SALEM — This old city, some say, is locked in an eternal wrestling match with itself. Is this the historic seaport of art and culture, or the "Witch City" of psychics and ghost tours?
The Park and Recreation Commission ventured into that quicksand this week when it denied a request by a group of paranormal investigators from Rhode Island to search for ghosts in the Witch House, the former home of Jonathan Corwin, an infamous judge during the Witch Trials of 1692.
In essence, a majority of the board — only three of the five members were present — said it would be in bad taste to allow ghost hunters to go inside an historic, 17th-century house that is tied to such an important and tragic event.
"We have to have respect for the gravity of the injustice that occurred in 1692," member Chris Burke said.
After the rejection, Spirit Finders Paranormal Investigators said they were "severely disappointed."
They asked questions that others have asked: How could a city that licenses psychics, sends its children to Witchcraft Heights School and sells official Salem blood during Halloween turn down a "scientific" investigation of one of its most historic witch properties?
Where does Salem draw the line?
In an interview after the meeting, there was even a suggestion that the city is being hypocritical for calling this 9 North St. property the "Witch House."
"Then don't call it the Witch House anymore," said Eric Fraize, the self-proclaimed "Witch King of Salem," who represented the paranormal group at the meeting. "Call it the 'Jonathan Corwin House.' You can't have it both ways. ...
"If they wanted to have respect, they'd take the witch off the police cars. ... They'd stop calling it 'The Witch City,' and Haunted Happenings would shut down."
Spirit Finders was certainly caught off guard by the board's decision.