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Preconceived notions. Pull on a car door handle, the door opens. But what if the door is locked? Well most of us have made this mistake too. It can be difficult to forget due to the uncomfortable and unexpected jerk we give our arm. What if the car door is unlocked and the door still doesn’t open. Confusing, yes? You might continue to pull on the handle as you try to process this statistically unique experience. I know because in high school I was required to climb into the drivers seat of my car from the passenger door way for several weeks before I had the money to fix the problematic driver side door. What’s the point?
During my recent legend trip to Salem Massachusetts, I was in the town for quite some time before I realized this otherwise obvious fact. I pulled over after driving through what I was later to realize was the town of Salem. Sitting in a car wash parking lot I look at the directions I printed off, and pull out the atlas to orient myself. I wasted a bit of time, energy, and gained some stress in the process all because I was expecting to find a town of completely different qualities. In other words, I stood outside the proverbial unlocked car door, continuing to try the handle expecting a different outcome. I should have trusted my directions and ability to follow them, rather I choose to question those qualities than re-examine my preconceived notions of what I expected Salem to be like.
These preconceived notions that we all have, are typically based off of a belief system held in unwavering manner for a life time. This can easily be one of the largest obstacles for a paranormal investigator. Apparently even a seasoned legend tripper.
I must admit that I had a fairly clear picture in my mind of what to expect when I arrived in Salem, Massachusetts. A small sleepy coastal berg. Full of towns people that held a love hate relationship with the tourists. I'm sure the travelers went down the one way streets the wrong way but also paid for the locals way of life. The scent of salty ocean spray coupled with sea gull song would be the only thing making much noise after sunset. What I found was an urban center created by the lack of green space between all the older and once smaller towns, forming one larger city. It had all the new luxuries we are accustomed to in any city center with franchise restaurants and big box stores.
Back on the road for a few blocks I pull into the first parking lot I find. It is a mall parking lot, across the street on the opposite side is my first connection to the Salem I expected. A few hundred feet away from the mall I see an old stone church. It sits behind a short iron fence and if I didn't know any better would say it looks like a movie set. In the ten feet of grass between the fence and the front of the church I spy what appear to be very old tombstones. They are set up in the same fashion that most lawns in Wisconsin are in October. An unrealistic graveyard crammed into a small space with Styrofoam markers made to look hundreds of years old. I think to myself that I must return to get a closer look before I leave. It is already late in the afternoon and I hurry towards what I am suspecting is the main street area. Correct in my suspicions I quickly walk walk by much tourist bait. I find every other window filled with every kitschy item that can have a witch placed on it and sold to vacationers during the day. Speaking of day, the light is quickly going from this one and I find that there are no more tours available. I resolve I must be an intrepid adventure and not take the easy cruise control tourist approach to Salem.
Honestly I am excited by the new prospect of discovery on my own. Reaffirmed with an adventurers path I quickly move to solve my ignorance issue. Being an author I quickly remember that books can contain much information. Not only that but I had passed a book store not long ago. With a general heading in mind I walk hoping to reach the book proprietor before they close for the evening. My hopes are dwindling as there are very few, to no stores open on the historic main street at this point. Up ahead there is the book store I passed during my first pass through main street. The lights on, and the door is open. I'm in luck and inside. Now feeling the lack of time biting at my heels, I am able to slow down a bit and make conversation with the clerk. I can’t help but slow a bit more as I realize how unique of a book store I am in. I must learn something more about the man in unkempt hair and eye glasses from 30 years past. Most noticeably he is hidden behind a pile of books that lines the entire register counter, from floor to ceiling with no exaggerations.
I find our brief conversation through a several inch opening in the books enlightening. He directs me to some titles that will help me on my self guided tour of downtown Salem. Departing my new friend, with new book in hand I quickly make my way back up the street. I had spied a dark alley on my first pass down the main street and thought it too picturesque to pass up. I snap some pictures, roll some video and pause to leaf through the book I had just purchased. Devouring some quick factoids of the area I find myself wishing I had more time, but noticing a map of the town I orienteer the shortest route to a nearby cemetery and decide to quit wasting time wishing.
Image: Salem Massachusetts Book Store purveyor
I arrive just in time to catch the last few minutes of a local witch tour. The usual, “a lot of ghost activity has been recorded in this graveyard” as the tour guide goes on to share the data that proves the point “take lots of pictures and pass them back along to us if you catch any more orbs.” Orbs, I think, yes irrefutable proof of dust, moisture, and insects. No time to dwell on the paranormal profile of the graveyard visitors 'proof,' subjectively given from the tour guide in a witch costume. I’m being tailed!
Steeling a few more pretend photographs, allows me to raise the camera to my face, concealing that I am really observing a dark and mysterious observer of me. Yes, now I’m sure of it. I have seen this man at least one other time this evening, and he seems to be paying a bit too much attention to me. Quickly sizing up my spy, I make the astute observations that he is wearing all black clothing. This of course is to better sneak, slink, and sulk in the darkened shadows when needed on his mission to kill me. It is at this moment I notice the tour group of consisting of witnesses to my soon to come murder are disbanding. The sightseeing is over and the folks quickly disperse back to their hotel rooms. No one to help me now, I’m on my own again as the mysterious stranger moves closer.
Of course I go on to notice that he has 1980s metal band hair and a concert type logo on his shirt. I speculate my life is no longer in immediate danger. Rather I’m about to meet a ghost hunter, get asked out on a date, or the far off chance that someone has actually recognized me (hey it has happened once or twice). Come to find out I have indeed met a ghost hunter. We have a short conversation that of course includes his shock that I have not yet been to Gettysburg, and his re-assurance that I must go due to the large amount of paranormal phenomena documented there. My once possible murderer turns out to be quite nice and even gives me a pointer or two on places to check out as he had taken a witch tour earlier in the day. I am warned for the third time in two hours not to trespass in the graveyard and my new friend and I part ways.
A quick tromps through the graveyard and I head out in search of another spooky and historic location; as long as it is in walking distance. I visit a few more churches, a few more monuments, many a historical placard, even a fountain shaped out showing a large scale map of the area during colonial times. Of course a few more darken alley ways then, I am off. Not before I take a conference call for a half hour sitting in the parking lot. The hours are no longer getting later, but rather earlier and I still have a four hour drive back to the hotel and a full day of work first thing in the morning. I ponder to myself when I may get back to Salem as I drive through the winding streets heading west. I hope it is sooner than later and with more time and companions to share the experiences with. October would be the perfect time for another trip to Salem I think to myself. With that hopeful thought I turn on and crank up the Supernatural soundtrack to help keep me awake on my drive.
Until next time, remember, adventures come to the adventuresome!
Noah Voss (Bio)
But wait there's more!
More than a dozen Legend Trippers Journal entries! Follow the Legend Trippers on such adventures as:
Unexplained Gravity Hills in Pennsylvania
The Mystery of the Michigan Paulding Lights Solved
Lake Monsters of the Mississippi River
Satanic Murderous Murmurs Investigated in the Bridgewater Triangle of Massachusetts
Werewolves in Wisconsin
The Lost Port of Ulao discovered on Lake Michigan
Looking for the Lost in the Bennington Black Hole of Vermont
Phantom Baby's Screams in the night at Cry Baby Bridge of Illinois
West Virginia's Mothman Sightings
and many, many more!
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