witch

Salem Witchy Tourism

This post was first published on SPINE Online, October 31st, 2018.


In the early 90’s Wicca, a branch of Paganism, became officially recognized as a religion despite developing activity in the 1940’s. This acceptance of a religion that actively promotes the idea of witchcraft and rituals shows that society has developed quite a bit since the time of the Salem Witch trials.

Photo courtesy of Rondell Melling via Pixabay.com

Photo courtesy of Rondell Melling via Pixabay.com

The Salem witch trials were a horrifying time that was founded in hysteria and paranoia that spread throughout the community, spurring people to isolate suspicious members and accuse them of treachery and consorting with the devil. These accusations were particularly devastating because torture and a biased justice system followed, and ended with a death sentence. More than 200 people were accused of practicing witchcraft, with a high number of the accused being women, but only 20 overall were executed.

Present day Salem has changed quite a bit since the days of the witch trials. Nearly 1500 local women have publically announced their status as witches, and have helped establish a strong witch tourism trend in the area. Storefronts publically announce fortune readings and a variety offer spellcasting. This tourism feeds off of the deliberate atmosphere that Salem has promoted, by hosting a variety of events like ghost tours and parades celebrating the dead. These events are popularized with the intent in gaining economic revenue, and sustaining the area.

Witchcraft has gained popularity due to the change in popular culture. People have grown up with television shows like Bewitched and Sabrina the Teenage Witch, as well as books like the Harry Potter series. Typically, witches are presented as positive members of their respective societies. The shift in trends pushed witchcraft into a popular light and in turn popularized Wicca.

However, with this tourism so fixated on the promotion of witchcraft as well as theatrical performances, the question of historic sensitivity comes to light. The Salem witch trials had represented massive torment within a community, but less attention is being focused on the historical sufferings that people faced and instead being put on celebrating Halloween inspired events to promote revenue streams.

It can be argued that this is an attempt to take and transform the brutality into something positive. The witches of Salem suffered because a powerful group of men occupied positions of power in the justice system. It can be powerful, retaking a brutal narrative and turning it into something positive that celebrates women. Women in Salem today no longer need to hide their identities and are able to commemorate these differences in lifestyle.

The Puritan church leaders must be rolling in their graves as women actively participate in their community based off of witchcraft and rituals. Salem witchcraft attracts a wide variety of tourists who want to participate in the customs and traditions, and also engage with the festive events that Salem hosts.

The power of the original Salem witches clearly lives on in Salem today, as generations later they are still remembered. If you’re interested in checking out some tourism related to these events, check out the official website for Salem.

Photo courtesy of Coco Parisienne via Pixabay.com

Photo courtesy of Coco Parisienne via Pixabay.com


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Rachel Small

Rachel Small is not a small person and might be the present day reincarnation of Lizzie Borden. She crawled to life one night after midnight in the basement of a bookstore.

Call Her Name (If You Dare)

Sometimes, there’s a woman in the bathroom mirror. She isn’t always there, and if you want to see her, you have to summon her. But it’s super easy. All you have to do is go into the bathroom, lock the door, and turn off all the lights. Then you stand in front of the mirror and say her name three times:

Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary.

When you’re finished chanting, you’ll see a woman appear in the mirror, with blood running out of her eyes.

At least that’s what I was told.

The Bloody Mary legend has always held a morbid fascination for me.Ever since I was a little girl, it’s stuck with me. I still feel the need to check the bathroom mirror before I get into the shower, just on the off chance I find Mary there. I don’t know why I would; the little girl in me would never allow me to summon her.

Photo Courtesy of  oliavlasenko  via Adobe Stock

Photo Courtesy of oliavlasenko via Adobe Stock

I only tried to summon Mary once myself, but I was too afraid to do it right. I couldn’t quite bring myself to do it in front of a bathroom mirror. I was never into horror stories or movies when I was younger. My best friend at the time was constantly reading collections of horror stories from the library, but I could barely even look at the covers, unless I was willing to give up sleep for a month. I attribute it to an overactive imagination.

I’ve never quite looked at mirrors the same way since that day on the playground.

But the legend itself is quite intriguing. In an age of top-billed horror movies and literary giants such as Stephen King, you don’t hear a lot about proper urban legends anymore. Not the way you used to anyway, passed around a campfire, or a schoolyard, or with flashlights under blankets at a sleepover.

So I got to wondering: where exactly did the Bloody Mary legend come from, and which set of details about the legend are the ‘correct’ ones? After all, the story has been altered so much as it’s passed on, like a bad game of telephone.

Photo Courtesy of  Jeff Thrower  via Shutterstock.

Photo Courtesy of Jeff Thrower via Shutterstock.

There is a lot of speculation on where the legend originates, but the original legend seems to be significantly less malevolent than most children grow up believing. It originated as a divination ritual, where young women wishing to learn who their future husband was to be would walk backwards up the stairs with a hand mirror in one hand and a candle in the other. The house was to be completely dark. Then, supposedly, the woman would see the face of her future husband in the mirror. In some darker cases though, some women would see the face of a skull or the grim reaper, which meant she would die before getting married.

Of course, then there are the darker versions of the ritual. The details vary. I was taught to say “Bloody Mary” three times, but other versions insist on repeating it thirteen times. There are also variations on what to say, such as “Bloody Mary”, or “I believe in Bloody Mary”, or even more violently, “I killed your baby, Bloody Mary.” There is even an alternative on which name to say, some examples of which include: Mary Worth, Mary Worthington, Hell Mary, Mary Whales, Mary Johnson, and even several names that aren’t ‘Mary’ at all.

The most intriguing part of the legend, however, is who exactly is ‘Bloody Mary’? It seems that history has many possibilities.

The first is Queen Mary Tudor who, consequently, bore the nickname “Bloody Mary”. The nickname came from the fact that she ordered the deaths of countless Protestants in her bid bring back a more Catholic England. However, her life beyond this, was unfortunately tragic.

She was so desperate to have a child that she suffered through what is now known as a ‘hysterical pregnancy’ or ‘false pregnancy’, which is what happens when a person believes so concretely that they’re pregnant, that their body mimics the symptoms. Not only did this happen to her once, but she suffered through it twice. The second time killed her. The version of the Bloody Mary legend that includes the Queen, Mary Tudor, suggests that she has continued looking for her desperately-desired baby even into the afterlife, and that she brought her rage and sorrow with her.

Photo Courtesy of  Kittirat Roekburi  via Shutterstock

Photo Courtesy of Kittirat Roekburi via Shutterstock

Another, less detailed version of the legend involves a woman named Mary Worth who got into a car crash, and whose face was forever marred. She was so horrified upon the first look at herself in the mirror, that in the afterlife, she lashed out at anyone that tried to summon her and gaze upon her reflection. She punished them by scratching their eyes out, or by dragging them into the mirror with her.

But my favourite version of the legend is the one that suggests Bloody Mary was a witch killed during the Salem Witch Trials. “The Bloody Mary Legend” is an article featured on hauntedrooms.co.uk that covers one of the legends that suggests she was a witch from the era of the Salem Trials. It’s not the only theory that suggests she was a witch, but it’s definitely worth the read.

I personally think that it makes the most sense for Mary to have been a witch, whether or not she was someone persecuted in the witch trials. Queen Mary probably had more important things to do after her death, and while a young girl dying in a car crash and forever-after hating mirrors makes sense too, I think that nothing quite fits the legend of a vengeful spirit stuck in a mirror better than a witch. After all, who better to cause mischief for no other reason than mischief’s sake?

There exist countless other versions of the Bloody Mary legend besides these; in fact, other cultures even have their own versions. One of the other writers from Voices in the Attic, Michelle Bonga, wrote about Japan’s version of Bloody Mary, “Hanako-San”. You can read her article here.


But please tell me what you think about the identity of Bloody Mary! Was it British royalty? Was it an unfortunate victim of a car crash turned vengeful spirit? Was it a witch? Or was it perhaps someone else altogether. Leave a comment below!


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Maggie Kendall

Maggie Kendall spent the first fifteen years of her life furiously avoiding all things horror, but then her friend forced her to watch Paranormal Activity, and there’s been no turning back. She still checks the bathroom mirror for Bloody Mary before getting in the shower.

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