SALEM — And you thought you knew Nathaniel Hawthorne.
Fans of the 19th century bestselling author and his gothic works are in for an earful of surprises when they download “Hawthorne’s Shadow: An Intimate Tour of Salem” — one of two immersive guided walking tours of Salem and its neighborhoods produced by Intramersive, of Salem, on behalf of The House of the Seven Gables. The second tour, featuring what feels like a live walk through The Gables’ bygone neighborhoods, is titled “Passages of the Past.”
These two geo-located tours will be available on October 1. Those interested can use the QR code displayed on websites, posters and cards throughout Salem and The Gables. The code allows access to the app. Residents of Salem may then download the tours free of charge while general audiences are asked to pay a one-time fee that permits repeated access to the tours. Take the tours any time of the day or night, all at once or in bits and pieces, always at your own pace.
This year, Salem and North Shore families will find much to enjoy during a refreshed and reimagined Haunted Happenings. Changes made because of COVID-19 are also opportunities for inventiveness in this creative city. “Here’s an alternative that’s new and exciting,” says Carly Dwyer, founder of Intramersive. “It’s in no way a consolation prize. You’ll get off your computer. You’ll get outside. You’ll walk through the City of Salem, through our neighborhoods made up of stories.”
Actors, writers, sound engineers and directors from New England and New York City collaborated to make these audio tours feel immediate, multi-dimensional and deeply sensory. “It’s as if you are confronted with real people who are living in their moment. It’s different than reading history. You’re in it, too,” says Kristin Harris, a member of the Intramersive team.
“Hawthorne’s Shadow,” says Dwyer, “has given us a way to go deeper. We can listen in as Hawthorne talks about why he wrote on the topics he chose. We can listen as he expresses his opinions. We begin at The Gables. Do this in the dark, if you like, as he does. There’s something ethereal about it. At times it’s a bit scary. He’s telling us about his life, how Salem affected him. You may or may not encounter characters from his books. You may or may not hear sounds from the Cent Shop. And you may or may not meet Hawthorne’s inner muse. So many people love him and are passionate about him. We wanted to provide a more in-depth experience of Salem through him, in his own words.” Jennifer Emerson — actor, historian, writer and founder of The Petticoat Pages — co-wrote “Hawthorne’s Shadow.”
“Passages of the Past” tells the story of The Gables’ neighborhood using the voices of many neighbors across many decades, including an Irish indentured servant, an enslaved worker, an indigenous Naumkeag, a Polish immigrant that helped build the Polish neighborhood that still exists.
“The audio-immersive soundtrack changes as you walk through the centuries, through the audio-landscape,” says Dwyer. “Birds fly overhead. People brush up against you. You’ll hear the sound of 18th-century shoes on pavement. Salem hasn’t seen anything like this before.”
The walking tours produced for The House of the Seven Gables by Intramersive were made possible by a grant from the Salem Cultural Council.
New, 3D mansion tour
The Gables also offers a virtual tour package that includes an updated, comprehensive tour of one of America’s oldest and most storied mansions as well as a new 3-D tour. Take these informative and entertaining new tours from the comfort of home. The fee is $10, though members may access the tour package free of charge. Visit the museum’s website for tickets: https://bit.ly/3kzPpcO.