I’m packing my bags today. Not, as you might imagine, because I’ve been accused of doing something insidious and I need to get out of dodge, but because I’m hopping on a plane tomorrow and heading to Boston for a week for work. Given my proximity to several creepy things, including Salem, I figured it might be prime opportunity to open up the floor for discussion on the latest television show to jump on the horror bandwagon.
We’ve seen the haunted house and asylum aliens a la American Horror Story, we’ve got the zombies in The Walking Dead, we’re even taking a crack at Penny Dreadful which should give us a full face-slap of some of the good old weird, and there’s always Dracula if you need to settle into the world of coffin bait and blood sucking. Even following American Horror Story: Coven, it seems that we’re not done with witches just yet. In fact, it seems like we’re going to beat it into submission as if we were still standing in the shadow The Secret Circle’s cancellation.
It’s 1692 and the Puritans are in full-force. If you remember your history, the Salem Witch Trials put a sum total of nineteen individuals to death at Gallows Hill after being accused of witchcraft. Dig a little deeper, and the witch craze that kept the town in its clutches was actually the result of a few very young girls who’d likely eaten some bad bread, hallucinated a few episodes of sorcery, and fuelled the hysteria once they realized it was too late to undo the damage. The condition is called convulsive ergotism, a particular type of poisoning that results from eating a fungus which invades developing kernels of rye grain. It causes violent fits, a crawling sensation on the skin, vomiting, choking, and hallucinations. LSD, commonly known as the hallucinogenic drug Acid, is a dervivative of ergot.(1)
There’s no real way of knowing what prompted the girls’ first accusations of sorcery, and Salem isn’t doing an awful lot to offer any more light on the situation. A couple of household names featured in the real Salem trials make appearances: Tituba, Mary Sibley, the pastor Parrish, and while something is afoot, we’re dealing with a full-in-the-face supernatural face palm:
The kind that intends to ram your nose into your brain.
But hey, scripted drama is trying to make a come back, and what’s sensationalized history without a Satanic circle, witch familiars, possessed children, demonic entities, and a little bit of consorting with the devil? It’s enough to make any contemporary Wiccan squirm. Salem’s premise attempts to rewrite the trials with the understanding that the witches were really in charge of the whole thing, and they were some bad bad ladies. This leaves me conflicted:
On the one hand, I love seeing a woman in the role of the antihero, the villain, the femme fatale; on the other, fictionalizing a tragedy like Salem makes me wildly uncomfortable.
So I put the question to you, dear reader:
Have you seen Salem? Are you enjoying the show?