The Haunted History of Salem MA

The seaside town of Salem, Massachusetts, has become almost synonymous worldwide with witches and other things that go bump in the night. And for a good reason. Between 1692 and 1693, more than 200 people were accused of practicing witchcraft in Salem, and 19 of those were found guilty and sentenced to death by hanging. Several others died while being held under horrific conditions in prison, awaiting trial. 

A Brief History of the Salem Witch Trials

Salem, the 6th largest seaport in the United States, became a town of mass hysteria and paranoia, brought into fruition in January of 1692, when Reverend Parris’ daughter Elizabeth, age 9, and niece Abigail Williams, age 11, began having “fits.” 

A local doctor blamed these strange bodily contortions on supernatural influence. It wasn’t long before another girl, Ann Putnam, age 11, experienced similar episodes. 

Then, on February 29, the girls blamed Tituba, the reverend’s Caribbean slave; Sarah Good, a homeless beggar; and Sarah Osborne, an elderly impoverished woman, for afflicting them. The hysteria, the accusations, and the hangings continued for a year before ceasing. 

Is it any wonder many people believe that the dark forces at play during this era have left a permanent mark on the town of Salem? Salem has so many haunted locations; it’s easy to see why it’s one of Massachusetts’s five most haunted locations. 

The women were all exonerated of witchcraft, but not until over 300 years later, in 2001. 

Paranormal Activity and Evidence

It makes paranormal sense that a group of deceased women falsely accused of practicing witchcraft may want to hang around and haunt people as retribution for their own pain. It makes total paranormal sense.

But there’s one catch: the number of hauntings in Salem, and the number of haunted places within the town, far exceeds the number of alleged witches hanged on Gallows Hill. So, something else is at play here. Let’s take a look at just some of them. 

Proctor’s Ledge

For centuries, people thought Gallow’s Hill, where ironically, a children’s playground now sits, was the official spot for the hangings and where the bodies were unceremoniously dumped below afterward.

But several decades of investigation and research, including that by the local historian Sidney Perley, confirmed that the true location of the hangings was Proctor’s Ledge, a fifteen-minute walk from Gallow’s Hill. Part of this evidence included eyewitness accounts from nearby neighbors, who could witness the hangings from their homes. 

A list of the 19 dead is as follows:

Local legend has it that a “Lady in White” frequents Proctor’s Ledge. Some visitors claim to have caught sight of her, though others catch only her disembodied voice. Visitors have also encountered “cold spots” and incandescent orbs, making Salem one of the five most haunted places in Massachusetts.

A number of EVPs and Spirit Box communications at Proctor’s Ledge revealed the following intelligent responses:

  • Q – “John, this is your land, correct?” A – “That’s correct.” 
  • Q – “How many are here with us right now?” A- “Twelve.”
  • “Danger”
  • “Anger”
  • Q – “What is my name?” A – “Ryan” (correct answer. 
  • “Hello.”

Several EMF spikes occur during the sessions and are consistent throughout the investigations. 

The Hawthorne Hotel

The Hawthorne Hotel is considered one of the Top 20 Haunted Hotels in America, primarily due to the hotel being built on the Bridget Bishop’s apple orchard site. Who is Bridget Bishop? The first of 20 alleged witches to be tried and “hanged by the neck until dead,” on Proctor’s Ledge at Gallows Hill before a large crowd. Instead of this first execution bringing people to their senses, it was not the end but just the beginning. 

Guests and staff of the 150-room Hawthorne Hotel report paranormal activity in several areas, including the phantom scent of apples and seeing an apparition of a woman roaming the halls. If you should stay in Room 612, you may see the apparition of a woman standing just outside the door, as others often report.

Room 325 is another room with heightened paranormal activity having faucets that turn on and off by themselves. Lights flicker off and on as well, and the crying of an inconsolable baby can be heard as if from just the next room over. Guests have continually reported furniture moving on its own, disembodied voices, mists, and ghostly sightings. 

The Old Burying Point Cemetery

This cemetery is the second oldest burial site in the United States, so it’s fair to say that regardless of the Salem Witch Trials, it’s old enough to have its share of hauntings. 

Established in 1637, every occupant at the Burying Point unquestionably holds historical importance. But, one of the most intriguing names etched into the ancient gravestones belongs to John Hathorne, an unrepentant and ruthless judge during the Salem Witch Trials, even upon his deathbed. He was also the great-great-grandfather of Nathaniel Hawthorne, the famous writer.

Nathaniel was so ashamed of his ancestor’s indictment of innocents during the witch trials that he added a “w” to his surname to conceal his bloody heritage.

Others laid to rest at Old Burying Point include Mayflower passenger Captain Richard More and Simon Bradstreet, the last governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Although records indicate over 600 people are buried here, only 347 headstones are still standing, some so old and weathered by the centuries that the names are no longer legible. 

Many visitors to the site have captured a shadowy figure on camera near the Judge’s 300-year-old grave. Walking into the cemetery, the EVPs are so constant most investigators liken it to a cocktail party. Here are just a few: 

  • “Talk to me.”
  • “Get out!”
  • “They’re standing right next to you.”
  • “My name is Besty.”
  • “Where are they?”
  • “They’re making black…magic.”
  • “I know you.”
  • “Find them.”
  • “Our life isn’t gone.”

There are many more haunted sites in Salem, too diverse and too many to document in a few hundred words. So here are a few more haunted locations in Salem – some of which have nothing to do with the witch trials – where you can find the paranormal activity, just in case you find yourself in the “Witch City”:

  • The Witch House or Corwin House
  • Turner-Ingersoll Mansion
  • Salem Jail
  • The Lyceum
  • Wicked Good Books
  • In a Pig’s Eye
  • Joshua Ward House
  • Howard Street Cemetery
  • House of the Seven Gables
  • Haunted Pickman House
  • The Haunted Merchant
  • Old Town Hall
  • The Salem Inn
  • Rockafellas

If you find yourself in Salem, take one of the many available ghost tours, and you’ll see why Salem is one of the five most haunted places in Massachusetts. 

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