The Halloween Capital of the world
Salem, MA

Dying is something that many people do not want to discuss. We as a society are afraid of death and Halloween is the pinnacle of that. In Salem, MA this is something that is the heart of the town, death. A savvy town that has marketed the Salem Witch Trails of 1692 and transformed itself into the Halloween Capital of the world really comes to life during the month of October. We had the pleasure to film here during the week of Halloween with some of the most influential individuals that make Salem unique.

We met with Susan DameGreene who owns and operates the Salem Center for Past Life Regression to start it off. With the assistance of Peter Down, a student from Salem State University, we met Susan at her office and were greeted by Elle her dog. The Center for Past Life Regression attracts people who are seeking answers. The questions that they have vary greatly and by venturing into their subconscious they travel to a past life that will provide an answer.  Susan has been practicing Deep Memory Process (DMP), which was developed by Roger Woolger. Susan studied with him at the start of her career in this fascinating field. It involves taking a person deep into their subconscious minds to access memories from a past life. These memories that they are able to tap into provide insight into a current issue in their life.

After meeting with Susan we traveled across town, which is very small consisting of eight square miles, to meet with Dr. David Goss, an Assistant Professor of history at Gordon College in Wenham, Massachusetts. Considered to be the expert of the history of one of the oldest towns in the country, Dr. Goss discussed the contrast with which the puritans viewed death and dying with how we view it today. It was very common and a part of everyday life in the seventeenth century colonial America. He walked us through the oldest (and one of the oldest in the country) cemetery in Salem and what the meaning of the different symbols that decorate the weathered headstones. Walking through this hallowed ground you could not help but feel connected in some way to those buried here.

Our next stop was at City Hall, a beautiful old world granite building, to sit down with the mayor of Salem Kimberley Driscoll. Mayor Driscoll has been in office for the past 4 years and she is known as a very involved mayor. Whatever is happening in the town she is sure to be there. She provide us with some wonderful insight into the appeal of Salem and just how the witch trails, despite being a major catastrophe, have influenced the direction of the small settlement nearly thirty miles north of Boston.

The next person that we would meet with on this day would be the “Official Witch of Salem” Laurie Cabot. Laurie has been in Salem since the late sixties and has been writing about, practicing and teaching witchcraft. She has devoted her life to helping those who would like to be aware of what the practice is and how it has been around for centuries. She painted a picture of how death is approached from the world of witchcraft.

“Death is something to not be afraid of and in fact it is something to look forward to,” Laurie would say.

 According to Laurie once we pass on we reach a higher level of understanding and intelligence and we can look back at our lives and understand what we did well and what we did wrong. Along with being the “Official Witch of Salem,” Laurie is also a renowned medium. We sat in a very special session of thirty or so guests that were there to hear from loved ones that have passed on. It was uncanny how quickly she made contact and delivered the messages to those they were intended. Peter, our production assistant, had a moment with Laurie as she out of thin air she asked him about his deceased brother. She told Peter that he was right there next to him and that he, “is his buddy.” She was clearly telling him things that she could not have known to which Peter proclaimed, “She is the real deal.”

In addition to our set individuals that we met with we also filmed around the town to capture the essence of Salem. We ventured into a haunted house, Witch Mansion, and asked, “Why do you think people go to haunted houses?” The response that we received from the attendant working was, “To be scared!”

Another tourist attraction that we visited was the Salem Witch Museum. Here visitors get a chance to learn the history of the witch trails and how they occurred by sitting in a room surrounded by 3D depictions of moments of those accused of being witches from trails to execution.

We went into a well-known boutique in the world of witchcraft Hex Old World Witchery and spoke with Leanne Marrama about the store and the “death alter” near the entranceway. The alter is there to honor our loved ones who have moved on to the other side. Unfortunately there are those that lack the understanding and compassion to learn about what the alter represents and show disrespect. This is something that upsets Leanne and it is easy to see why.  That is one of the reasons we feel this documentary is so very important, to open the discussions about death and dying.

We are very thankful to everyone for showing us why Salem is such a special place. This will be a wonderful addition to “The Embrace of Dying” series.

To learn more about Salem and the places that we visited, here are some links.