Kathy McCabe of The Boston Globe reported this week that the TV Land cable network wants to honor Elizabeth Montgomery's Bewitched character, Samantha Stephens, with a statue in Salem, Mass. The network's plans upset some residents who believe the statue, to be placed in a city park, would dishonor the memory of the Salem witch trials' victims:
"It's insensitive to what happened in 1692," said Jean Harrison, one of several Salem residents opposing the plan. "She was a fictional witch, but the people who died were not witches."
Mayor Stanley J. Usovicz Jr. said the statue will bring a bit of whimsy to town and maybe a boost to Salem's seasonal tourist trade. He said the city insisted that the statue be placed away from sites associated with the witch trials, such as a park dedicated to the memory of the 19 accused witches hanged on Gallows Hill in 1692.
"I see this as something like the Red Auerbach statue in Boston," he said of the bronze figure of the former Celtics coach on a bench at Quincy Market. "It's a place where people will stop, get their picture taken, and have a little bit of fun while they're visiting Salem."
In a brief editorial today, the Globe opposed statue for reasons similar to those expressed by Harrison: "A happy fictional TV witch in a place of so much historical sadness could soften realities for some people -- especially children, who get enough mixed messages from television. Better to keep Montgomery in reruns, and out of the park."
McCabe also sought comment from a local Wiccan:
Not everyone is bothered by the return of "Bewitched" to Salem, the self-proclaimed "Halloween Capital of the World." Some in the city's Wiccan community say they welcome the tribute to one of America's best-loved witches.
"Many of us love and adore the show; we grew up watching it," said Jerrie Hildebrand, 50, a graphic designer and practicing Wiccan. "But it has nothing to do with our religion. . . . I only wish I could twitch my nose and make my house clean."
Neither the ACLU nor Americans United has weighed in on whether the statue would establish a kitschy TV version of witchcraft as a city-sanctioned religion.