The Historical Spirits of Salem

Posted by US Ghost Adventures Contributor in US Ghost Adventures
The Historical Spirits of Salem - Photo

There is a certain magic to Salem that conjures within you a credulous belief in the paranormal. Many places across the United States claim they are haunted. However, few places, if any, besides Salem, Massachusetts, can claim that the Devil ran amok in their town. The history of Salem is about European separatists’ secrets, fervent Puritanical beliefs, and rustic superstitions grounded in paganism. Salem, whose very name means “peace” has experienced very little amity in its existence. It is out of this culture that the ghosts manifest and reveal themselves within the fabric of this quaint New England town on the outskirts of Boston.

One of the main reasons Salem is so haunted is because of its 17th-century community’s unflinching unforgiveness and its inhumanity towards its fellow man. The dichotomy of Salem is that it was established on the basis of Biblical teachings that espoused compassion, yet this town highlighted every private sin and searched for the devil in the details within their neighbor’s lives. This community founded in God soon became a malicious mob. In the end, many people were killed due to this staunch rigidity. But not all those who die rest in peace. 

When we think of Salem we naturally imagine the infamous witch trials. The present-day community knows this, and even now the symbol of the witch is ubiquitous, from the decal on police cars to signage on city buildings. The witch, for all intents and purposes, is Salem’s mascot. But Salem’s history is more than the trials of witches. History does not exist in a vacuum, and the narrative of Salem is written by many hands and told with many tongues. Salem was a piece of the puzzle that would come together to form the country we now have today. And many of these pieces are haunted, indelibly etched with the lives that have lived here and still make themselves known. For a guided tour, visit US Ghost Adventures and book a tour with Salem Ghosts today!

Settlement of Salem 

The Naumkeag tribe settled the area of what would become known as Salem over 4,000 years ago.  They controlled territory from the Charles River to the Merrimack River at the time of the Puritan migration to what would become known as New England. However, between 1616 to 1619, death visited this land.

An epidemic breaks out in the indigenous villages in this area, devastating the Naumkeag tribe which greatly reduced their numbers. This plague proved to be serendipitous to the newly arrived Europeans. These settlers, fleeing their own countries to found a colony based upon Biblical precepts, would be met with little to no opposition. Roger Conant and a group of settlers from the failed colony at Gloucester arrive in the area and Salem is established in 1626. Conant serves as the settlement’s governor. Conant’s leadership provided the stability to survive the first two years, but John Endecott, one of the new arrivals, replaced him by order of the Massachusetts Bay Company. Conant graciously stepped aside and was granted 200 acres of land in compensation. 

The ghost of John Conant still presides in Salem. Image Source

Today, an imposing statue of Conant greets you as you enter Salem, glowering over you like a stern minister. Erected in 1913, the statue of Conant is cast in bronze, overlooking Salem Common, shrouded in a billowing heavy cloak. Because of the cloak, wide-brimmed hat, and its location directly outside the Salem Witch Museum, visitors to the area often mistake Conant for a witch. That is quite appropriate, for you see, less than 70 years after the town’s founding, many innocent people would be mistaken for witches.

Does Conant still haunt the town that he helped establish? Many believe that yes, indeed, his spirit still lingers in this place. Many have claimed that his statue can be seen moving under certain moonlit skies and that his cloak will sometimes billow in the wind. Others will swear that his eyes follow you as you pass under his watch. Many people have reported seeing Conant as a full-bodied apparition pacing Salem Common, dressed in the likeness of his statue, with a concerned look on his face. 

Trade in People

Shortly after the establishment of the town, Salem began to trade with the West Indies in the year 1637. The first ship from Salem sailed to the West Indies to trade salted cod. Less than one year later, in 1638, the first known slave ship to leave New England was the bark called the Desire. This ship sailed out of Salem, carrying as part of its cargo Native Americans, its course set for the Bahamas. There, these captured Native Americans would be exchanged for enslaved Africans. The Governor of Salem at this time was John Winthrop, who wrote in his journal: “Mr. Pierce, in the Salem ship, the Desire, returned from the West Indies after seven months. He . . . brought some cotton, and tobacco, and Negroes.” Since that time people of African descent have been part of the community and culture of Salem.

It is within the hellish commerce of the slave trade that one of the key figures related to the Salem witch trials will enter the scene. Her name is Tituba. Little is known of this woman’s background or even her origin. Samuel Parris, later to play a central role in the Salem witch trials of 1692 as the village minister, brought three enslaved persons with him when he came to Massachusetts from Barbados. It can be inferred that Parris enslaved Tituba in Barbados, probably when she was 12 or a few years older. 

Rev. Samuel Parris moved to Salem Village in 1688, as a candidate for the position of Salem Village minister. A year later, in 1689, Parris was formally the minister, given a full deed to the parsonage, and the Salem Village church charter was signed. Whether Tituba was aware of Rev. Parris’ sermons in late 1691 warning of Satan’s influence in Salem is also not known, but it seems likely that his fears were known in his household. It is this fear that spread and infected the town of Salem like a ruthless epidemic. In early 1692, three girls with connections to the Parris household began to exhibit strange behavior. One was Elizabeth Parris, the 9-year-old daughter of Rev. Parris. Another was Abigail Williams, age 12, a niece of Rev. Parris. She may have served as a household servant and a companion to Betty. The third girl was Ann Putnam Jr., who was the daughter of a key supporter of Rev. Parris in the Salem Village church conflict.

To find out what was causing the afflictions, a local doctor and a neighboring minister were called in by Parris. Tituba later testified that she saw visions of the devil and witches swarming throughout the town. The doctor diagnosed the cause of the afflictions as the “Evil Hand.” In other words, witchcraft was afoot in Salem. A neighbor of the Parris family advised Tituba to make a witch’s cake to identify the cause of the initial “afflictions” of Betty Parris and Abigail Williams. Unfortunately, the next day Betty and Abigail named Tituba as the cause of their behavior. Tituba was accused by the young girls of appearing to them as a spirit, which amounted to an accusation of witchcraft. Rev. Parris beat Tituba to try to get a confession from her. 

On February 29, 1692, an arrest warrant was issued for Tituba and two other women by the names of Sarah Good and Sarah Osborne. All three of the accused were examined the next day at Nathaniel Ingersoll’s tavern in Salem Village by local magistrates Jonathan Corwin and John Hathorne. In this examination, Tituba confessed, naming both Sarah Osborne and Sarah Good as witches and describing their spectral movements, including meeting with the devil. Sarah Good claimed her innocence but implicated Tituba and Osborne. Tituba was questioned for two more days. Tituba’s confession, by the rules of the court, kept her from being tried later with others, including those who were eventually found guilty and executed. Tituba apologized for her part, saying she loved Betty and meant her no harm.

outline drawing of a woman in pilgrim dress

Tituba, an enslaved female, represents two cultures clashing. Source: Flickr

After the magistrates finished their examination of Tituba, she was sent to jail. Over a year later she was released after the fervor of the witch trials abated, and she is lost to the sands of time.

Tituba may be lost in the annals of history but by no means is she forgotten. Her ghost that haunts the Ingersoll Tavern is there to remind you. At the time of the witch trials, Ingersoll and his family ran an “ordinary,” which was the 17th-century term for a local tavern. The tavern served food and drink to locals, and rooms on the second floor were rented to travelers who passed along the dirt roads of colonial New England. 

Despite the stereotypes of the Puritans, they did indeed drink alcohol, sometimes in excess! If one drank to excess, they could be punished with a scarlet letter “D” for “drunk” sewn onto their shirts, and could also lose their voting rights. Puritans liked to label drunks and adulterers. Cider, served by the quart, was usually the drink of choice, and in colonial times there was only one kind of cider and that was the “hard” cider. Beer, wine, whiskey, and rum were also enjoyed, and hot food was served.

There were strict restrictions on taverns in the 17th century, which were forbidden to serve Indians, apprentices in trades and crafts, students at Harvard College, or anyone who seemed drunk. Taverns needed to close by either sunset or 9 pm. Certain sinful and unlawful games, such as cards, dice, billiards, and shuffleboard were prohibited. 

Red brick colonial style home

The site of the first accusation of witches in Salem. Image Source

But taverns were where local government committees met, along with the Essex County court, which delivered justice in front of the kegs. Ingersoll played a particularly interesting role in the 1692 Salem Village trials. Those accused of witchcraft were brought there before their initial post-arrest hearings with the magistrates and kept under lock in an upstairs room. Originally, the hearings themselves were held in the barroom as county court sessions were. 

The tavern remained in operation through the 1700s and into the 1800s under different owners, and being close to the militia training field it was frequented by the men who later marched from Danvers to confront the British soldiers on the day of the Battle of Lexington and Concord. The establishment later “fell into disrepute,” to the chagrin of the First Church of Danvers across the street, and the Church bought the house to be the home for its minister in 1832. It remained owned by the Church until 1968 and has been a private home ever since. It is a preservation priority among important historical sites in Danvers.

Tituba, the first person accused of witchcraft, has been seen in this tavern. She lingers to right the injustices of this town, a haunting reminder of fundamentalist extremism and the precarious position of a woman in Colonial America. Not only does her ghost stand as a paeon to women, but she manifests as a reminder of those who were enslaved. She was a black woman, but she also represents enslaved Native Americans. She is the specter who still confronts the injustices that were overlooked in the frenzy of the witch trials, the witch trials that took place in this very building she still haunts.  

 Proctor’s Ledge: The Place of Death

The gallows hill during the Salem Witch Trials. Image Source

Proctor’s Ledge served as the location where those accused and convicted of witchcraft were executed by hanging. Not only were they killed here, but the ledge also served as the dumping ground for their bodies. Since it was considered a grave sin to even touch the corpse of a witch, none of the executed received a proper burial. However, many of the grieving family members gathered the bodies of their fallen kin in order to provide them with a homemade Christian burial. This was a dangerous task indeed, for if they had been caught, they too would have faced the noose.

On this spot on June 1st of 1692, Bridget Bishop becomes the first person executed during the Salem Witch Trials when she is hanged to death at Proctor’s Ledge. On July 19, Rebecca Nurse, Susannah Martin, Elizabeth Howe, Sarah Good, and Sarah Wildes were all hanged together at Proctor’s Ledge. On August 19, 1692, the eponymous John Proctor, George Burroughs, George Jacobs Sr, John Willard, and Martha Carrier were hanged there. Then, on September 22, 1692, Martha Corey, Margaret Scott, Alice Parker, Ann Pudeator, Samuel Wardwell, Mary Easty, Wilmot Redd, and Mary Parker were hanged at Proctor’s Ledge. These are the last executions of the Salem Witch Trials. All those executed were innocent of any crime. 

Is it any wonder that reports state that there is dark energy that can be felt in and around the area where the hangings took place? The Devil was indeed running amok in Salem but he was taking the form of a clergyman and talking with the voice of judges. Does Satan return to the scene of the crime like a serial killer, an icy grin etched across his face? Many have felt pure evil in proximity to Proctor’s Ledge. 

There is yet another paranormal visitor that wanders about this site as well. She is the well-known Lady in White who is sometimes seen wandering around the ledge, as well as many other locations in Salem. She usually manifests only for very brief periods of time, then vanishes. Others claim to have heard eerie, disembodied wails. Is she the ghost of one of the executed women? Could she be a family member looking to reclaim a loved one’s body? Or is she simply a former citizen of Salem who cannot pass over until justice is measured out to those who had died with the stain of guilt clinging to them like a scarlet letter? Cold spots have also been reported, along with several photographs that have captured strange glowing lights and hovering orbs. This crevice is considered by many to be the home of several apparitions that belong to some of the 19 innocent victims of the Salem witch hunts.

Jonathon Corwin House

Salem. Black wood home

The haunted house of one of the judges who presided in the Witch Trials. Image Source

The Jonathan Corwin House in Salem, also known colloquially as The Witch House, was the home of Judge Jonathan Corwin and is the only structure you can visit in Salem with direct ties to the Salem witch trials of 1692. On February 11, 1674, 24-year-old Corwin purchased this property when it was still just a partially finished house from Captain Richard Davenport. After the house was finished it was considered an excellent example of seventeenth-century architecture. He lived here for more than forty years. Corwin, buried in the nearby Broad Street Cemetery, still abides in this house some will say. Is this his purgatory, meted out because injustice prevailed under his watch? 

As a local magistrate and civic leader, Corwin was called upon to investigate the claims of diabolical activity when a surge of witchcraft accusations arose in Salem and neighboring communities. He served on the court which ultimately sent nineteen innocent souls to the gallows. All nineteen refused to admit to witchcraft and not one of them was believed. Justice may be blind but it is certainly not deaf. Yet Corwin was not moved by the pleas of the women who quaked in fear before him. He made already made up his mind and believed these women conspired with Satan and therefore should be excommunicated from the Christian flock for eternity. But yet it is the Judge who lingers, who is confined to his house, unable to move into the light because he refused to hear the truth that was spoken by the God-fearing men and women of Salem. 

The house remained in the Corwin family until the mid-1800s. Although it is not owned by the Corwin’s, the house still is haunted by one. He has been seen as a full-bodied apparition pensively looking out at the town through the windows of the home he loved so much. Perhaps he stares at his own grave and yearns to go back and fix past transgressions. Whatever the reason, Judge Corwin is now intrinsically attached to the witches he so ruthlessly persecuted. 

 Broad St. Cemetery

The dead do not rest in peace in this cemetery. Image Source

Occasionally, a ghost will haunt two different locations often at different ages within their span of life. The Broad Street Cemetery is an example of this kind of haunting. Opened in 1655, making it the second oldest cemetery in town, it is the final resting place of both Judge Jonathan Corwin and his nephew George Corwin, who was the High Sheriff during the witchcraft trials. Judge Corwin died in 1718 at the age of 78 and Sheriff Corwin died in 1696 at the age of 30. Both are in the Corwin plot marked by a small, off-white obelisk. Looking from Broad Street, this can be found just right of the center of the cemetery, near the back fence. It is interesting to note, what remains of readable text on the obelisk shows the spelling of the family name as Curwin. Some descendants who remained in Salem after the witch trials changed the spelling of their last names in the 18th Century in hopes of execrating themselves from the shame brought to Salem by its witch trials. 

In this cemetery, Judge Corwin does double duty. Unlike the younger version of himself witnessed at the Witch House, the spirit of Corwin who haunts the area around his grave is a much older man. This elderly ghost of Judge Corwin is often witnessed with another phantasm whom many believe is the soul of Sheriff Corwin. 

The Sheriff, like his uncle, were steadfast in their belief that they were truly ridding Salem of witches and their diabolic craft. As agents of justice and representatives of God on earth, these men were unflinching in their resolve to rid the town of Salem of those who connived with the Devil. As the High Sheriff of Essex County, Massachusetts during the Salem witch trials, George was the one who signed warrants for the arrest and execution of those condemned of witchcraft. Corwin was also responsible for choosing the execution site in Salem for the 19 innocent people hanged. On September 16, 1692, he was ordered by the Court to preside over the interrogation under torture of Giles Corey, who was pressed to death for refusing to stand trial for witchcraft. This job was not for the squeamish and this Sheriff did his duty quite well. 

However, Corwin died of a heart attack on April 12, 1696, at the age of 30, after which his burial was delayed by a Salem resident named Phillip English, who accused himself during the witch trials, and had his property seized by Corwin. English put a lien on Corwin’s corpse and delayed its burial until he had been reimbursed for the property he lost to Corwin. He was eventually reimbursed, allowing the burial to proceed. But at least Corwin received a burial, unlike those he had hanged and who were denied rest in peace. It is this cosmic karma that keeps the uncle and nephew chained to this world. They must come to terms with what they have done before they can claim their eternal reward. After all these years, they appear to be too stubborn to admit they were wrong. Or could it be that they are sentenced to remain in Salem as a punishment, doomed to watch life pass them by?

Old Burying Point Cemetery

A place where ghosts outnumber the graves. Image Source

The Old Burying Point Cemetery dates back to 1637 making it Salem’s oldest cemetery and even one of the oldest burial spaces in the United States. Hundreds of worn tombstones remain upright, poking through the ground, crumbling remembrances of the past and the people who lived in Salem. But there is something a bit sinister about this cemetery if you dig a bit deeper. There are some 600 people laid to rest there, yet only around 485 headstones are present. Why? In the past, land was at a premium in an agricultural community, so it was not unusual to see a single marker used for a group of people.

In fact, several families at Old Burying Point are buried in this manner. Members of the Wade family, who started the cemetery, have a burial plot with a single headstone that belongs to four members of their family. It may come as no wonder that a place containing so many bodies from Salem’s tumultuous past would come with a few ghost stories.

Perhaps one of the most notable individuals interred within the Old Burying Point is Jonathan Hawthorne. Hawthorne is best known and remembered as being a judge during the infamous witch trials. During that time, he gained his own infamy for his involvement in the sentencing of supposed witches. This was to earn him the nickname the “Hanging Judge.” After more than 300 years since his death, Hawthorne is still remembered throughout Massachusetts as a cruel religious zealot incapable of showing mercy. Many historians have accused him of using his seat on the bench to commit murder! His apparition is supposedly sighted so commonly that it has also shown up in a number of photographs that have been snapped within this cemetery! Could it be that he still hunts this area, searching for another victim?

In addition to Hawthorne’s ghost making itself known, plenty of other reports of strange activity have been recorded or witnessed within this cemetery. Witnessing visual anomalies such as unexplainable lights, sometimes referred to as “ghost light” are common, as well as people feeling sudden drops in the air temperature and even reporting hearing disembodied voices.

Murphy’s Pub

Where past and present clash. Image Source

Strangely, the hauntings of those buried within the old cemetery have even seeped from the ground of the cemetery and spread to neighboring residences. Murphy’s Pub, which sits directly next door to the Old Burying Point, is said to have had some wandering spirits from the cemetery make their way through the property. The now-vacant building is well-known among locals as being one of Salem’s most haunted structures. From guests to employees, the stories that have been shared are the stuff of nightmares. 

Murphy’s was at one time considered to be a hot spot for frightening ghostly activities. Its former owner, Henry McGowan, once maintained that he came face-to-face with a female apparition while he was working alone late one night. At about 3:00 AM, the traditional “witching hour,” he says that he was up on the second floor and, when looking up toward the third floor, he saw someone in the shape of a woman looking down at him. Then the apparition simply vanished. 

In reports that seem to validate the former owner’s sighting, witnesses at the pub’s bar have also reported the apparition of a young lady wearing a vintage blue dress. Others have claimed to have seen a similar ghostly spirit, the only variation being that they saw her carrying around a picnic basket with a small boy dressed in black by her side.

Guests have said that they’ve heard the cry of a young child, while others have said that there are cold spots within certain areas of Murphy’s. Adding to this are the rumors that its foundations are built upon another old burial site from Salem’s earlier days. This may account for the witnessing of glowing orbs and illuminated glowing mists seen within the building, phantasmic energy from lives that have been forgotten yet continue to assert their existence. 

Visitors to this building have regularly claimed that they’ve spotted the infamous “Lady in White.” Not just in the building that once held Murphy’s Restaurant and Pub but in and around many other locations in Salem, the Lady in White is rarely captured in photographs. She is sometimes seen wandering around the Old Burying Point Cemetery, and as such shows up in select pictures as a slight apparition.

Who is this Lady in White? The ghostly apparition has mostly been reported coming from within the Old Burying Point Cemetery and emanating around the marker of Mary Cory. Poor Mary endured much in Salem. Mary was the second wife of Giles Cory, who was executed by Sheriff George Corwin during the Salem Witch Trials. His execution was different than the normal hangings, with Sheriff Corwin having him crushed to death with stones. While Mary was indeed Giles’ second wife, historians surmise that she was also the love of his life, so it lends to reason that her marker would be highly haunted. It’s interesting, too, that when her spirit is seen it is often heading toward the site of her husband’s execution. 

House of  Seven Gables

The famous house of the seven gables. Image Source

Built-in 1668 for Captain John Turner, the mansion was initially known as the Turner House. However, John Turner eventually died at sea, and his widowed wife married another sea captain by the name of Charles Redford. Knowing that his fate would most likely be met at sea, Captain Redford ensured in his will that the mansion would go to his new stepchildren. This uncanny premonition would indeed come to pass and Captain Redford’s recently acquired home was passed on to the Turner children without an issue. It is after this that the house began to become a major part of the Salem Witch Trial’s lore.

During the hysteria, it didn’t take much more than a passing accusation to be put on trial. John Turner Jr. was well aware of this and rightfully wanted to protect his sisters during this manic time. With the knowledge that children as young as four were being accused of witchcraft and faced potential death at Proctor’s Ledge, John built a hidden staircase along the fireplace within the Turner mansion, as well as a secret dining room and a hidden office space. These safe rooms prove how real and terrifying this time in Salem truly was. The fear of accusation was pervasive and people went to extreme measures to hide from the storm that was battering their town. 

Nathaniel Hawthorne. Image Source

After all the Turner heirs died and the hysteria of the witch hunts finally abated, the house then became the property of the Ingersoll family and become known as the Turner-Ingersoll Mansion. However, a young writer by the name of often visited Susannah Ingersoll and it was he that named the building the House of the Seven Gables. The name stuck and Hawthorne would memorialize it forever in his classic work by the same name. Interestingly, the harsh Judge John Hawthorne, who sent so many innocent people to their death, is the great-great-grandfather of author Nathaniel Hawthorne. By the time Hawthorne was writing, the people of Salem were deliberately attempting to exorcise the demons of their past and trying to erase that incendiary period from history. But the witch trials left such a wound on the surface of Salem that even by this time the wound was still opened. You see, ghosts are reminders of the past.

Ghosts abide in this famous house and call it home long after their bodies have decayed into dust. Silhouettes in the shadows of every floor have been witnessed, these shadow people a common occurrence in not only this house but throughout Salem. The ghost of a little boy has been seen playing near the attic, and even the spirit of Susannah Ingersoll walking the halls are just a few of the entities said to have been seen. Often, the undead is seen as vaporous figures near the gables of the mansion, further adding to the terror.

This haunted manor also has unexplained poltergeist activity within, such as lights turning off and on by themselves as well as water faucets activating all on their own. Museum staff and visitors alike have reported the feeling of an unseen entity within the house. The House of the Seven Gables is a veritable smorgasbord of paranormal activity. 

The Old Salem Jail

You can now share an apartment with a ghost in the now-renovated old Salem jail. Image Source

In the market for a posh apartment building in Salem? In the market for the perfect home featuring exposed brick walls, large glass windows, and iron gates? Oh, and you will also get a ghost or two! Still interested? Then look no further than 50 St. Peter’s Street. It’s historic, it’s haunted and it just so happens to be the country’s first established penitentiary. You see, this new luxury apartment building is none other than the Old Salem Jail. The Old Salem Jail was built in 1813, but this jail was built on the site of the execution of Giles Corey! 

Giles Corey remained one of the few accused men during the Witch Trials of 1692. A man in his 80s, Corey faced prosecution after rumors emerged that his spirit was wandering Salem Village and attacking young girls. Corey adamantly refuted these claims and denied that he had any involvement with witchcraft whatsoever. But rumors at this time were also synonymous with guilt, and Corey quickly found himself in a precarious position. He could either plead guilty and a “fair” trial would ensue; or, he could maintain his innocence and proper punishment would be doled out. Corey did neither, refusing to speak the words that allow the trial to commence. Acting on the orders of Judge John Hathorne, the High Sheriff George Corwin, dragged the old man to what was then an empty field where Corwin laid Corey’s body out on the grass. A wooden frame was placed on his chest, and then stones were laid, one by one, on top of the wood, effectively crushing Giles Corey to death. This was the foundation upon which the jail was built. 

Death was a legacy for this piece of property. In the early days of this Federal-style jail, prisoners most commonly met their death by hanging. Most tally the hangings at an estimated 50 souls over the years. But not all the hangings were done as punishment for a crime. On more than one occasion, inmates sought to take their own lives because of the terrible living conditions. For nearly 177 years, the Old Salem Jail was a symbol of misery. Inmates did their time in a living Hell. 

Eventually, this historic jail would close due to being so outdated. There weren’t flush toilets inside the jail until the 1970s!  But even while the jail was set vacant, it definitely wasn’t silent. Those passing by the then-empty jail swore that they saw lights flickering inside, despite the fact that the prison was no longer hooked up to the electrical circuits. Eerie screams have been heard at all hours of the day, and those who were brave enough to step within its abandoned walls often were witnesses to shadow people lurking in the halls! 

When the City of Salem purchased the abandoned jail in 2001, they desperately hoped that a developer would come along and reinvigorate life in the former jail. Indeed, a company did come in and revitalized the prison into luxury apartments. In the same building that housed and executed the Boston strangler, you can now have an apartment! Who will be your roommates? It could be Giles Corey, or perhaps a soul of any number of the men who passed through the jail’s gates. Or perhaps you will cozy up with a ghost from the Civil War!

During the Civil War, confederate soldiers were allegedly imprisoned in the Old Salem Jail. Indeed, there have been sightings of spirits wearing 19th-century clothing at the old jail before it became apartments. Some believe these ghostly soldiers to be the source of the agonizing cries heard all throughout the night and some link these soldiers to the spirit within the building said to be seen holding a candle.

A Final Thought

At one time, society found their flawed thinking to be perfectly rational. Often what has been feared results in acts of inhumanity. In this case, the Salem Witch Trials and the horror surrounding it, people lived in sheer panic stemming from a few allegations. It is out of these emotions of fear and anger, these raw, visceral passions, that hauntings occur, created in this frenzied storm of confusion. Sadly, innocent victims had to pay the ultimate price for their society’s notion of justice. God’s work soon became the Devil’s delight. There is certainly a lesson to be learned through all of this. Throughout history, mankind has shown that the worst often comes out when we let our emotions get the better of us. All it took was a few people alleging witchcraft and 19 people died in the name of justice. There is, however, a positive side to the horror. Salem has become a teaching moment. The House of the Seven Gables now operates as a museum, teaching a newer generation about the fragile times in which we once lived. The Witch Museum displays relics from the town’s dark past. The reproductions of the headstones naming those who died as suspected witches stand as silent reminders of these heinous times. The only part of this history that still screams out is its ghosts. 

Following the trials and executions of 1692, many involved, like judge Samuel Sewall, publicly confessed error and guilt. On January 14, 1697, the General Court of Massachusetts ordered a day of fasting and soul-searching for the tragedy of Salem. In 1702, the court declared the trials unlawful. And in 1711, the colony passed a bill restoring the rights and good names of those accused. However, it was not until 1957, more than 250 years later, that Massachusetts formally apologized for the events of 1692.

Now, when we think of Salem, maybe movies like Hocus Pocus come to mind or the television show, Bewitched. The town has now become the setting for comedies. But we must never forget what happened in this quaint little seaside town in Massachusetts. Why? Because we study history so we don’t commit the same mistakes we did in the past. 

Without the same mistakes, maybe the dead can finally rest in peace.  



Featured Image Source

Burr, George Lincoln, ed. Narratives of the Witchcraft Cases, 1648–1706. C. Scribner’s Sons. 1914.

Demos, John . Entertaining Satan : Witchcraft and the Culture of Early New 

     England. Oxford University Press. 1983. 

Snyder, Heather. “Giles Corey.” Salem Witch Trials.