Is Thackery Home?: Salem Pioneer Village 1630

The humble cottage of Thackery Binx.

October 18, 2016 — I think that my favorite moment in Salem during our 31 days chronicled in A Season with the Witch was perhaps the most un-Salem moment that I experienced. It wasn’t downtown. It wasn’t over-the-top or crowded with revelers. It was a quiet event in the woods called The Dark of the Night.

I tell the whole story in the Salem book, but I’ll tell you enough here to excuse posting a bunch of photos.

It took place at Salem Pioneer Village 1630, a colonial village recreation a couple of miles from the center of town at Forest River Park. It’s a secluded-feeling walled village of about half a dozen buildings on the edge of the harbor. The city erected it in 1930 on the occasion of the tercentennial of the founding of Massachusetts. The place has seen some hard times in recent years, and the forces of abandonment and ruin have both had their way with it (it’s getting better, though).

After dark, we were let in through a gate in the wall and led through the darkness to a fire with the rest of our group. The night was cold, end-of-Autumn New England cold, and the pitch black was punctuated by squares and rectangles of orange here or there…the Halloween-lighted windows and doors in the rustic wooden buildings surrounding us. When it was our turn, we were led inside one of them, where we were told a ghost story by a volunteer in colonial garb. Then we went to the next house and heard another ghost story told by a volunteer in colonial garb. Then we did it again at a third house. It was a fantastic experience. Probably like trick-or-treating really should be.

Making the night even better was knowing that we were also traipsing through a movie set, a Halloween movie set, in fact, since the opening scenes of Hocus Pocus were filmed at Salem Pioneer Village 1630. The second house we entered, in which we heard the tale of a ghostly presence in a cornfield, was Thackery Binx’s cottage itself. That’s right. We listened to a ghost story at night inside Thackery Binx’s cottage.

Thackery Binx's night.

The night was such an experience that we returned the next morning for a daytime tour of the place, where we braved a cold that had somehow shifted to early-winter New England cold, with the sky threatening snow. Our two tour guides told us through chattering teeth a story of Salem that is too often overshadowed by its Gallows Hill: The founding of the village.

These were perfect, much-needed moments. Too much of our Halloween last year was urban. You shouldn’t spend an entire harvest holiday inside a city, even if that means you have to travel back in time 400 years to escape it.

Inside Thackery Binx's cottage.