BY Managing Mosaic Editor
A few months ago, at someone’s house party, I revealed to a man that I was “like hellllllla into” astrology and crystals (this is always a risky move with men) and he asked, “Why do girls always want to be witches?”
I’ve thought about it since then, and I can’t seem to find an answer for him. I do know that he’s right; in elementary school, I became completely convinced I was a witch and would cook up “potions” in our townhome’s bathroom with my sister and my friends. Later, in middle school, I read “The Witch of Blackbird Pond” and took some kind of strange pleasure in the fact that if I lived in Colonial America, I would probably be seen as a witch for knowing how to read and swim. In high school, we read a poem about a witch who survived her hanging, and I thought of her as my hero. In college, I drunkenly call myself a “spinster witch,” and only half the time I mean it as a joke.
Witches, at least the ones I had seen as a child, were always persecuted. They were always an “other” and constantly ostracized. They usually had no husbands, no children, no families, no connections, no anythings, just themselves. And though I still struggle to understand why many females, including myself, “want to be witches,” I believe it has something to do with their level of autonomy and self reliance, an unspoiled confidence they have in themselves, their knowledge and their fierce independence.
My female friends and I collect crystals, we sage rooms, we read tarot and we keep up with our astrology charts more than we do our homework. We are not even sure if what we do is truly “witchcraft” (it probably isn’t), but we tell everyone we believe in “vibes” and the “universe” and doing “witch shit” seems to be the most convenient term for our activities. It makes us feel spiritual, it makes us feel guided.
I have lived in Delaware for most of my life, but it took until this Sunday for me to finally learn about the urban legends surrounding Salem Church Road.
“It’s like haunted,” my friend explained to me, shouting over her music. “Some witches were hanged there a long time ago and now they haunt the road.”
There’s no “reputable” way to confirm a ghost story, but according to a few “haunted places” websites online, there was some truth to her story. Rumor has it that a family of six was accused of witchcraft during the turn of the twentieth century and were hanged. According to all of these websites, the family can sometimes be seen walking along the side of the road.
Of course, because I have learned almost nothing about safety and common sense in the 20 years I have been alive, I decided that it was a fantastic idea to drive along the side of the road at night, maybe get out a few times and poke around, looking for the ghosts. At 8:00 p.m., I trudged out in the cold to my sister’s Camry that I was keeping for the weekend and took a trip down Salem Church Road.
The first thing that I noticed on Salem Church Road was, incidentally, the sheer amount of churches. On every corner there was a new marquee sign with crooked letters listing a psalm and an advertisement for a service. Between each church were sparse “forests,” patches of stick-like trees whose leaves had been torn off in the wind and cold. I looked through the trees but I couldn’t see anyone or anything.
It occured to me about halfway through my 15-minute drive down the road (the road is not long) that I wasn’t exactly sure about the particulars of ghost hunting. I knew it was an activity, but I hadn’t yet watched any ghost hunting videos on my late night YouTube spirals. In short, I was clueless.
After a string of eerie looking churches (were they eerie or did I just think they were eerie because I was expecting to be spooked?) I pulled over into the Salem Village Shopping Center. There was a Halal place, a sub shop and faded parking lines. Probably the spookiest part about the lot was that it reminded me of the strip malls from my native Middletown, Delaware, brimming with a sense of loneliness.
I walked along the side of the parking lot for a bit. I found no ghosts.
The rest of the road had the similar aesthetic of a middle-Delaware backroad: small shacks peppering dying forests, trash and cigarette butts on the side of the road and the occasional run-down farm. Sometimes, a neighborhood would be nestled in an alcove or there would be a standalone house, but otherwise there was nothing too out of the ordinary. The night and the ghost hunt were anti-climatic.
I didn’t find ghosts, and I didn’t find witches. I think I had expected, somewhat half-heartedly, to see something or have some kind of supernatural experience, but no such thing happened.
Instead, I found some vestige of a historic suburban town, not unlike my own hometown. In the way that Middletown has a fixation on its long-dead peach crops (a disease wiped out a whole grove centuries ago), Salem Church Road has a fixation with its long-dead witches. The architecture and aesthetics of the town seemed uncomfortably conscious of its history.
Maybe I didn’t find ghosts on the road that night, but that’s not to say that there aren’t ghosts. It could be my perpetual preoccupation with the supernatural or just my sheer stupidity, but I still hold on to the belief that somewhere along that road, the ghosts of the six witches walk.