For all the work that’s been done inside, it’s the outside of the doll house that got started first, and it set the theme for a Salem Haunted House. If you stare at a doll house long enough (assuming you care to do so), after awhile everything you come across starts to be evaluated as a potential addition to the house. Salem is as good as it gets for this sort of thing. Much is spooky, much is miniaturized. And much is symbolic, such as the Ruby Slippers for Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz. Fairies, owls, bats, pirates and a myriad of witches, with references to mystical tales and familiar stories, are everywhere. In Salem, it’s not if you can find something for a doll house, it’s how to sort it all out and get the items, and thoughts, arranged with meaning.
The Front Porch of the doll house is very Salem. In the upper balcony there is “The Crazy Cat Lady”, with a cadre of her favorite felines. A couple of the cats occasionally take on other aspects, such as the one that looks more like a seal, and one that seems particularly focused on its own incarnation as the Devil Cat.
Greeting doll house visitors on the main porch is a Day of the Dead “Catrina”, a high society figure of the calacas – whimsical skeleton figures that represent death. They are a popular favorite transported to Salem from Mexico, and the dolls can be found in many of the Salem stores. Not the least bit somber, these figures can be anything from a symbol of mockery and humor, to a cherished connection with the dead.
Other objects that surround the Haunted House are: a miniaturized Salem Common, complete with fence; a serene Koi Pond, with Buddha; a Carousel Horse & music box reminiscent of the Salem Willows Carousel; sci-fi creatures; a (Silence of the Lambs) moth, and more. The whole set of this Haunted House is designed for young child through adult. It can be played with (a few of the objects anyway), or thought about, at the whim of the visitor. Visitors are encouraged to interact and offer comments.
The Story Room has everything going for it. No dark undertones, just a magical, story telling presence. A gremlin god-mother grand-mother creature is revelling her audience of grandchildren with wise, curious, funny, and poignant stories. The mutual good company and the stories form a barrier that prevent any seriously dangerous or frightening specter from entering. The stories help to make sense of the world, of what happens during our journey through life, and of what we meet along the way.
As in other rooms, there are pictures of fairies as symbols of protection & compassionate wisdom. There are cats, symbols of companionship & unconditional love. Particular to the Story Room are pictures of butterflies, who suggest that metamorphosis is the prelude to beauty.
In the Story Room, take note of the owl (wisdom) in the rocking chair. There is also a small owl peeking through the window of Alice’s room. There is wisdom wherever stories are told.
Don’t miss Dorothy’s ruby slippers on a corner curio shelf, way in the back. The intent is to include stories we all know – the Wizard of Oz, Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass – and also to reference a Salem connection. You will see the ruby slippers and much of Dorothy throughout Salem, especially in shop windows as a “No Place Like Salem” initiative. It’s a sign of welcome, of openness, and an indication of Salem’s place as a city of peace and of tolerance.
Have some fun with the picture of the parrot in the cage. I couldn’t find the right miniature parrot, so I took a picture of my own parrot, Pipinella, and placed him in the cage, front and center of the Living Room. It’s only fitting – he’s an attention hog. The inclusion of a parrot is a nod to the boxes of Joseph Cornell. [Hence the idea of the Doll House as “boxscape” as a whole and the “box(ed)scapes” of each individual room.]
But like The Kitchen, there is a lot of duality lurking in the items and atmosphere. The adults that inhabit The Living Room are either enjoying relaxed entertainment – or trying to escape from their ‘lives of quiet desperation.’ There is a cheese board, and chilled champagne. I intend a 70’s type social that can be a reminder of Ang Lee’s “The Ice Storm,” see quote below:
“….disillusionment is everywhere. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the [ C & H] households…the parents…seek escape from the blandness of their existence with the tools at their disposal: drugs, sex, and deception….The relationships in the dysfunctional families are strained, with each member hiding behind pretense in their dealings with each other. One night…a rain storm coats every exposed surface with a glaze of ice. It is under these circumstances that the characters must confront their weaknesses and attempt to find peace despite them. “
So that’s the dark side in this room if you choose to interpret it that way; the suggested partying might be genuine fun, or it can be a front for the troubled side of escape. However, in this tableau the adults must work this out for themselves. The children are in another room.
At first glance the kitchen is a cozy place. It started with a simple country kitchen look, the table and chairs sporting a strawberries motif. Additions included a sideboard with fish for dinner, a box of fresh fruits, a tea set, and a spice rack on the wall. It seemed a good fit to include a 1920s stove with 2 ovens to complete this charming picture.
But beware. The lower oven door was determined to fall open and stay open, suggesting a danger. The open oven door reminded me of Hanzel & Gretel, who had a close call in a forest cottage, with a witch and her oven. So I went with the stove’s insistent suggestion, left the oven door open, and it’s become the Hansel & Gretel Kitchen.
The story of Hansel & Gretel as told in the original Grimm, is indeed grim. Fortunately Gretel is quick thinking and gets the pair out of a grisly ending. However, the story doesn’t instill a lot of confidence in strangers, or parents, although it says a lot about self-reliance, the importance of being a good judge of character, and in the end, forgiveness as return to hearth & home.