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Get In The Mood For Halloween By Exploring Salem, Massachusetts’ Famous Witch Town!

Mª del Rosario Castro Díaz Mª del Rosario Castro Díaz

What to do in Salem

Channel the spooky spirit of the season by exploring Salem, one of the U.S.’s most haunted towns.

The leaves are changing, the wind is getting colder and there’s something mysterious in the air…That can only mean one thing–Spooky season is upon us! And what better way is there to get into the spirit than by exploring the most magically mysterious town of them all?

Just 17 miles north of Boston, sits the small, quaint town of Salem a place known for its ghosts, mysterious energy and, of course, its famous witch trials. First established in 1626, Salem began as a simple religious town but hysteria and fear soon took over when hundreds of local people were accused and subsequently condemned for witchcraft. The town has done its fair share of repentance for the harrowing trials, but Salem has since been known as a town rife with magic and witches. From haunted spots and historic sites to magic shops, we’ve come up with a few magical Salem spots to explore and bask in the city’s witchy spirit. So pack your brooms and your wands and head over to Salem to celebrate the Halloween season!

*Scroll down for all you need to know before traveling to Salem and a handy dandy map including all the spots to help guide you through town once you arrive*

1. Get Off At Salem Station.

Although ferry services to Salem from Boston remain closed at the moment due to coronavirus, you can still easily reach Salem by hopping on the MBTA and taking the Newburyport/Rockport Line to Salem station. Alternatively, if you’ve got a car it’s just a short 30-minute drive!

2. Walk over to Salem’s Witch House.

In a town with such a haunted history as Salem’s there’s no shortage of spots full of paranormal activity, so why not start the day by exploring one the most haunted destinations in the whole town? 

Home to Judge Jonathan Corwin, magistrate of the Witch Trials, the house is the only direct remaining link to the trials and has become known as The Witch House. It’s unclear what truly haunts the Witch House, some say its the spirits of those condemned in the trials (although no ‘witches’ stepped inside) others say its the ‘Corwin Curse’ that keeps the spirits of the Corwins themselves inside the house. One thing is for sure, the black shoe and witch bottle (a bottle full of urine, pins, hair and fingernails) meant to keep witches and evil away seem to have not been very effective for the family members who tragically passed away in the house way before their time.
When making your way to your next destination you’ll see an old Gothic Church on your right. That’s the First Church In Salem, the parish of many of the accused during the Salem Witch Trials. 

Find Salem’s Witch House at 310 Essex St and the First Church in Salem at 316 Essex St.

3. Head down Essex Street to check out Ropes Mansion.

Right after the First Church, you’ll soon run into a white, Colonial-style mansion. You may know it as Allison’s House from Hocus Pocus but the Ropes mansion has a way more haunted history in real life. The mansion was once home to loyalist Judge Nathaniel Ropes and his family and let’s just say they didn’t meet quite the happy ending. Judge Ropes died of Smallpox in his home in 1774 while his daughter Abigail, “Nabby,” died an agonizing death after her petticoats caught fire and set her ablaze. The judge and his family still haunt the halls of Ropes Mansion 200 years later and Rope himself was even caught once on camera while he was resting by the fire in the house’s living room. Plus, the house has been set mysteriously on fire multiple times in the past and it’s said Nabby was the arsonist behind them–perhaps she wasn’t too happy with the renovations?

Note: Ropes Mansion isn’t open during winter months but its garden is open year-round.

Find the Ropes Mansion and Gardens at 318 Essex St.

4. Turn back up Essex Street to see Salem’s Bewitched sculpture.

Erected by TV Land in 2005, the statue of Bewitched’s Samantha Stevens is a total must-see when exploring Salem’s many witchy spots. The famous TV series filmed several episodes in Salem in the early 70s after the California studios were damaged by fire. 

Find it in Lappin Park. 

5. Take a peek at the Joshua Ward House.

Perhaps it’s a good thing this 19th-century Federal-style mansion at 148 Washington Street is off-limits to the general public. Currently home to the Higginson Book Company and Carlson Realty, those who’ve entered it have reported many unsettling encounters! 

Built for the wealthy sea merchant Joshua Ward in 1784, this spooky house was also the residence of High Sheriff George Corwin, nephew to Judge Jonathan Corwin of the famous Witch House. Corwin used to deliver the ‘witches’ to the gallows among other nasty deeds. He passed away in the house and his nasty spirit is said to be trapped inside its walls alongside the spirit of another of his victims, Giles Corey. The latter is said to be the one behind books being yanked from the shelves, cold spots in an otherwise warm room and candles found in a pool of wax, though the candles was never set aflame. 

 In the 1980s, Carlson Realty was hosting a massive holiday party when one of the employees snapped a quick Polaroid photo. Shaking it, they expected to see the image of a light-haired woman enjoying the party but what they saw instead was the terrifying image of a dark-haired woman with rough-hewn features and translucent, pale skin. Yikes!

Find Joshua Ward House at 148 Washington St.

6. Wander through the Burying Point Cemetery and the Witch Trials Memorial.

After admiring Joshua Ward’s home at a distance head down Front St until it turns into Charter St to check out the Old Burying Point Cemetery and the Witch Trials Memorial. 

Burying Point is actually one of the oldest burial grounds in the country. It’s so old even the only Mayflower passenger with a marked grave is buried there! The storied graveyard is, unsurprisingly, fraught with paranormal activity. Four hundred years of burials haunt this spooky gravesite where John Hathorne, the unrepentant judge from Salem’s famous Witch Trials, was laid to rest. Multiple ghostly apparitions are said to have appeared in this unwelcoming site, including that of the White Lady, a woman dressed in white believed to be Mary Corey, the second wife of Giles Corey, who was pressed to death with rocks in an attempt to coax out his confession to witchcraft.

Across the street from the cemetery, you’ll find the Salem Witch Trials Memorial. Dedicated in 1992 by Nobel laureate Eli Wiesel, it honors the 20 innocent people executed during the Witch Trials of 1692.

Find them at 51 Charter St.

7. Chase down prohibition-era spirits at Bunghole Liquors.

No, I’m not talking about really old liquor bottles, but the supernatural beings that haunt this liquor store and bar. Before opening its doors for business as Bunghole Liquors, the building served as a funeral home and Prohibition Era speakeasy. During Prohibition, the home’s basement doubled as a bar and an embalming room. It would seem drinking among fresh corpses and bottles of formaldehyde was but a small price to pay for Salem’s residents who were evidently thirsty for a cocktail or two. It’s said the ghosts of drinkers past can be often seen on camera as floating orbs in the basement looking to order one last drink.

Find Bunghole Liquors at 204 Derby St.

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8.Visit Nathaniel Hawthorne’s famous House of the Seven Gables.

If you continue down Derby St and take a right on Turner St. you’ll wind up at one of Salem’s most famous residences–The Turner-Ingersoll House better known as The House of the Seven Gables.

Pushed to the international scene of haunted spots by local celebrity and author, Nathaniel Hawthorne, the Turner-Ingersoll House competes both in fame and hauntedness with the Witch House. While it’s unclear if the house is truly haunted–some say to have seen a spectral-looking man walking up the secret staircase and heard a child playing in the attic–this spooky historic home is undoubtedly creepy. Just thinking of its close ties to the Witch Trials’ Hanging Judge, John Hathorne (Hawthorne’s infamous great-grandfather) gives me the chills. Throw in the fact that it looks eerily similar to Hawthorne’s Pyncheon’s mansion and that Hawthorne’s cousin, Susan Ingersoll, is said to still roam its halls and there’s no wondering why it has become such a popular haunted spot in Salem!

Find the Turner-Ingersoll House at 115 Derby St.

9. Grab a bite at Rockafellas.

At this point in your walking tour through Salem you might be getting a bit hungry (after all you have been walking for over 40 minutes!). So it might be a good idea to stop for a bite at Rockafellas. In keeping with the tour’s haunted theme, Rockafellas Restaurant is also know to be one of Salem’s most haunted restaurants.

The restaurant opened in 2003, but it was once home to the Daniel Low company, the company that launched the country’s first mail-order catalog, and before that it was Salem’s First Church. Two particularly shameless spirits are said to haunt this popular spot, that of a lady dressed in a blue, turn-of-the-20th-century gown and an eerie man dressed as a minister. The latter is said to have been the depressed minister of the church who committed suicide on the grounds and is can be quite the rude and grumpy spirit. The Lady in Blue however has shown herself several times to employees and has even been captured on camera, becoming one of Rockafella’s most famous members!

Find Rockafellas at 231 Essex St.

10. Explore Salem’s ‘Wicked Good Books.’

Bibliophiles will particularly enjoy this stop. Wicked Good Books is Salem’s flagship bookstore. Located above Salem’s underground tunnel system, the bookstore’s also a hotspot for haunted happenings–Evidence of human remains was even discovered in the tunnels in its basement.

Find it at 215 Essex St.

11. And then hop on over to the Peabody Essex Museum!

Located on 161 Essex Street, the Peabody Essex is the oldest continually operated museum in the country. It features exceptional collections of art and culture from around the world including Asian art, Maritime art, Native American art, and more. Right now it’s currently hosting an exhibition on the Salem Witch Trials of 1692–talk about perfect timing! 

Note: Like other museums in Salem, the Peabody Essex currently requires pre-booked tickets to enter all exhibitions. 

Find the Peabody Essex Museum at 161 Essex St. 

12. Check out Crow Haven Corner, Salem’s first witch store.

Salem is home to many witch-owned magick shops–after all it’s the perfect town for modern witches–but one stands out in particular and that’s Crow Haven Corner. Located further along Essex street, this store is said to be Salem’s oldest witch shop. Here’ you’ll find many fine magical supplies, occult books, herbs, crystals, spell kits, candles, incense, potions and more. And if you’d wish to see what the future holds book a reading with Lorelei, Salem’s famous love clairvoyant!

Find the Crow Haven Corner at 125 Essex St. 

13. End your tour by visiting the former site of Bridget Bishop’s Orchard.

Last but not least, before hopping back on the MBTA, continue walking down Essex St and turn left on the first alley you’ll soon arrive at the site of Bridget Bishop’s former orchard and home on 18 Washington Square. Now home to Turner’s Seafood and previously Salem’s Lyceum Hall, this site is believed to once have been Bridget Bishop’s orchard. Bishop was the first woman to be executed for witchcraft during the 1697 trials and is said to haunt those grounds to this date. 

Find it at 18 Washington Square. 

14. Other spooktacular sites to check out in Salem.

 There’s plenty of other sites to explore in the witchy town of Salem including the Salem Witch Museum, Salem’s Wax Museum and Witch Village, the Salem Maritime Historical Site–the U.S.’ oldest historic site–and the Witch Dungeon Museum which has a plaque in commemoration of ‘The With Gaol.’ The original ‘gaol’ or jail was located on Federal Street, two blocks from the Witch Dungeon Museum. 

15.  Planning your visit to Salem.

Due to COVID-19 many activities around Salem remain closed or have been canceled including Haunted Happening’s many Halloween activities. According to Massachusetts’ Phase 3 regulations, bars also remain closed and visitors 2 and older are being asked to wear facial coverings at all times while out in public in the city of Salem and its surrounding areas. In addition, walking tours have been reduced to a maximum of 10 people per session and all open museums and attractions require prior ticket reservations. For more information on traveling to Salem and COVID-19 regulations, you can visit Salem’s website here.

[Featured image: Shutterstock]

 

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