Categories
Historic America

Plimoth Plantation

Plimoth Plantation, founded in 1947, is a living history museum in Plymouth, Massachusetts, featuring a replica of a 1627 Pilgrim village. It is located at 137 Warren Avenue, a few miles southeast of the actual site of the Plymouth Colony. The museum also owns and operates a replica of the Pilgrim ship Mayflower, but it was undergoing repairs when I visited in the spring.

The museum offers an impressive variety of things to see and do, including a large visitor center, Wampanoag Homesite, Craft Center, Maxwell and Nye Barns, Plimoth Grist Mill, and of course, the village itself. The visitor center has a large gift shop and even a movie theater, although it was playing two random, nonhistorical movies when I visited.

Categories
Historic America Reviews

Lizzie Borden Took an Ax

Christina Ricci stars in this made-for-TV dramatization of the 1893 trial of Lizzie Andrew Borden for the murder of her father and step-mother in Fall River, Massachusetts. The highly-stylized production recounts events immediately surrounding the murders and subsequent trial. Lizzie Borden Took an Ax (2014) was later developed into a TV Mini-Series The Lizzie Borden Chronicles (2015). It blends a modern soundtrack with historic events to create an oddly entertaining take on the controversial case.

At 11:10 a.m. on August 4, 1892, Lizzy Borden (Christina Ricci), 32, yelled for the family maid, Bridget Sullivan (Hannah Anderson), to quickly come downstairs. She discovered her father, Andrew (Stephen McHattie), slumped over the sofa. His head had been bashed in. Abby (Sara Botsford), Lizzy’s stepmother, was found on the floor of an upstairs bedroom, her head and face smashed. Lizzy gave police strange and often conflicting information, and she quickly became the chief suspect.

Her New Bedford trial, beginning in June 1893, was a national sensation, widely reported in the newspapers. It took the jury 90 minutes to acquit her, and with her inheritance, she purchased a new home and lived there with her sister Emma (Clea DuVall). Despite efforts to start a new life, Lizzy Borden was ostracized from Fall River society, since many people believed she was the murderer.

There are several alternative theories about “who done it,” but Lizzie Borden Took an Ax doesn’t entertain any of them. It openly implies Lizzie was the murderer, even going so far as to imagine Lizzie confessing the crime to her sister, causing her to flee their home in disgust. In fact, the two sisters split in an argument over a party in 1905, 12 years after the trial. We’ll never know what the sisters said to each other in private conversation, so this is creative license at work.

Categories
Historic America

Witch History Museum in Salem, Massachusetts

I completely overlooked the Witch History Museum on my first trip to Salem, Massachusetts. Located at 197-201 Essex Street on the pedestrian mall, this is not the same as the Salem Witch Museum, located on Washington Square. Like a half dozen other museums in Salem, this also features dioramas/wax figures, though of a slightly higher quality.

An actress in period costume gives a short introduction to the Salem Witch Trials before taking you down into the museum. I came in early spring, just before the tourist season started, so I was the only one in the audience that day. My host was gracious enough to show me around anyway.

Categories
Mysterious America Reviews

New England Grimpendium a Unique Look at the Region’s Dark Side

The New England Grimpendium: A Guide to Macabre and Ghostly Sites by J.W. Ocker is one of the most unique books I’ve ever read in this genre. More than just the usual collection of haunted sites, it contains a listing of homes and birthplaces of authors and entertainers, infamous crimes and criminals, horror movie filming locations, and even creepy plants. This book has everything the eclectic tourist could ask for.

J.W. Ocker was originally from Maryland, but has lived in New Hampshire since 2008. He’s authored several books, including Poe-Land: The Hallowed Haunts of Edgar Allan Poe (2014) and A Season with the Witch: The Magic and Mayhem of Halloween in Salem, Massachusetts (2016), all of which look fascinating. At his blog, Odd Things I’ve Seen (OTIS), he chronicles his visits to hundreds of cultural, artistic, natural, and historical oddities across the country and world.

Although some reviewers found Ocker’s writing style in The New England Grimpendium slightly off-putting (he leans on the snarky, skeptical side), I enjoyed every page of it. The writing is relaxed, focusing not just on the history but also on his experiences visiting the location. The fact visited most if not all the locations in this book also sets it apart from other travel guides that often rely on secondhand sources.

Categories
Historic America

Witch Dungeon Museum in Salem, Massachusetts

The Witch Dungeon Museum is one of many diorama/wax museums in Salem, Massachusetts, with the added twist of a live performance. I didn’t get a chance to see it on my first trip to Salem, so I made sure to check it out on my second.

The museum appears to occupy an old church, but instead of the stations of the cross, numbered plaques bearing facts about the Salem Witch Trials line the auditorium’s back wall in sequential order. The tour’s highlight is a live performance of a dramatic moment from the trials, with lines drawn from an eyewitness account.

Categories
Historic America

Civil War Ballads: The Opinions of Paddy Magee

Like “Paddy’s Lamentation,” “The Opinions of Paddy Magee” expresses the opinion of an Irish immigrant during the American Civil War. Unlike Paddy’s Lamentation, however, this song celebrates the contributions United States citizens made during the Irish Potato Famine and suggests Irishmen repay that debt by fighting to preserve the Union. David Kincaid recorded this song for his album The Irish Volunteer (1998).

I’m Paddy Magee, sir, from Ballinahee, sir,
In an illigant ship I come over the say;
Father Donahoe sent me, my passage he lent me–
Sure, only for that, I’d a walked all the way!
He talked of America’s freedom and glory;
“Begorra,” says I, “that’s the counthry for me!”
So, to ind a long story, I’ve now come before ye,
To give the opinions of Paddy Magee.

Whin Ireland was needing, and famine was feeding,
And thousands were dying for something to ate,
‘Twas America’s daughters that sent over the waters
The ships that were loaded with corn and whate:
And Irishmen sure will forever remember,
The vessels that carried the flag of the free;
And the land that befriended, they’ll die to defend it,
And that’s the opinions of Paddy Magee.

John Bull, ye ould divil,
Ye’d betther keep civil!
Remimber the story of ‘Seventy-six,
Whin Washington glorious he slathered the Tories;
Away from Columbia you then cut your sticks.
And if once again you’re inclined to be meddling,
There’s a city that’s called New Orleans, d’ye see,
Where Hickory Jackson he drove off the Saxon–
Now that’s the opinions of Paddy Magee.

Categories
Mysterious America Video

Video from Plymouth Twilight Lantern Ghost Tour

This paranormal-themed walking tour in Plymouth, Massachusetts is a fun, “spirited” way to learn a little about Plymouth history. The Twilight Lantern Ghost Tour takes you to lesser-known locations, and tells the story of some of the town’s less fortunate residents. For an additional fee, the tour continues inside two historic buildings near the oldest street in America. Check out some video below and then read my review!