Essex Street and Washington Street, Salem
At the intersection of Essex and Washington streets in Salem’s downtown area is a nine-foot-high bronze statue of a friendly-looking witch sitting on a broom. Installed in 2005, the statue honors Elizabeth Montgomery, the actress, and her television character, Samantha Stephens, a likeable suburban housewife and benign sorceress on the U.S. sitcom, Bewitched (1964-1972). In 1970, the crew and cast of the popular television show arrived in Salem to film some episodes, including one at the House of Seven Gables.
The installation of the statue proved to be controversial. Its local supporters presented it as a celebration of the connection, real and figurative, between the show and Salem, and as a booster of the city’s tourist economy. Meanwhile, its critics derided it for trivializing and commercializing the real-life (and death) drama involving those accused of witchcraft in the early 1690s, while serving as a crass advertisement for TV Land, the cable television company that built it. As one letter-to-the-editor writer stated in The Boston Globe, “If this statue is acceptable in Salem, why not have TV Land consider erecting a statue outside Auschwitz, honoring that funny and lovable German, Sergeant Schultz, a character on the TV series ‘Hogan’s Heroes’” (a comedy about U.S. POWs held in Germany during World War II).
In addition to obscuring the atrocities associated with the Salem Witch Trials*, the statue does not reveal that Montgomery was a progressive political activist. And her politics were manifest in the show at times: despite the comedic nature of Bewitched, one of its most famous episodes centered on racism and interracial marriage. Outside of the television studio, Montgomery was outspoken in her opposition to the Vietnam War and was a strong supporter of gay rights—in both cases well before it was fashionable to do so. She also narrated two documentary films highly critical of U.S. foreign policy in the 1980s: Coverup: Behind the Iran-Contra Affair (1988), and the Academy-Award-winning The Panama Deception (1992).
Commuter Rail from North Station (Newburyport/Rockport line) to Concord Station. About 0.2 miles (a 4-minute walk).
To learn more:
Kathy McCabe “’Bewitched’ statue plan bothers, bewilders,” The Boston Globe, April 28, 2005.
Richard B. Trask, “Statue of TV witch makes light of past tragedies” (letter to the editor), The Boston Globe, June 26, 2005: D12.
*We discuss the Salem Witch Trials in our entry on Proctor’s Ledge in the Salem section of A People’s Guide to Greater Boston.