Salem

Salem is at the epicenter of the events of 1692 because that’s where all the witch trials were held and the victims hanged. It’s also where all the tourists go. However, the witch hunt started in Salem Village (now known as Danvers) and spread throughout most of Essex county. Little remains of 17th century Salem Town besides a few First Period style homes.

Orientation

Salem is a popular tourist destination, so check out these websites for tours, attractions, restaurants, hotels, and shopping suggestions as well as event listings. Some of Salem’s historic sites and attractions are seasonal, so contact them beforehand. Spring and summer are great times to visit.

Salem Court House from 1790 engraving

Destination Salem, the office of tourism & cultural affairs.

Haunted Happenings, the official website for Halloween in Salem. This month-long celebration includes lots of events and people. Warning: If you don’t like waiting in lines with people in costumes, October may not be the best time for you to visit.

Start your adventure near the Essex Street pedestrian walkway by the parking garage:

National Park Service Visitor Center, 2 New Liberty Street. Salem Maritime park has downloadable self-guided walking tours and an “Architecture in Salem” guide so you can view some of the 17th century buildings still standing. Pick up a map and watch the movie Salem Witch Hunt: Examine the Evidence (38 minutes).

Also: The True 1692 3D documentary (34 minutes), playing daily at Cinema Salem.

Also: Salem Town “Witch Sites” Walking Tour Part I and Part II on the Salem Historical Society blog.

Salem Heritage Trail. The red line painted on the sidewalks connects Salem’s historically significant sites and neighborhoods.

Explore

Witch House, Judge Jonathan Corwin residence in 1692

Salem’s architectural beauty and maritime endeavors are on full display, alongside modern-day witch shops and tourist attractions, but much tangible evidence of the witch trials has disappeared.

Beadle Tavern site, 65 Essex Street. Location of some witch examinations.

Bridget Bishop House and Orchard site, 43 Church Street. Bridget Bishop was the first person hanged for witchcraft in 1692. Lyceum Hall, the brick building now standing at Bridget’s former homesite, was built in 1831 to host educational lectures and entertainment. The Hall is most famous for Alexander Graham Bell’s 1877 demonstration of his telephone, though it’s also where Charles W. Upham (1802-1875) lived when he became intrigued by Salem’s witch-hunt past and started writing about it. The building is now Turner’s Seafood restaurant.

Gov. Simon Bradstreet house, built c. 1650

Gov. Simon Bradstreet house site, 134 Essex Street. After his first wife—the poet Anne (Dudley) Bradstreet (c.1610-1672)—died, Gov. Bradstreet (1604-1697) married Anne (Downing) Gardner (1633-1713) and moved to her house on Essex Street. He served again as (acting) governor from 1689 to May 1692, before Sir William Phips arrived with the Royal Charter.

Broad Street Cemetery, 5 Broad Street. Established 1655. Burial place of witch trials Judge Jonathan Corwin (1640-1718) and his nephew, sheriff George Corwin (1666-1696), though the family monument only includes the surname.

George Corwin house site, 148 Washington Street. The notorious sheriff’s house was replaced in 1784 by Joshua Ward’s home. In 2015, Lark Hotels turned the Ward home into a boutique hotel called The Merchant.

Court House site, Washington Street by Lynde Street. 1677-1718. See bronze tablet at Masonic Temple, 70 Washington Street. The original courthouse, located in the middle of today’s Washington Street, held the Court of Oyer and Terminer where accused witches were brought to trial in 1692. The building was torn down in 1760.

Philip English house. Courtesy Peabody Essex Museum.

Philip English house site, 11 Essex Street. Built around 1685, this was the home of accused witches Philip English (1651-1736) and his wife Mary (Hollingsworth) English (c. 1652-c. 1696) who escaped from the Boston jail. The mansion was torn down in 1833.

Essex County Law Library, Essex County Superior Court, 56 Federal Street. Look for glass-topped pedestal display case, with copies of two witch trials documents, witch pins, and county seal.

First Church of Salem original meetinghouse site, 231 Essex Street. Rebecca Nurse (1621-1692) was a member of the Salem Town church, though she often attended the Salem Village church closer to her home. After being sentenced for witchcraft, she was excommunicated from this church in 1692. The current brick building was built in 1826 by members of Salem’s First Church, with the second floor used for church services while the first floor offered retail space, including Daniel Low’s jewelry store. In 1892, Daniel Low & Co. started the first mail order catalog and sold silver Salem Witch souvenir spoons. The company took over the building when the congregation moved to 316 Essex Street. It’s now Rockafellas restaurant.

Friends Cemetery (a.k.a. Quaker Cemetery), 396 1/2 Essex Street. First burials circa 1680. Many of the graves are unmarked.

Gedney house, 21 High Street. Built in 1665 for shipwright Eleazer Gedney (1642-1683), the earliest section of this house shows the typical 17th century floor plan with two main rooms on each side of the central chimney. Although Eleazer died before the Salem witch trials, his brother Bartholomew (1640-1698) was a magistrate for the Court of Oyer & Terminer and no doubt frequented the house. Eleazer’s first wife Elizabeth was sister to John Turner who built the House of the Seven Gables. His second wife Mary (d. 1716) lived here in 1692.

John Hathorne house site, Lapin Park (Bewitched Statue’s location), 114 Washington Street on corner with Essex Street. Judge John Hathorne (1641-1717) lived here during the witch trials. His mansion burned down in 1774.

House of the Seven Gables

House of the Seven Gables, 115 Derby Street. Built in 1668 by merchant John Turner (d. 1680) and made famous by Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel of the same name (1851), the Turner-Ingersoll mansion was restored in 1912 to show off its First Period architecture. Tourists come to see the historic house that captured Hawthorne’s literary imagination. Set in the mid-19th century, the novel dwells on ancestral guilt related to the witchcraft trials. Designated a National Historic Landmark District, the Gables property includes the Retire-Beckett House (c. 1655), the Hooper-Hathaway House (c. 1682), and the birthplace of Nathaniel Hawthorne (c. 1750). In 2018, the House of the Seven Gables celebrates its 350th anniversary.

Howard Street Cemetery, 29 Howard Street. First burial 1801. Located next to the 1813 jail. If your tour guide talks about the ghost of Giles Corey, you’re on the wrong tour. This was private property in 1692.

Rev. John Higginson house site, near 19-1/2 Washington Square North. Higginson was the senior minister of Salem Town in 1692. His daughter Ann (Higginson) Dolliver (c. 1650-1739) was accused as a witch and confessed.

Thomas Maule house site, 331 Essex Street. An outspoken Quaker who had a few run-ins with the law, Thomas Maule (1645-1724) was imprisoned for almost a year in 1695/6 for his “slanderous” book, Truth Held Forth, his autobiography and witch-hunt diatribe. The jury found him not guilty. His wife Naomi testified against Bridget Bishop in 1692.

William Murray house, 39 Essex Street. Originally built 1688. William Murray served as a court clerk at some of the Salem witch trials. He also accused his neighbor Alice Parker.

Tombstone of Col. John Hathorne Salem

Old Burying Point, 51 Charter Street. Established 1637, earliest extant gravestone 1673. Also known as Charter Street Cemetery. Burial place of 1692 Judge John Hathorne (1641-1717); Rev. John Higginson Jr. (d. 1718); Judge Bartholomew Gedney (1640-1697); Elinor Hollingsworth (d. 1689), mother of accused Mary English; Samuel Shattuck (d. 1695), a child supposedly bewitched by Bridget Bishop; Giles Corey’s second wife Mary (1621-1684); Gov. Simon Bradstreet (1603-1697); and Nathaniel Mather (1669-1688), younger brother of Rev. Cotton Mather. The Witch Trials Memorial is adjacent to the cemetery.

Alice (–) Parker house site, between 54 and 58 Derby Street. Executed witch Alice Parker (d. 1692) rented small house from Philip English.

Peabody Essex Museum, 161 Essex Street. An international art, architectural, and cultural museum, the Peabody Essex started as the East India Marine Society in 1799. Through mergers of several societies, the museum grew from seafaring treasures to include local history, nature, and science collections. On display is the 1679 valuables chest made to commemorate the marriage of Joseph and Bathshua (Folger) Pope. During the trials, Bathshua was an afflicted accuser naming Rebecca Nurse and Martha Corey while her husband Joseph also spoke out against John Proctor. All three victims were hanged. The 1680 cupboard was made for Benjamin Putnam (1664-1715), who signed the petition in support of Rebecca Nurse. Samuel Sewall (1652-1730), the only judge who publicly apologized for his part in the witch trials, is shown in a portrait by painter John Smibert. PEM has more witch trial-related artifacts plus 550+ original court documents that are not on display. The Phillips Library Reading Room is closed through March 2018.

1630 Pioneer Village

Pioneer Village, Forest River Park, West Avenue extension. Owned by the city of Salem. To commemorate the 300-year anniversary of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, in 1930 Salem recreated a 17th century village depicting dugouts, wigwams, thatched-roof cottages, and the Governor’s Faire House. As America’s first living history museum, Pioneer Village features costume guided tours and special events, such as craft or pioneer life demonstrations and storytelling. It’s especially spooky at night, when you may think the devil is at the door. Check for special events on its website.

Proctor’s Ledge Memorial, 7 Pope Street. In early 2016, the Gallows Hill Project team confirmed Proctor’s Ledge was the execution site of the witch trial victims (and not the pinnacle at Gallows Hill). In 2017, a memorial for the 18 hanging victims was dedicated.

Ann Pudeator house site, 35 Washington Square North. Second wife and widow of Jacob Pudeator (c. 1645-1682), executed witch Ann (–) (Greenslit) Pudeator (c. 1625-1692) was a midwife and nurse.

Quaker Meeting House, Federal Garden area, Essex Block. The first Friends’ meeting house was built in 1688. In 1865, the Essex Institute recreated the meeting house in the First Period style using beams thought to be original to the first Quaker church. Located at the Peabody-Essex Museum gardens; not open to the public.

Salem Gaol site, 2-4 Federal Street. Some of the witch-hunt victims were incarcerated in the Salem jail built in 1684. Most likely, Giles Corey (c. 1617-1692) was pressed to death on the grounds of the jail. In 1763, the jail was replaced by a larger one at the same property. (In 1813, the prisoners were moved into the new stone prison around the corner, on what is now 50 St. Peter Street.) In the 19th century, the 1763 jail was renovated into a family home, and in 1935, opened as the first witch city attraction, the Old Witch Jail and Dungeon. The building was torn down in 1956. There’s a plaque on the current brick building.

Bridget Bishop’s memorial on Charter Street

Salem Witch Trials Memorial, 51 Charter Street. After the witch trial hangings, family and friends secretly buried the bodies, leaving no signs to mark their final resting places. For the 300th anniversary of the Salem witch trials in 1992, a special memorial was dedicated next to Old Burying Point so we can honor and remember these 20 victims.

Witch House, 310 ½ Essex Street, Salem. Owned by the city of Salem. Billed as the only building in Salem with direct ties to the witch trials, this was Judge Jonathan Corwin’s house in 1692. Although tradition says some of the preliminary examinations were held here, it’s unlikely it was used for anything more than private meetings. The Corwin house is open for tours and holds special events.

Attractions

This is just a short list. In October, some attractions turn into fright fests. Be aware that some attractions need serious refurbishing and their narratives need updating to include new research and to remove historical inaccuracies.

Cry Innocent: The People Versus Bridget Bishop by History Alive Inc., Old Town Hall, 32 Derby Street. Think you can’t get caught up in the drama of 1692? This interactive play based on Bridget Bishop’s testimony invites you to ask questions and decide whether her case should be brought to trial based on the evidence you’ve heard.

Salem Witch Museum, 19-1/2 Washington Square North. Located in an old church next to the statue of Salem’s founder Roger Conant. This two-part attraction includes a narrated presentation (in a dark room) focusing on 13 life-sized sets of the Salem witch hunt followed by a guided tour through the Witches: Evolving Perceptions exhibit.

Tom the Tour Guide in front of Judge John Hathorne’s grave

Salem Witch Walk, Crow Haven Corner, 125 Essex Street. There are ghost tours and more in Salem, but this tour—led by a practicing witch—tells the Salem story in a way that is respectful, inclusive, educational, and enjoyable. The tour begins with a magic circle, in which tourists are invited to participate.

Witch History Museum, 197-201 Essex Street. This two-part attraction has a live presentation followed by a guided tour downstairs through 15 life-sized sets depicting scenes from the 1692 witch hunt.

Research

Historic Salem Inc.’s website features a database of 500+ house histories as part of historic plaque project.

Salem Public Library, 370 Essex Street. Check out the Salem History room on the third floor for books, the vertical files, directories, and newspapers.

Online Books & Records

Historical sketch of Salem, 1626-1879 by Charles S. Osgood (1879)

History of Salem by Sidney Perley (1924-28) Vol. 1: 1626-1637, Vol. 2: 1638-1670, Vol. 3: 1671-1716 or Vols. 1, 2, limited 3; also look for his “Salem in 1700” articles in the Essex Antiquarian

Old Naumkeag: an historical sketch of the city of Salem, and the towns of Marblehead, Peabody, Beverly, Danvers, Wenham, Manchester, Topsfield, and Middleton by Charles Henry Webber and Winfield S. Nevins (1877)

Town Records of Salem, Massachusetts published by the Essex Institute Vol. 1: 1634-1659, Vol. 2: 1659-1680, Vol. 3: 1680-1691

Blog Posts

Which Bishop? The one that got away from WitchesMassBay

Follow

Emerson W. Baker on Twitter @EmersonWBaker: history professor at Salem State University, author of A Storm of Witchcraft and The Devil of Great Island. Tweets on “early New England history, in particular the Salem witch trials.”

Donna Seger on Streets of Salem blog: history professor at Salem State University. Writes about “culture, history, and the material environment, from the perspectives of academia, Salem and beyond.”

Ty Hapworth as hellosalem on Instagram. Great photos of Salem people, places, events.

SalemWeather on Instagram. Atmospheric photos of Salem places.