Growing up about 20 miles from Salem, I have visited this popular tourist city multiple times over the years. There were many school field trips to places such as the Witch Museum, Witch Dungeon and Witch House. I took this for granted as a kid, but now that I’m older and see how many people travel from all over the country and world to visit Salem, I realize how lucky I was to be able to visit these wonderful places so many times as part of school trips.
Visiting Salem during October and specifically on Halloween may be a bucket list item for many, but it’s also the perfect place to visit any time of year. Crowds don’t bother me too much but the crowds in October can get pretty crazy, especially the closer you get to Halloween. If you want to avoid the crowds, I highly recommend visiting in the spring or summer.
There is so much to see and do in Salem. If you are staying in Boston and don’t have a car, there is a train that goes to Salem. It takes about a half hour and it drops you off right by downtown. The first thing you will come to when you walk from the train is the statue of Samantha from Bewitched. This is definitely a great photo op!
From late spring thru October you can also take a ferry from downtown Boston to Salem. This is a great way to get to Salem and enjoy the beautiful weather, who doesn’t want to take a boat ride? When you get off the ferry, check out the waterfront and the historic Custom House which has been in Salem since 1819.
About a year and a half ago, one of my closest friends was visiting from Florida. We headed up to Salem for the day with no plan on what we would do. Little did we know we would possibly see a ghost while we were there.
It all started when we headed over to check out the House of Seven Gables. My friend’s father’s family was from Salem and his aunt had worked at the House of Seven Gables for years.
The House of Seven Gables was made famous by the Nathaniel Hawthorne novel of the same name. It was built in 1668 by merchant and ship owner John Turner and is now one of America’s most beloved historic homes.
We had a late start getting up to Salem and by the time we got over to the House it was closed for the day. We took some pictures of the outside of the house and then walked a couple of blocks away to see the outside of the house that my friend’s great aunt lived in.
Later that night while looking at pictures we noticed a small orb in a different location on each picture. Maybe it was a reflection off of something but it was in a different location in each picture my friend took even though she was standing in the same spot taking the pictures. We really think that possibly it was the ghost or spirit of my friend’s great aunt as it was moving away from the House of Seven Gables towards her house a couple of streets away. It was like she knew my friend was there to take her home. Check out the pictures below and tell me what you think of the glowing green dot in each picture (ghost or reflection?)
Some of the tours can be hit or miss in Salem. One year I took a nighttime trolley tour that spent more time pointing out all the supposedly haunted Dunkin Donuts in town (which there were a lot, anyone who’s been to New England knows there’s a Dunkin or two on just about every corner) than telling any information on Salem. Well luckily we found a much better tour to take this visit. We took the Salem Night Tour which was a walking tour and I highly recommend it.
The tour went to the typical tourist spots The Witch Trial Memorial and the Burying Point Cemetery. This cemetery is the oldest in Salem and is definitely worth checking out both at night and in the daylight.
It also included a stop at the Old Town Hall which was featured in my favorite Halloween themed movie, Hocus Pocus.
We also visited St. Peter’s Church. The present church has been here since 1833, but it’s the chapel that was added on to the rear of the building in 1871 that has a somewhat creepy history. The rear of this church was a graveyard and while the gravestones were moved to the front of the church, the buried are still under the chapel. Sounds like a risky move to build on top of people’s final resting place, I mean we all saw what happened in the movie Poltergeist right?
One of those buried under the chapel was Salem merchant Phillip English. Phillip and his wife Mary were accused of witchcraft in 1692. Being that he was a wealthy merchant, he gained the support of two Boston reverends who helped him and his wife escape to New York. They returned to Salem in the summer of 1693 to find out their belongings had been confiscated. Phillip would spend the rest of his life suing to try and regain his lost property. When he died in 1736 he was buried at St. Peter’s Church, although his remains are under the chapel that was added in 1871, his gravestone was never moved. As this is one of the most haunted places in Salem, it stands to reason he may be the one haunting the place?
My favorite part of the tour was actually the last stop. The Gardner-Pingree House was built in 1804, is considered a National Historic Landmark and is part of the Peabody-Essex Museum.
In April 1830, wealthy retired sea captain Joseph White went to bed one night. His relatives that lived with him awoke the next morning to find a window open and went upstairs to find Captain White bludgeoned to death.
It turns out his nephew by marriage and his brother hired someone to murder him as they snuck into his room and stole his will. They figured if they steal the will, all of his money would have to be divided up amongst all the heirs. The murder and trial was something that really shook up the city of Salem. It also inspired two literary works, Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart” and Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Scarlet Letter”. The house also inspired the Parker Brothers (which was founded in Salem) board game Clue. Does anyone have Captain White murdered in the bedroom with a club?
Since his death, there have been numerous reports of hearing footsteps in the house. The ghost of Captain White lives on.
I won’t lie, I swear I saw something in the windows while listening to the story. Might have been my imagination getting the best of me or just a reflection, but maybe Captain White was just saying hello.
Definitely an interesting day in Salem. Who says it has to be October for fun visit with witches and ghosts?
Have a Happy Halloween!