Samantha Should Go

If I were Queen of Salem for a day the very first thing I would do is smite Samantha. I like Bewitched and Elizabeth Montgomery as much as the next person, but a television character has no business occupying such a prominent parcel in Salem in statue form–especially such a bad statue. I think public art should either be beautiful or significant and Samantha is neither: she should go. I never really understood exactly how she was deposited right there, in Lappin Park on Town House Square, in June of 2005. It was a deal struck between the TV Land television channel, who commissioned the statue from StudioEIS in Brooklyn, then-mayor Stanley Usovicz, and the Salem Redevelopment Authority. Is she supposed to be with us forever? I was in one of my periodic disengagement-from-Salem-because-it-is-driving-me-crazy moods at the time so I wasn’t among the protesters, but even one of the statue’s creators admitted it was crass at the time:

“If I were one of the people who had a house on the beautiful common there, would I hate it?” asked Ivan Schwartz, sitting at a conference table last week and discussing the Samantha statue. “Yes, probably. But it seems like [Salem] was going down that path long before this TV Land thing ever surfaced.” (Washington Post)

Well, Mr. Schwartz is correct: Salem has been “Witch City” for quite a while, which is why my feelings towards Samantha have evolved: I don’t really want to destroy her anymore, I’d just like to move her–to a less prominent and more appropriate place–where she can represent Witch City rather than Salem. Maybe in front of the Witch Museum? That’s a perfect pairing.

Samantha Destination Salem

The Samantha Statue in Lappin Park (somewhat dressed for winter, but before our recent snow), courtesy Destination Salem.

So who or what could replace Samantha?  That is a difficult question, despite, or perhaps because of, Salem’s rich history.

An “old planter”?  Well we already have the magisterial statue of Salem founder Roger Conant by the Common. Unfortunately he is often mistaken for a “witch” because of his proximity to the Witch Museum as well–maybe he and Samantha could trade places? No, I think not.

Accused “witches”?  Well, we already have the subtle but stately Witch Trials Memorial on Charter Street. This is a reflective place (when it is not full of tourists eating sausage rolls on its memorial benches) deserving of its official status, but is could be supplemented by a more humanistic installation at Town House Square, I suppose. Statues of Bridget Bishop and George Jacobs–the victims from Salem Town?  Philip English–who escaped, survived, and sought revenge? My very favorite memorial to a witch-trial victim is the relief sculpture of Katharina Henot, burned at the stake in Cologne in 1627, in which she is paired with Friedrich Spee, a Jesuit priest who served as a participant/confessor in several witch trials before he wrote an extremely influential indictment of such proceedings (the Cautio Criminalis (1631)), on a facade of the Cologne City Hall. They are actually quite modern creations, one of 124 relief figures carved for the exterior of the Rathaus. The Lappin Park site is a courtyard, rather than a building, so I think we need to go for something/someone more freestanding.

Rathausturm Koeln - Friedrich Spee von Langenfeld, Katharina Henot

Samuel McIntire? Revolutionary War soldiers and sailors from Salem? Timothy Pickering? One of the Derbys? We already have a great statue of Nathaniel Hawthorne on Hawthorne Boulevard. The great philanthropist Captain John Bertram and/or his granddaughter Caroline Emmerton, founder of the House of the Seven Gables Settlement Association? If I had my druthers (which I would, because I would be Queen), I’d probably go with Captain Luis Fenollosa Emilio of the Massachusetts 54th, a Salem native and author of The Brave Black Regiment (1891). He fought with the 54th for three years and was the sole surviving officer of the ferocious battle of Ft. Wagner in 1863: he deserves commemoration somewhere.

Statue Emilio

Captain Luis F. Emilio of the Mass 54th and 23rd, Library of Congress.

If I step down from my throne, however, I think it’s probably best to install something less literal and more abstract or conceptual in this particular location: something that could speak to as many people as possible and really make both passersby and crowds stop and think (or at least stop). I could even go in a more whimsical direction: the people who like the Samantha statue generally mention its “whimsy” but I think whimsy has to emanate from good art and Samantha looks like she is sitting on a turd rather than a cloud. We can do better.

Just to get the ideas flowing, I rounded up some of my favorite installations: most are public, some I have seen in person rather than just in pictures, some are memorials and some are just “statues”, all are (in my humble opinion) just great.

Reading Chaucer Jackson

Philip Jackson (b. 1944), Reading Chaucer, Portland Gallery, London.

Statue Les Voyageurs Marseilles

One of Bruno Catalano’s Voyageurs in Marseilles–travelers with missing parts!

Statue Shoes Budapest

The extremely poignant installation of “Shoes on the Danube” in Budapest by Gyuala Pauer and Can Togny, dedicated “to the memory of the victims shot by Arrow Cross militiamen in 1944-45”.

leandro-erlich-pulled-by-the-roots-karlsruhe-designboom-03

A “house” with roots by Leandro Erlich at the Summer Festival in Karlsruhe, Germany via Designboom. (I would LOVE to see something like this in Salem–a 17th century house!)

Appendix: Just adding a few lines as this post was shared quite widely on Salem Facebook groups and there was a lot of commentary that readers of the blog won’t see. Lots of love for Samantha; she is widely credited (not the statue so much as the television character and show, which filmed in Salem in 1970-71) for saving Salem from the wasteland that it was becoming at that time. So the statue is seen as a symbol of revival through witchcraft tourism. Also: tourists love her so she should stay, she’s “whimsical” so she should stay. There were some people that supported a move: to the Willows & the Hawthorne Hotel in particular. No support for Captain Emilio!


47 responses to “Samantha Should Go

  • Alan Lord

    First off, I think it would be quite appropriate for the City of Salem to make a gift of the Samantha statue to the City of Hollywood, CA. That way they could place it a more suitable setting.

    A statue of Samuel McIntire would be my first choice (if I were king for a day, that is).

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  • John smith

    Are is art honey. You don’t have to justify it, agree or even like it. Because the satiate is causing this dialogue to occurs it’s doing exactly what it’s meant to do, as all art should do, making the people think and talk.

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  • coldhandboyack

    I can see both reasons to condemn Samantha. If it was good art, okay. If it weren’t changing the tone of what happened, okay. This one fails the two point test. Doesn’t Salem have a pirate or something?

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  • Roger

    I don’t know how it happened, but Capt. Emilio’s photo is reversed: look at the 23 on his chest.

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  • Helen

    I say start a petition to move it or better get rid of it. My memory is that there was a time limit attached. Didn’t approve of it when placed there and still don’t.

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  • H. Jwmailhoit

    This statue does not represent the city’s history of maritime and many other first events linked to our city. A collage showing some of these events would show how diverse Salem,s. History really was.

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  • Robert Goss-Kennedy

    Agreed!
    Samantha has to go!
    Salem needs to reclaim the view down Essex to Lappin. If you look down it, you can see that at some point in time…mid 1970s?…someone had a really nice idea of how to arrange Essex st, so that when you looked down it from the old PEM building, the arcing waters of the Town Pump Fountain drew the gaze and made for an interesting focal point, with Lapin Pakistan behind it.

    Now?

    We have totally marred this view. We hang banners across the street far too low….we place that horrible shack in front of the fountain…and in the summer it is cluttered with chairs and umbrellas as well as a few misplaced lights.

    And this isn’t even touching on the hideous Brutalist “renovation,” done to the fountain by our current administration.

    We need to move Samantha somewhere else and develop a real plan that includes the view down the street as a feature.

    Oh, and for the love of all that is holy, will someone undo that awful fountain renovation and fix the other fountain on Essex while they are at it? Seriously…

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  • Jean Monahan

    Move Samantha in front of Witch Museum as you said. Or melt it down.

    Instead in that space create something transcendent that ties to the Peabody sisters and gives people a chance to know their impact on American education, literature, and art, and more. That’s a tall order but the metaphor of transcendental might be the beauty of the piece and elsewhere could talk about the Peabodys. They are not celebrated by Salem it seems and it is a shame since they were at the heart of many important changes.

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  • Brian Bixby

    I’m ALMOST tempted to say Salem should commemorate George Parker by turning the park into a board game. It would keep the tourists busy.

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  • Blake

    The main characters of the show, Darrin and Samantha Stephens, were supposed to live in Westport, Connecticut. In the early stages of the show’s development, the title was “The Witch of Westport. ” Perhaps Westport, Connecticut is where the statue should reside. Hopefully the residents there would welcome and enjoy it.

    Liked by 2 people

  • Stephen P. Hall

    Put back a building with Frye’s news stand and cigar store, and Gerber’s Deli that were both burned down at this location in 1971. 😉 https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10203036113365061&set=gm.10153229452701102&type=3&theater

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  • J

    There are plenty of “prominent” places in Salem. This place is only one of the many places tourists come into contact with. And I don’t understand why this statue is called “bad art”. What’s the reason? I think it puts a human face on Salem in a way. And it’s YET ANOTHER reason for folks to visit. Why complain?

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    • daseger

      Well, it’s very subjective, or course, J–but I think it’s a terrible statue! Of course that’s just my opinion–art is in the eye of the beholder. But I do think an occasional examination of how we (Salem) put ourselves out there is a good thing. Debate is a good thing.

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  • Rev. Peter White

    As an ordained Wiccan and former Salem resident (who may make a return at some point) I am entirely ok with the statue. First the #1 income for the local economy in Salem is tourism. That is not disputed as according to Destination Salem (tourism board), said tourism bring in on average 99 MILLION a yr to the local economy. If the tourist industry collapsed over night Salem would be in financial peril and many of the services locals take for granted would dry up.

    Second before someone says all we need is the PEM for tourism they account for less then half of the total tourism generated according to polling stats done by DS.

    Third, as someone wise once told me, if you don’t like the smell of Chinese food you don’t move to Chinatown. If you don’t like or want to deal with tourism then Salem isn’t the place for you. You knowingly moved here in the past 20 or so years well no one to blame but yourself.

    Forth, as some of my ilk dislike the Bewitched associations, I however am ok with it. Was it a campy, unrealistic portrayal of modern witches? Indeed. But it put us in a positive light in the end and there is something to be said for that. A LOT better then what some B horror movies or right wing religious wingnuts do implying we worship the fictional xian satan, kill animals, drink baby blood or the like. So if the worst someone thinks about modern witches is we look, talk and act no different from you and are pretty cool people aside from we wiggle our nose and that is where magick comes from then I am ok with that. Those misconceptions from that TV show are A LOT easier to correct, address then we are a bunch of satan loving, animal killers.

    I will also add, your anti-anything pagan/witch/esoteric is telling. You seem to want Salem from a century ago that was ashamed and embarrassed by it’s past that only has the beginnings of a tourist industry (Daniel Lowe is the founder of the modern Salem tourist industry BTW). Sorry to burst your bubble but that time is gone. It’s not going to return. Time to get over it and please join us in the 2010’s.

    Finally, yes Salem has a great history full of excellent historical figures that should ALL be honored I do NOT disagree with you on that point. However it does NOT have to be at the expense of the current tourist industry, they can work hand in hand not have one or the other. Plus, getting back to my first point, FEW people are going to pack their kids and family in a car to come see the statue of some civil war hero they never heard of or the like. They ARE going to do that, and put money in the economy, for the trial, pirate, ghost history. That is how you get them in the proverbial door. THEN you can hit them up with all the other lessor know history. But the Salem you want with no haunted happenings, witches or even tourist industry (the parts you dislike) is a ghost town with the loss of tens of millions of dollars yearly. which means less city services, less shops, less events, etc. You kill the parts of the tourist industry your overly high brow attitude dislikes you are in effect killing Salem. And again, don’t like the smell… don’t move to Chinatown.

    So yes the statue is fine. People, both locals and witches, need to get over it and themselves. It’s what makes Salem, Salem. If you don’t like it, don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

    Rev. Peter White

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    • daseger

      Thanks for your comments, Reverend White, they are PERFECT. 99 million? wow. It is Daniel Low, by the way. Let me quote you: “get them in the door” with Samantha, a statue of a fictional tv character, and then (maybe) introduce the “lesser know” history, like a REAL Civil War hero “they never heard of or the like”. And you have such a pastoral attitude as well!

      Liked by 1 person

  • saraannon

    I though New Mexico had won the kitchy utterly irrelevant to the location TV prize when T-or-C named itself after the television show Truth or Consequences, but Salem seems to be right up there in the inexplicable human behavior winners. What’s with the blue Michael Jackson type glove by the way?

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  • saraannon

    Advertising for Rubbermaid house cleaning accessories perhaps?

    Like

  • Peter Alachi

    If anyone would like to learn why the Samantha statue was placed in Salem, they should look into the show’s visit to Salem in 1970 and its positive impact on the city. Without the visit and pumping nearly $100,000 into the local economy, and increasing the exposure of Salem to a world-wide audience, urban renewal in the city would have been delayed. And frankly, the statue at Lappin Park cleaned up the area. The statue is costing the city nothing to maintain. TV Land still takes care of it and will do so indefinitely as far as I know.

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    • daseger

      Yes, Peter–several people have emphasized this event and I’ve written about it myself here.Of course, urban renewal was delayed (fortunately) but not until it had destroyed many, many buildings downtown–so I assume you mean urban redevelopment? Somebody mentioned that the statue became the property of the city after 10 years, but I’m not sure what the exact terms were.

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      • Peter Alachi

        It was urban renewal that Mayor Zoll mentioned to me when I interviewed him and he said the show’s visit did make a difference. Former City Councilor, William Legault, confirmed to me last year that TV Land had agreed to extend taking care of the statue beyond the 10 year limit (which was reached on June 15, 2015). I have written abiut the statue and their visit to Salem as well and have given many talks about it, the most recent was on October 1, 2015 at the Witch Museum.

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      • daseger

        Ok, feel free to put the link to your writings here: many people are interested in Bewitched.

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      • Peter Alachi

        My website now is no longer about Bewitched but about Microbiology. My books are sold at the Witch Museum, Witch Way Gifts and Bewitched in Salem. These are: (1) A Pictorial Tale of the Bewitched Statue of Salem, MA (this one is also available on Amazon), (2) Salem’s Summer of Sam: On the Trail of Bewitched in Salem, 1970 and (3) Bewitched and the Man at the Wheel (about filming of Bewitched in Gloucester). If anyone is interested, I do sell these directly also at $9.95 each, Thanks for letting me post the info!

        Liked by 1 person

      • daseger

        You’re welcome–wow, you clearly are the expert on Bewitched in Salem! Sorry–I really don’t like the statue (especially in this locale) but lots of other people certainly do.

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      • Peter Alachi

        I didn’t agree with its placement in Salem in 2005 but I kept an open mind because I enjoyed watching an episode of Bewitched if it happened to be on TV. And then I asked a neighbor who mentioned that the show filmed in Salem in 1970. I didn’t know then, so out of Academic curiosity, I researched the topic. So now I don’t mind it. And you hardly ever not see someone taking pictures by it. Depending on the angle, it can be ugly and I give you kitschy even but people come to Salem largely for its kitschy side and once here, they can then hopefully learn about the other more serious side of Salem, her architecture, maritime history, the PEM, Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Peabody sisters, the Witch Hysteria of 1692, etc. So I really see nothing’s wrong with the statue now. BTW, I made this moving gif for the Holidays:

        http://palachi.com/samantha.html

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      • daseger

        Well to each his own–and I am quite impressed by the move from Bewitched to microbiology.

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  • Cecilia Mary Gunther

    Is samantha’s hand meant to be blue? seems incongruous.. and yes she is ghastly – but there you are and there she will probably stay uness you can arrange a drive by! or some kind of kidnapping. I do love the witch with the pointy hat reading in the park. I love sculptures, c

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  • thesalemgarden

    oh my Donna, just catching up… it looks like you’ve generated a great post with lots of conversation here 😉 That statue always seems to bring about very strong opinions. As you’d probably guess, it doesn’t really bother me. While Samantha doesn’t represent the most important part of our city’s history, the Bewitched show is an aspect that people remember and connect to. It would be nice to have another statue or piece of art (maybe at the opposite end of the mall near the museum and visitor center) that somehow commemorates the serious and “true” side of the witch history events that Salem is known for.

    Like

  • William Lyle

    One more thing. It does look like a big ole turd she’s sitting on or maybe it’s her tail, or a weird looking dildo. Bahahahahaha

    Like

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