Friday, July 22, 2011

She turned me into a newt!

Having left Backstage, I once again took the US1, south towards Boston. The weather was better so I figured I would maybe see something more interesting this time around.

It was quite a scenic drive, both right along the ocean and a bit further inland through Smalltown America. The only gripe I have is that there is no real warning when turns and off-ramps turn up, unless you're on a major highway. Driving through the smaller cities I had to double back several times because I was in the wrong lane when my turn popped up out of nowhere and the local school bus was right next to me.

Anywho. I managed to not get lost, and this without a GPS. Wonder of wonders. I had a massive stack of scrumptous pancakes at a mom and pop place in the middle of nowhere and then to the left. And I looked at the ocean some more.

Standard blog pose. Check.

Then I decided to go to Salem, where the infamous witch trials were held in 1692, since it was sort of on the way. I visited two museums and wandered around town a bit. Verdict? Utter crap. The Salem Witch Museum did have an interesting timeline of the phenomenon of witches and how they have been persecuted throughout the ages, but other than that nothing much. The main presentation was done by a recorded voice speaking in a pompous, "evil" tone, while spotlights highlighted scenes he was describing. The dummies in the scenes had cobwebs hanging from arms and farm implements and such. On the whole, a very unconvincing spectacle.

The funniest and at the same time most insulting piece of faulty information was this (paraphrased): "During the Salem Witch Trials 16 people were executed. In Europe, during the Spanish Inquisition and the Medieval Inquisition, millions were executed."

Millions? Really? In the middle of the 14th century, the plague struck Europe and severely decimated it's population, which was approx 70 million people, down to as little as 30 million, if some accounts are to be believed. The Spanish Inquisition began in the late 1400s, when Europe was far from recovered from the plague.

Let's say the population was 50 million at this time. "millions" implies several million. Let's say 3 million, half at the feet of the Medieval Inquisition (even though they believed executing a heretic was to admit defeat) and half at the feet of the Spanish Inquisition. So the Spanish Inquisition killed three percent of Europe's population? I had no idea.

I looked at different sources today, and the consensus seems to be that the Spanish Inquisition executed less than 10 000 people over it's entire course. A far cry from "millions". If I find the time and the energy I will put together something more serious than this, run it by a historian or two, and then send it to the frikkin' museum.

Wow. Researching and ranting can really keep me from going to bed. 0030 now. Tomorrow shopping and the circus!


  1. Okay, but I really have to defend the Salem Witch Museum. It's been there FOREVER, and has been giving the exact same presentation the whole time. We all saw those dummies when we were in kindergarten, and we're all comforted by the fact that they're still there, screaming and wearing cobwebs, even though it's kitschy and NPC and not entirely accurate, historically speaking. And then the rest of the touristy places in town are relatively new, all stupid, all cashing in on the wicca craze. If I'd known you were going to Salem, I'd've told you to go to the House of Seven Gables. And even if you never go again, you should read the book. Nathanial Hawthorne frickin' rocks.

  2. I can give you that, and I would have been comfortable with "not entirely accurate". This wasn't.

    I did read The Scarlet Letter, in American high school :) I haven't read The Seven Gables though.