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Hidden History at the Salem Wax Museum

The Salem Wax Museum of Witches and Seafarers has told the story of Salem’s Witch and Maritime History since its founding in 1993. 

The Museum has been a family conceptualized and run business since its actualization thirty plus years ago. The Salem Wax Museum is adjacent to the Charter Street Cemetery and the Salem Witch Trials Memorial, which was dedicated in 1992. The building, which once belonged to an iron works company, became the starting point for the wax museum and the eventual neighborhood of attractions that would be developed. The origins of the museum started with the acquisition of their London made wax figures from a museum in Maryland. The presentation and interpretation of the figures through the lens of our rich maritime and witch history was achieved through a partnership with Salem State University’s Theater Department. 

The group worked collaboratively to create the placards, storyline, and set design for each motif that is set up throughout the original attraction. The Salem Witch Village and associated guided tours were a way to educate visitors about the modern-day witch community with local witches telling their unique experiences. Today the evolution of the Haunted Neighborhood, open each October on Liberty Street, now includes Frankenstein’s Castle, a haunted house with live actors and animatronics and The Enchanters, a free public-art exhibit.

So where is this hidden history of the Salem Witch Trials? Located prominently within the Salem Wax Museum is the Salem Witch Trials Memorial Sculpture and plaque. This feature is often overlooked and many visitors to the witch city don’t realize this piece of history is hidden right in plain sight. 

“Before you lies a heart-stirring statue that stands in our mission as an immortal testament to the horrifying irrationality that swept through Salem in 1692.”

Created by sculptor Yiannis Stefanakis of Salem, this 14 foot tall statue depicts three sisters, Sarah Cloyce, Mary Esty and Rebecca Nurse who are representative of the hundreds of innocent victims accused during the witch hysteria of 1692. The statue is said to be based on the television drama, Three Sovereigns for Sarah and depicts the anguish and anger of three sisters accused of witchcraft. After years of efforts by the sculptor to get funds to have the statue bronzed proved unsuccessful, the plaster cast statue was re-assembled (after storage) and put on display at the Salem Wax Museum of Witches and Seafarers.

The sculpture makes a great compliment to a visit to the Old Burying Point and Witch Trials Memorial to drive home and highlight the seriousness of the Salem Witch Trials of 1692. 

“Oh God, help me!” were among the final words of Rebecca Nurse during the Salem Witch Trials. These words can be found among many others engraved on the ground at the entrance to the Witch Trials Memorial. The despair of her words is haunting, even hundreds of years later. 

The city of Salem offers a wide range of things to do based on every point of interest. If learning about the Salem Witch Trials is part of your plans, be sure to partake in the hidden history within the Salem Wax Museum. Learning about the past gives us tools to analyze and explain problems while positioning us to see patterns. This provides critical understanding in the future so we can ensure past mistakes or horrors (such as the Salem Witch Trials) will not be repeated. 

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