Also known as the ‘witch city’, Salem is notorious for being one of the most haunted cities in the United States. Found along the coast of Massachusetts, Salem has long been associated with it’s dark past involving the witch trials, which might just be the reason why this city is so full of paranormal activity. Having started as a peaceful little town, Salem quickly became infamous in 1692 when the witch hysteria swept through the city. Over 200 people were accused of participating in witchcraft and 20 innocent people were executed, including the first ‘witch’ Bridget Bishop as well as the only male victim known as Giles Corey. With a past as dark and macabre as Salem’s, it comes as no surprise that the city is filled with hot spots for paranormal activity and ghostly encounters, waiting to be explored.
The Hawthorne Hotel
One of the only places to spend the night in the heart of the city and one of the most haunted buildings in Salem, is the Hawthorne Hotel. Built in the early 1900’s, the hotel has had it’s fair share of paranormal activity and ghostly guests over the years, with reports of guests experiencing strange things such as items moving around on their own, lights flickering, and the ghostly apparition of a woman, who appears to float around the hallways. Though the hotel was built over 300 years after the witch hysteria descended upon the city, it is believed that the ghostly woman guests have claimed to see, is that of Bridget Bishop. Bridget Bishop was the first woman to be accused of witchcraft and publicly executed at the gallows. Before she met her untimely demise, Bridget was busy taking care of her apple orchard, which was said to be her pride and joy and just so happens to have been located in the same spot that the Hawthorne hotel now stands in. It is believed that Bridget’s ghost still wanders the grounds and brings with her the smell of her precious apple orchard, as guests have often reported the smell of apples lingering throughout the hotel.
Burying Point Cemetery
Found in the middle of the witch village in downtown Salem, you will find the Burying Point cemetery. This graveyard is the oldest one in Salem as well as the second oldest in all of America, with some of the tombstones being so dated that the writing is completely ineligible. Amongst these graves, are a few notable and infamous people who have found their final resting place in the Burying Point cemetery. These include a passenger from the Mayflower as well as Judge Hathorne, also known as the ‘hanging judge’. Judge John Hathorne was notorious during the witch hysteria for being the judge who had the hand in convicting the innocent girls of witchcraft. He was also the one who decided what their punishment would be, with 20 of these girls never making it out alive. It is said that his ghost still roams the cemetery, often being spotted in videos and photographs taken at the graveyard.
The Witch House
Now operating as a public museum, and a beautiful one at that, the Witch House is the only remaining building in Salem with direct ties to the witch trials. This gorgeous, yet eerie black house once belonged to a well-known man in the 1600’s who went by the name of Jonathan Corwin. Mr. Corwin was not any ordinary old man though as he was actually a reputable judge at the time, one that helped in convicting the witches and condemning them to their brutal fate. Over the years, many visitors to the Witch House have experienced random cold spots and disembodied voices, leading many to believe that Judge Corwin is still roaming about his house.
Wicked Good Books Shop
Not only is Salem the perfect place to visit if you love architecture and history and all things spooky, it is also a great place to shop. Lined along the cobblestone streets are an abundance of quaint little shops and boutiques selling everything from wands and crystals, to Halloween decor and witch themed souvenirs. One of my favorite parts of visiting Salem was getting to pop into all of these little storefronts and getting to experience a city where it seems to be Halloween all year round but there is one store in particular that seems to stick out from the rest. Wicked Good Books, found on Essex street in the heart of downtown Salem, is known not only for its great prices but also for being one of the most haunted stores in the witch city. Paranormal activity has been abundant in the shop over the years and involves books flying off of the shelves and lights flickering on and off. It is thought that the reason the book shop has had so much strange occurrences happen is due to the findings of secret underground tunnels that were discovered underneath the shop during renovations. Though it’s still uncertain as to how these tunnels got there in the first place or what they were used for, the discovery of human remains in these tunnels would go a long way in explaining as to why this seemingly innocent bookstore is so haunted.
House of the Seven Gables
Another iconic and picturesque black house found in Salem, is the House of the Seven Gables. Currently operating as a museum and popular tourist attraction, this house was used as the inspiration by Nathaniel Hawthorne, a famous author as well as the great-grandson of the infamous Judge John Hathorne. Nathaniel based his novel, House of the Seven Gables, on this famous house and went on to gain worldwide popularity due to this book. Built over the span of year in 1667-1668, the house was constructed for Captain John Turner and then stayed in his family for three generations. The 8,000 square foot home was eventually acquired by the Ingersoll family when the Turners’ lost their fortune and were unable to keep the mansion in their family. Today, the House of the Seven Gables is owned by Caroline Emmerton who helped created an association dedicated to preserving the historic landmark, making it possible for visitors to go on tours of the massive house and to experience the ghostly activity said to plague the house. While there are many places in Salem that are haunted due to the witch trials, the House of the Seven Gables isn’t one of them. In fact, the house is believed to be haunted by one of the previous owners, Susan Ingersoll, who has been spotted peering out of the windows and then vanishing just as quickly as she appeared. Other paranormal activity that has been reported at the house includes faucets, appliances, and lights turning on by themselves.
Winter Island Park
With waterfront views and an abundance of camping spots on site, Winter Island is known for being one of the prettiest places to spend the night while in Salem. While this nationally recognized historic spot is now used as a campground, it was originally a fort used to protect the city of Salem from any intruders. The fort was built in 1643 and came in handy when came the time to fight enemies looking to invade the land. When visiting Winter Island park, you will be able to see that some parts of the fort still remain as well an old lighthouse and a plane hangar that were used at the time that the fort was still in function. Winter Island wasn’t only used to protect the city though, it was also the spot in which four executions took place in 1792, long after the fort was no longer being used. Those condemned to pay the ultimate price for their crimes were brought up to the highest point on the island known appropriately as ‘execution hill’ where thousands of people could gather together in the wide open space to witness the hanging. Often times there were even thousands of people who would make the trip from out of town just to witness these executions. With such a dark and macabre past, there is no question that there are spirits that have stayed behind with many reports being made over the years of people hearing eerie whispering as well as ghostly apparitions wandering the grounds.
The Joshua Ward House
Amongst the many haunted buildings in the witch city is the Joshua Ward house, a grand brick mansion that was built in the late 1700’s. Despite not being constructed until 100 years after the Salem witch trials had already taken place, the building is still believed to be haunted by two of the most well-known men involved in the trials, Giles Corey and Sheriff George Corwin. Giles Corey was the only male victim executed during the period of the witch hysteria, suffering a traumatic and brutal death at the hands of Sheriff Corwin after being accused of witchcraft. Giles was sentenced to death by ‘pressing’ which involved having him lay on the ground with a board being laid over top of him, with large rocks being gradually added on top of the board until he was eventually crushed to death. Often nicknamed ‘the strangler’ for his inhumane and tortuous interrogation methods, Sheriff Corwin was infamous around town for being a cruel and sadistic man. After residing in the house that is now the Joshua Ward home for most of his life, Corwin suffered a fatal heart attack in 1697, putting an end to his tortuous and murderous reign. In fears of what the locals would do to his body due to his reputation, the sheriff’s family decided to have him buried in the cellar of his home, where he could be laid to rest in peace. He stayed buried here for a number of years until his body was eventually exhumed and relocated to a nearby cemetery. Nowadays, the Joshua Ward home is believed to still house the spirits of Sheriff Corwin along with that of Giles Corey with guests visiting the house reporting strange phenomenon such as the feeling of being choked by invisible hands, ghastly figures appearing near the fireplace as well as things flying off of shelves on their own.