Most people know the Salem Witch Trials best through Arthur Miller’s classic play, The Crucible – but go on a Salem witch tour, and you’ll quickly discover that those chilling events weren’t fictional. In 1692, a bizarre – some say paranormal – fervour took hold of a small, religious town in Massachusetts, and in the space of a year and a half, several dozen people, mostly women, were executed or jailed for being witches.
Today, we look back on the event as one of the more tragic and mystifying chapters in early American history. But for those fascinated by all things macabre and spooky, the Witch Trials have also inspired a lasting interest that still surrounds the town of Salem today.
If you’re heading out of Boston in search of a compelling, uniquely local daytrip, a Salem witch tour is bound to captivate. The town is still full of historic sights that will help flesh out the story – not to mention a fair few haunted properties for those after more contemporary frights.
The first stop for the visiting witch hunter should be the Salem Witch Museum, which memorialises every moment in the New England town’s lurid history. Guides school visitors on the history of witchcraft, as well as how the practice of witch hunting still, incredibly, exists in places today.
While the life-size figures and sets immerse guests in the history of the events, for an especially chill-inducing experience, the Charter Street Cemetery – the oldest in the city (and second oldest in the country) – also plays an important role in the town’s haunted history. Magistrate John Hathorne, who worked as an interrogator during the trials, is buried here, as are several other residents connected to the episode. Wander by close to sunset for an especially goosepimply atmosphere.
After a stroll amongst the crooked and weather-beaten graves, continue your Salem witch tour through the centre of town, where historic building – some of which date all the way back to the 17th century – are still standing. The dusk-coloured House of the Seven Gables is perhaps the most famous of the lot. Located on the harbour, the property (part of the National Historic Landmark District) was built by a local sea captain in 1668. Guides will direct viewers through its interior, which still looks as it would have over 300 years ago. The house is also cited as one of Salem’s famously haunted properties – be wary of any spooky sightings or unexplained slamming doors!