time of this writing.
The Rebecca Nurse Homestead
Danvers (Salem Village)
All of the structures on the grounds of The Rebecca Nurse Homestead look as though they belong, but only the house itself is original to the land. The barn and shop were located at another homestead, and re-erected on the property in 1983 to replace the original Nurse barn that burned down in 1964. The Shoemaker's Shed and Dairy Shed were brought from other locations as well. The impressive Salem Village Meeting House is an exact reproduction of the 1692 Salem Village Meeting House, and was built in 1984 for the film Three Sovereigns for Sarah, which was filmed on the location.
Sitting on 25-acres of grassy fields and woodlands, I can't say that I blame whomever or whatever for wanting to hang around the place past their mortal expiration date. Not only are the grounds saturated with history, they also drip with atmosphere. One gets the impression that the centuries-old trees are the silent sentinels of the property, watching over the Homestead.
So far, I've sounded much more like a tour guide than a paranormal investigator, but here's where things take a turn for the creepy: Welcome to The Nurse Graveyard...
Family graveyards presented somewhat of a problem for the early settlers, and it went something like this: Uncle Ezekial dies. Uncle Ezekial is placed in a wooden box. The wooden box containing Uncle Ezekial is planted in the ground. The wooden box eventually rots and, well...so does Uncle Ezekial. Uncle Ezekial seeps into the ground water. Before long, Uncle Ezekial is with you in your bathtub (creepy). And in your tea (beyond creepy). And suddenly, the chamber pot becomes the most valued and fought over possession in the 17th century New England home. Yes, the entire family has come down with a screamin' case of "Uncle Ezekial's Revenge". Or worse.
To avoid all this unpleasantness, family graveyards were located as far away on the property as possible from the house and ground water supply, so as not to contaminate the well. The Nurse Graveyard is located in the back of a field, far from the living area.
"At The Corner of Happy and Healthy"?
Since Rebecca Nurse was convicted and executed for the charge of witchcraft and cavorting with the Devil, she was not allowed a Christian burial. In fact, none of the twenty men and women found 'guilty' were allowed such burials, their bodies simply and unceremoniously thrown into a ditch after the party was over. It is believed that Rebecca Nurses' son, Benjamin, secretly retrieved her body from Gallows Hill under the cover of darkness and buried her somewhere on the Nurse Homestead grounds. The grave was not marked in case the 'good' people of Salem Village got curious and decided not to let Rebecca rest in peace. There is a memorial that was erected in The Nurse Graveyard in 1885 but, the truth is, no one knows for certain where her remains are buried. To avoid the ground water contamination issues mentioned above, it's a safe bet to assume that she was buried on the grounds as far away from the house as possible, and that probably would have been the area that is now the family graveyard.
Speaking of Gallows Hill, the 'official' Gallows Hill, located in Salem (Salem Town) in what is now known as Gallows Hill Park, is one of those big, fat lies of history. The real Gallows Hill, where the carnage took place, is likely located on what is now private property abutting a Walgreens on Boston Street, a location known as Proctor's Ledge. It's ironic their sales slogan is that their stores are located "At The Corner of Happy and Healthy". My guess is that Rebecca and the gang would beg to differ.
Blast from the Past
Twice while walking through the house, I felt a very noticeable cold breeze hit me while taking pictures. There is no air conditioning in the original section of the structure, and the indoor temperature averaged 80°F. I could find nothing to account for the sensation.
(Click on image to enlarge)
The Macabre Mosaic
There is something not quite 'right' about The Rebecca Nurse Homestead, as the photographs seem to indicate. During my visit, the kitchen seemed to be the focal point of activity and photographic anomalies. In particular, the back kitchen windows seemed to almost tell a story. Life sucked back in 1692 New England and, other than the Church (and Rebecca would soon discover in the worst way that they had no sense of humor), any type of social life was frowned-upon. Perhaps she spent much of her time sitting at her kitchen table, gazing out those windows. And Rebecca Nurses' kitchen is as good a place as any for a dash of common sense and a pinch of caution: Our brains often try to make recognizable shapes out of random patterns, a phenomenon known as apophenia, so we always have to be mindful of 'seeing' things that are not really there. Still, taking everything into account, the following photographs definitely fit into the 'high weirdness' category, which is why I present them here. There have been some interesting online comments concerning these particular windows, and I was determined to get to the truth. I'm not sure that I have, but this may be the first time they have been photographed and examined using deep infrared and full spectrum technologies. The soft focus is inherent in both technologies. No manipulation was done on these images except minimum contrast enhancement and black and white conversion. So, without further adieu...
(Click on image to enlarge)
Is The Rebecca Nurse Homestead Haunted?
I will leave that question for you to ponder while examining these photographs late at night. Come to your own conclusions. Time for bed? Perhaps you should leave the nightlight on, just in case...
Until next time, pleasant dreams...
Update, January 12, 2016: There has long been a debate concerning the actual location where the hangings took place. A group of researchers, using scientific methodology and process of elimination, today announced the results of the work they began in 2010. As mentioned in my blog, the actual location was not the 'official' Gallows Hill, but the unassuming, rocky location next to the Walgreens at 59 Boston Street in Salem known as Proctor's Ledge.
Legal Disclaimer: All information, opinion and theories on this website and blog are published in good faith and for general information purposes only. I do not make any warranties about the completeness, reliability and accuracy of this information. Any action you take upon the information on my website and blog is strictly at your own risk, and I will not be liable for any losses and/or damages in connection with its use. All opinion and theories are strictly my own, and should not be construed as fact.