One last Halloween-related post (I promise!) on this All Souls Day: since it is a recurring theme of mine, I feel compelled to feature the Huffington Post columnist Greig Lamont’s stinging critique of the Witch City: “Selling your Soul in Salem”. I’ve read it before, heard it before, said it before, but I welcome Lamont’s compelling indictment. You would think he had more at stake, because he contrasts the bygone grandeur of Salem with its wholesale descent into tacky revelry in a particularly passionate way, beginning with soul-searching and ending with soul-selling: Once the house of New World glory, Arthur Miller discovered inspiration in Salem’s story. Today, there’s nothing to be found but a soul-selling despair in this home of American kitsch.
My favorite line, because it describes scenes I see again and again, even in my sleep it seems, comes in the middle of the piece, when Lamont contrasts the city’s glorious past with its vacuous present: today Salem has been reduced to prostituting itself to oddballs in costumes who gawk at gravestones and hanker for “museums” filled with broomsticks and bric–a–brac. For all its magnificent past, today it degrades itself by pandering to those whose zenith is having their photograph taken with a transvestite Dracula next to a guitar–playing zombie — and whose nadir would be to actually learn something new.
What does this have to do with what happened in 1692?