Written by Alycia “Lee” Butler
Even 300 years after the events of the witch trials, Salem is notoriously known for being the City of Witches. Salem Massachusetts embraces the events of 1692, remembering the death of 20 innocent people with various museums, spooky shops, seasonal events, witch trial sites, and even Hocus Pocus film locations that influence nearly 2 million people to visit yearly.
This October, Salem hosts quirky and scary events right on the streets of the city. The Haunted Happenings Marketplace, in Salem Common Park, has an array of food stalls, fall decorations, fairs, parades, and even performers and scare actors.
Salem is best when explored, whether solo or with a tour! History and Hauntings of Salem Guided Walking Tour is a 2-hour-long tour that follows a local historian through the Witch City. There are night-time tours offered for a spookier learning experience, led under lantern light so you can still admire the 400-year-old architecture.
Witch trial sites
The Witch House, once the home of Judge Jonathon Corwin, is the only building left in Salem that directly relates to the witch trials. Preserved and displayed, the interior contains 16th-century furniture and information about Puritan diets, religious beliefs, and societal roles. It also confronts the contradiction of medical practices versus what was considered witchcraft.
The Old Burying Point Cemetery, located on Charter Street, is Salem’s oldest maintained cemetery. Opened in 1637, several notable figures including witch trial Judges John Hawthorne and Bartholomew Gedney were buried in this historic gravesite. Captain John Higginson III died in 1718, marking the last tombstone to join the soil.
Directly next to the Old Burying Point Cemetery lies the Salem Witch Trials Memorial. Located off of Charter Street, four-foot-tall granite walls surround the memorial on three sides. The walls are lined with 20 granite benches with each innocent victim’s name, their execution date, and means of execution. At the front of the memorial stands a stone etched with words recorded in transcripts of the innocents’ pleas, cut short by their deaths.
Starting with a live presentation, the Witch History Museum will give you a guided tour downstairs where you can walk through the woods and Old Salem. It depicts 15 scenes of 1692 life and trials through wax figures, including one of Rev. Parris’s kitchen where you will see Tituba, an African slave, telling stories to young girls. These stories are said to have sparked many of the witchcraft accusations. The Witch History Museum is open from April through November from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
In partnership with the Witch History Museum, the Witch Dungeon Museum and the New England Pirate Museum also use wax figures and artifacts to take you on a historical journey. The Witch Dungeon Museum begins your tour with a reenactment of Sarah Good’s trial, using lines from the original 1692 transcript, before taking you to the recreated dungeon and Gallows Hill. The New England Pirate Museum takes a humorous take on the history of Salem, with comedic tour guides making jokes about once fearful pirates as you progress through the pirate cave.
The Salem Witch Museum gives a 45-minute presentation using narration and large-scale dioramas to give visitors a background of the witch trials. As it is the most visited museum in Salem, booking a time slot in advance and arriving early is advised.
Salem Pioneer Village, in Forest River Park, is a full-scale replica of 1630’s Salem that includes furnished wooden cottages and indigenous wigwams. Built on 3 acres of land, the living history museum is open on weekends during summer and autumn.
Unlike its reputation, The Satanic Temple is not a place of worship for Satan. Rather, the headquarters in the former Dubiel Funeral Parlor is home to an art gallery and exhibits dedicated to controversial topics and moral panics including witch hunts, haunted or gothic movies, Satanism, and depictions of Satan. The art gallery promotes artists both locally and worldwide including Salvador Dali, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and most recently photographer Frank Grace. It is a temporary home to the famous bronze statue of Baphomet, a pagan figure in the form of a goat with a human male chest, as trials in Arkansas regarding the religion continue. The Satanic Temple also hosts events, including lectures, screenings, social painting events, and formal ceremonies such as weddings.
Hocus Pocus locations
Salem is undoubtedly known for the fall favorite film Hocus Pocus. Whether you join a guided tour or wander the historic brick streets of Salem, the sites are guaranteed to make your visit feel magical and nostalgic.
The iconic house of Max and Dani, also known as the Hocus Pocus House, is a private residence today. Although the inside can not be toured, visitors can always take photographs and visit the popular location.
The fourth generation-owned Rope Mansion was home to Allison in the movie, where Max and Dani crash the Halloween party. The 18th-century mansion can be toured on weekends, but you can visit the lovely gardens at any time.
Once used for livestock and militia drills, Salem Common became a park in the early 1800s. The 8-acre green space was used during a scene between Max and Allison in Hocus Pocus.
Established as the municipal building in 1816, Old Town Hall now serves as an art space and venue for events and shows. Similar to how it is used today, this site was used for the Halloween party that Max and Dani’s parents attended and where the Sanderson sisters performed “I Put A Spell On You”. In October, the Old Town Hall hosts an interactive experience, Cry Innocent: The People vs. Bridget Bishop, where you are part of the jury during the first Salem witch trial.
Whether you’re going to Salem for its unique history or the breathtaking architecture, you can find many events and museums that will immerse you in its spooky culture. With all the fun fall amusement the town offers, Halloween can be any day of the year- and all you need is a witch hat!
Lee Butler, author, had the opportunity to visit Salem, MA this summer and was able to visit all the museums and witch trial sites listed.