Setting a spooky scene – Salem graveyard. Photo by Teresa Nevic Stavner (courtesy of Destination Salem)
Salem, Massachusetts and Halloween go together like chocolate and peanut butter – both are terrific alone and irresistible when they come together. So, it’s only fitting that we reach into Salem’s rich history for this spooky Fun Fact Friday.
When we think about literature and Salem, Nathaniel Hawthorne usually comes to mind. But did you know that the master of horror himself, Edgar Allan Poe, was inspired by the seaside city?
In 1830, the grisly murder of the prominent Captain Joseph White swept the nation. As the trial progressed, it was revealed that John Francis Knapp had hired Danvers residents Richard and George Crowninshield to kill White. John and Joe Knapp (because, it apparently takes 2 sets of brothers to commit a horrible crime), believed that if the immensely rich Captain White died without a will, his money would be thus left to his relatives – most importantly, a Mary Beckford who also happened to be Joe Knapp’s mother-in-law. The idea was that when Mrs. Beckford died, her daughter, Mrs. Joe Knapp would come into the money and the Knapp brothers would be living on Easy Street.
But why bother to kill White? Wouldn’t his fortune be left to his family anyway? Well, it wasn’t that simple. White’s will favored his nephew Stephen. Were White to die of old age, the bulk of his fortune would be Stephen’s and Mary Beckford’s cut would be much, much smaller. On a side note, can’t help but wonder how poor Mrs. Beckford felt about all of this. What was to stop her son-in-law from killing her once she inherited a fortune from her relative’s estate?
Anyhow, to make sure that the will was never found, Joe Knapp stole it from Captain White’s chest…and didn’t realize that people don’t tend to keep very important legal documents just lying around their homes. The real will was locked away in White’s lawyer’s office. And Stephen got his money a little sooner than expected.
Ravaged by guilt for what he and his brother had set forth, Joe Knapp wrote a long confession. Richard Crowninshield (who by now probably realized that $1,000 wasn’t worth killing someone) committed suicide, which authorities took as sign of a confession. The Knapp brothers and George Crowninshield were brought to trial where they were found guilty and sentenced to death by hanging.
Webster was a…serious man. (Photo: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/2/2b/Daniel_Webster_-_circa_1847.jpg)
During the trial, the nouveau riche Stephen White asked close friend and legal bigwig Daniel Webster to aid in the prosecution. And by “asked,” we mean he paid Webster $1,000. He could afford it now.
Webster was a sort of 19th century Johnny Cochran. He was a passionate showman and a great legal mind. His dramatic orations and recreations of the crime captivated the courtroom audience and, when published in newspapers, readers from around the country. One of his more popular orations went a little something like…
“Deep sleep had fallen on the destined victim . . . A healthful old man . . . The assassin enters . . . With noiseless foot he paces the lonely hall . . . and reaches the door of the chamber. Of this, he moves the lock, by soft and continued pressure, till it turns on its hinges without noise; and he enters, and beholds his victim before him . . . The face of the innocent sleeper . . . show[s] him where to strike. The fated blow is given! . . . It is the assassin’s purpose to make sure work . . . To finish the picture, he explores the wrist for the pulse! He feels for it and ascertains that it beats no longer! The deed is done. He retreats, retraces his steps to the window . . . and escapes. He has done the murder. No eye has seen him, no ear has heard him. The secret is his own, and it is safe! Ah! Gentlemen, that was a dreadful mistake. Such a secret can be safe nowhere . . . True it is, generally speaking, that “murder will out” . . . the guilty soul cannot keep its own secret.”
Sound familiar? The sleeping victim, the madman assassin who would have gotten away with it too if it weren’t for his meddling conscience. We know we’ve heard this story before…
Poe was a little less serious, anyway…
And it was called “The Tell-Tale Heart.” Scholars now note the similarities between case and fictional story and cite that Webster’s oration was a big influence on “The Tell-Tale Heart.” The crime and story both center on a sleeping old man murdered in the night by a cool, calm, confident assassin. Both Knapp and the unnamed narrator were also compelled to clear their consciences and admit to the crime due to their weighing guilt and the belief that others could see the wrongdoings even in just their demeanor.
During his oration, Webster also dared “painters and poets” to “Let him draw, rather, a decorous, smooth-faced, bloodless demon; a picture in repose, rather than in action; not so much an example of human nature in its depravity.” After reading over the widespread and frequently republished speech, Poe could very well have accepted this challenge and met it with his own story that portrays the murderer as a passive narrator who is clearly mad, but not a depraved and inhuman caricature.
The White case also intrigued and inspired Salem resident Nathaniel Hawthorne who closely followed the grisly case that shook his hometown. Tiptoeing around a big spoiler, one of Hawthorne’s novels features a person normally viewed as pure in thought and deed (a “smooth-faced…picture in repose”) who is consumed with guilt over something they had done and ultimately feels the need to purge him/herself to absolve their conscience. Reverend Dimmsdale in “The Scarlet Letter.” *Phew* sometimes it feels better to confess and be honest…. (Congrats on finding this Easter Egg, by the way!)
For more information on the White Trial, check out this article from the Smithsonian Magazine – “A Murder in Salem.” It gives an in-depth overview of the trial and how both Hawthorne and Poe were influenced by it in their writings. And, for some fun, quick Halloween reading, a copy of “The Tell-Tale Heart.”
We recently delved into the history behind one of the North of Boston’s 4 castles: Herreshoff Castle in Marblehead – an imposing structure inspired by Erik the Red’s Greenland castle and built in the 1920s. Did you know, though, that nearly 40 years earlier another castle was built on the opposite side of the region in Haverhill?
Winnekenni Park sits atop a hill off of Kenoza Ave in Haverhill which looks over the scenic Kenoza Lake and Basin. The winding road leading to the park will bring you to a strange sight indeed – a medieval castle. In 1861, chemist, agriculturist, and future-castle enthusiast Dr. James Nichols purchased the Darling Farm (now known as Winnekenni Park). After an 1870s visit to England, Nichols (much like Waldo Ballard a few decades later) became enamored of the country’s large stone castles and was determined to build on of his own. He wanted to use the many boulders and rocks native to Haverhill and, in 1873, construction of his castle began.
Winnekenni Castle in the winter
Upon completion in 1875, Nichols christened his summer home “Winnekenni Castle” (after the Algonquin word meaning “beautiful”). The castle was, and still is, beautiful and is complemented by its lush surroundings. On a clear day, one is even able to see 17 towns, 3 counties, 3 states, 2 mountains, and the Atlantic Ocean from the rooftop. Not bad for a simple English-inspired summer home.
Nichols lived in the castle for 10 years before selling the castle and its 27 acres of land to a cousin. Nichols was in poor health and, we assume, unable to look after such a large property. The castle and land were then sold to its current owner, the city of Haverhill, in 1895 when it became Haverhill’s first public park Today, Winnekenni Castle is a popular destination for photographers and castle buffs. Throughout the year, many concerts, fairs, parties, fundraisers, and other such events are held at the castle. The castle is also available for private events such as meetings, family gatherings, and weddings. The trails throughout the property are fantastic for snowshoeing, hiking, biking, and cross-country skiing around Kenoza Lake.
The oldest continuously-operating farm in the United States, Appleton Farms was established in 1636 by Samuel Appleton. Nearly 400 years (and many generations of Appletons) later, the farm stands as both an Ipswich landmark and a wonderful CSA providing shares to more than 800 families and donating more than 10,000 pounds of food annually to local food pantries. But, as we learned on our field trip last week, Appleton Farms is so much more than the 200 varieties of vegetables, fruits, herbs, and flowers grown and produced.
Perhaps the not-so-hidden gem of Appleton Farms is the Old House. The oldest part of the house dates back to the late-18th century (there were some later additions in the mid-19th century) but, unfortunately, the house had fallen into disrepair when the farm was gifted to the Trustees of the Reservation. The house has undergone many renovations and, using many of the Appleton family’s photographs (on view in the exhibition Of Farm & Family: Generations of Appleton Family Portraits), was restored to resemble how it looked when the Appleton family lived there. Perhaps most exciting is the latest renovation. In October 2009, the Trustees set out on a “green” renovation and update which included a biomass boiler, 2 solar panels on the roof, and much, much more. Typically, we associate “going green” with stark, “modern” design. The Old House renovation has defied this notion by “going green” but retaining the look and character of the original homestead. Today, the house is LEED Gold-Certified.
The Old House is not the only “green” thing at Appleton Farms. The farm utilizes organic farming methods, grass-based livestock production, renewable energy production, composting, and so much more.
Appleton Farms also offers 5+ miles of trails known as the Appleton Farms Grass Rides. From fun summer hikes to winter snowshoeing, the Grass Rides are a wonderful way to explore the natural beauty of Ipswich and Hamilton. This network of trails consists of forest, wetlands, and open fields. Horses are welcome on designated trails as is mountain biking. Dogs are also welcome (but a Green Dogs permit is required to walk dogs).
The cows alone are worth a visit!
There’s so much more we could write about Appleton Farms (from cheese-making to visits with the friendly cows), but experiencing something is so much better than reading about it (in our opinion). Now through April 30th, their Visitor Center is open on weekends from 11am-3pm. The Center is handicapped-accessible and is a great starting point o learning more about the farm through their classroom, research library, and family museum. While you’re there, do not miss out on a trip to the Farm Store (open Monday-Friday, 11am-6pm, Saturday and Sunday, 10am-4pm) to pick up some of Appleton Farms’ milk, cheese, and beef as well as other locally-produced foodstuffs, art, and crafts.
Did we mention how delicious the cheese (seen here being made on-site) is?
This learning space is a fun, educational environment for little farmers
We regret to say that our time at Appleton Farms was not nearly long enough – it would take at least a weekend to fully explore and enjoy all that the farm has to offer. Even that weekend would not be enough as each season brings with it new crops, events, scenery, and activities. Whatever time of year you plan to visit (and we highly recommend that you do!) be sure to check out their event calendar for great activities for all ages.
Upcoming events include:
Farmstead & Old House Tour – October 19, 11am-12:30pm
Mini Moos – October 25, 10-11am
Pasture to Plate: Cheese Making Tour – October 26, 2:30-4:30pm
Be sure not to miss their Appleton Cooks program! They offer everything from cooking classes and workshops, to harvest-to-table dinners in the field, Friday night farm dinners, and other (incredibly delicious) events throughout the year!
(Did we mention that Appleton Farms is one of the best spots in the area for fall foliage? A mid-October visit will reveal a terrific landscape of yellows, reds, and oranges).
The word “castle” evokes many images. Daring knights courting fair maidens. Faraway enchanted lands of fairy tales. Kitschy centerpieces for theme parks. But did you know that there are 4 (yes, 4!) castles in the North of Boston region? Nestled among the First Period (1625-1725), Colonial, and “Cape” architecture are stately (and, at time, imposing) reminders of a bygone era. One such structure is the Herreshoff Castle in Marblehead.
Originally known as “Castle Barttahlid,” Herreshoff Castle was the pet project and brainchild of Marblehead artist Waldo Ballard. Inspired to build his own castle in the seaside town of Marblehead, Ballard traveled to Europe to study the design and architecture of castles across the pond. While reading up on Norse history, Ballard came across a detailed account of Erik the Red’s castle in Greenland and decided to base his own castle on Erik’s. A bit of a gamble seeing as the original castle had long since been knocked down. Luckily the details in the book were minute and meticulous enough to become the basis for Ballard’s castle, Castle Brattahlid, which was completed in the 1920’s. We’re hoping that Ballard was happy with the results, seeing as he had no visual aid to help him image what his own castle-home would look like.
Now, castles aren’t really known for making cozy homesteads. So, with his new home built, Ballard started to make the castle “his own,” so to speak. He painted original medieval-inspired designs and accents throughout the castle walls. Not satisfied with the paintings of knights and crests, he sought to create a more “homey” feel by installing a carpet in the Great Room. And by “install,” we mean “paint” because who has time for vacuuming anyway? For the carpet, Ballard lovingly copied one of the Oriental rugs from the nearby Jeremiah Lee Mansion. Because nothing matches a medieval castle like a rug from a Federal/Georgian mansion.
Alas, in 1945, Ballard sold the castle to L. Francis Herreshoff, a local antique dealer and writer In our research on the castle, we couldn’t find any specific reasons, but we can’t help but wonder if it was due to the fact that actually living in a castle is less fun than it originally seems. Herreshoff changed the castle’s name from “Castle Brattahlid” to the current name, “Hershoff Castle.”
When Herreshoff died in 1972, he left the castle to his longtime assistant. Upon her death in 1990, the castle was sold to its current owner Michael Rubino and his wife Chris. After purchasing the castle, the Rubinos started a large restoration which included putting running water in the kitchen and installing a refrigerator (apparently, Herreshoff would buy fresh food every day to curtail the lack of food-preserving appliances). The Rubinos converted the castle’s carriage house into a bed & breakfast and, today, still live in the main castle.