Hi there ToSalem fans! Joel here and if you’ve been wondering who the heck is behind everything on the YouTube page and site, you’re looking at him. Well, kind of. Here’s everything you need to know about tosalem.com.
I started ToSalem back in the Spring of 2018 after years of total adoration with The Witch City. I’m definitely going to do a more in-depth video on this down the road, but my history with Salem goes something like:
I first read The Crucible as a child on the heels of having read another pioneer mystery The Lost Colony. At least, I think it was The Lost Colony. Whatever it was, it was about the mysterious disappearance of the Roanoke settlers and centered on John White, the Governor of the colony. I believe it was a play and my memory of it was that it had a white cover. At any rate, I was so fascinated by these two pieces of fiction that I even recall constructing a gallows out of K’Nex for some school project.
The years went by and my fascination grew. I saw The Crucible film and, as a young performer, fell head over heels for Daniel Day Lewis (a relationship that persists to this day). I even lobbied for my high school’s senior class to perform the play as our final production. We did and I played Proctor (something I really wish I had pictures of). My best friend at the time played Elizabeth and it was all so very beautiful.
In my early twenties I continued performing, went to college, lived my life. Being a native southerner, I never really imagined I’d visit Salem. But all that changed in my late twenties. After marrying the woman I love, we relocated to New England for her work and, eventually, to just outside of NYC. This allowed us to be only four hours or so away from Salem. Our first visit was in the autumn of 2014.
Honestly, I went in totally blind as to what modern Salem actually is like. But man was I floored. Even though we visited a few weeks ahead of Halloween (that’s how blind we were), I was absolutely enamored with the festivities already on display. I even had what you might call a spiritual experience in the Witch City on my first visitation. At the time, I considered myself an agnostic, so you can imagine how earth-shaking this was for me.
My wife and I went back soon after. Then again. And again. And again. In just three or so years, we had visited Salem Massachusetts some fifteen times. We’d sampled most of the shops, restaurants, attractions, and all the other things to do in Salem. We’d stayed at several local hotels, met tour guides, made friends with shop workers. I’d become obsessed with the then recent history surrounding the Pagan community in Salem.
All of this brought my wife and I closer together. And now, as I’ve turned the very personal adoration of The Witch City into something more closely resembling a vocation, I’m proud to say that Salem Massachusetts still does just that. It’s our home away from home. The place we go for daycations or weekends away from the noise of NYC. It’s the place we’ve often joked about retiring to (I’m only half-joking tbh), dreamed about opening a shop in, and read books on voraciously. It fascinates us for a whole variety of reasons that seem to be ever-shifting.
And that’s ultimately why I started tosalem.com. What I didn’t know before visiting Salem some twenty or so times now and what I think most people don’t know about The Witch City before coming (or perhaps even after) is just how layered it is. One of the authors who inspired me to begin ToSalem is J.W. Ocker. I recommend all of his work, but the title which specifically hooked me is A Season with the Witch: The Magic and Mayhem of Halloween in Salem, Massachusetts. For my money, this is the definitive volume on modern-day Salem from the outsider’s perspective. In it, Ocker refers to Salem as one of the weirdest places he’s ever visited.
But he doesn’t mean it quite as diminutively as it may seem. His point is that the multiplicity of Salem’s faces are so varied that they jostle the outsider. It makes little sense that a relatively small town outside of a much larger city should be so rich historically, culturally, economically, socially, artistically, commercially, and many other -allys. Ocker really nails this point and does his level-best to explore the many facets of both the historic and modern Salems in his month-long exploration.
And so, we arrive at the beginning of ToSalem. My own lifelong fascination with Salem, both from a distance and up close, the work of other creators (including but certainly not limited to Ocker), a spiritually life-altering experience, and general love of all things spooky, creepy, and horrifying eventually led to an idea. I wanted to present The Witch City in its entirety. I wanted to offer outsiders and those who may never visit Salem Massachusetts the opportunity to feel it as I have.
In that vein, I decided that the site would be predominately video-focused, but feature articles on each of Salem’s attractions, museums, restaurants, places to stay, and more. These would be helpful little nuggets that contain valuable information about each place and also my own thoughts on it. The videos would be much more personal. They would cover exactly what about The Witch City fascinated me. They would be the portal into my perspective on Salem Massachusetts in all of its weird shades.
tosalem.com was born and immediately consumed my life. I’ve been quite proud of the work I’ve done thus far. I’ve come far in little time and the audience is growing every day. Please, if you enjoy the site, check out the YouTube page for all of my videos. If you’ve got any questions or comments, feel free to drop me a line anytime. Stay weird witches. Thanks for dropping by.