Paranormal Salem – 5 Haunted Destinations You MUST Visit

 

Today we’re diving into the deep end with a thorough overview of Salem’s haunted past. In this video, you’ll get a once-over on a wide range of haunted Salem history from such eras as:


  • The Salem Witch Trials
  • Prohibition
  • The Revolutionary War
  • Salem’s Era of Maritime Trade
  • The Civil War
  • And more!



 

Is Salem Haunted?

What I really love about Salem is that it’s a place that keeps giving. The more you look, the more you see in the Witch City. And the haunted history of Salem Massachusetts is no different. So it should be no surprise that what began as a somewhat idle curiosity about the haunted history of the Witch City should evolve into a weeks-long affair.

What really surprised me is that The Salem Witch Trials has almost nothing to do with the supposed ghosts that roam the brick-lined streets. Only a handful of the specters floating about had anything to do with that storied era in 1692.

It’s for this reason that I actually think Salem’s haunted history is actually a really good pathway into the town’s history in general (by the way, that last link leads to what I consider to be the definitive online source on Salem’s past and present, so click it if you’re interested).

 


Old Burying Point Cemetery


 

Skimming the Surface

The thing that initially drew me to Salem is still true for me today. Namely, you can feel the history of the place in every alleyway, on ever shore. And I’m not just talking Witch Trials here either. While I was somewhat surprised to find that Salem’s haunted past goes as deep as it does (believe it or not, this 18 minute video is really just skimming the surface), I wasn’t surprised that it existed necessarily. It seems all of Salem is like this: you think it’s one thing and it turns out to be another entirely.

So, is Salem haunted? Yes. Haunted by ghosts? Well, that’s another conversation altogether. Stay weird, witches!

 



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Full Video Transcript Below:

Hello witches and welcome to Salem, the weirdest place on earth. Today we’re getting ready for the oncoming Autumn by having a look at five of the more notorious haunted locales in the witch city. To appear on this list, a location had to meet two criteria. First, the history surrounding the purported haunting has to have been genuinely fascinating. And second, every single location on this list you can still visit today. Please do take a moment to subscribe to the channel and hit the bell to be notified when our witchy goodness makes its way to the YouTube. Now get your EMF readers ready and your proton packs primed. Let’s get spooky witches. 

 

5) Wicked Good Books

We’re starting this list off with Salem’s official haunted bookstore which, in a town filled with shops that claim to traffic in occult knowledge (how people believe that consumerism and hidden knowledge play so nicely together is beyond me), is saying something. Wicked Good Books is a quiet, unassuming little shop on Essex Street that most visitors to Salem will likely recognize. The shop maintains a nice collection of local books and never fails to organize its window dressing in exactly the way you’d want a New England bookstore to. 

 

Oh and it’s also super haunted. Guests and employees have both reported instances of books flying off shelves. This isn’t an entirely new phenomenon for Wicked Good Books either. The shop was formerly called Derby Square Bookstore and was rather infamously known for its floor-to-ceiling stacking system. Even in that store’s 40 year run, there were reports of hauntings about. When the Derby Square Bookstore finally closed its doors, local lawyer Denise Kent stepped in to open another book shop in its place. 

 

During the renovation process, Kent called in renowned paranormal investigator Ron Kolek of New England Ghost Project fame to check out the recently-discovered tunnels beneath the shop in an effort to determine if there was indeed any support to the long held local belief that the building was haunted. Kolek returned “convincing” evidence of human remains as well as two supposedly entombed runaway slaves. I did look for some kind of documented evidence of Kolek’s hunt, but had trouble finding any. So if you happen to have some primary sources, please let me know in the comments below. I’d be fascinated to check it out. 

 

4) Bunghole Liquors

Speaking of hidden chambers and basements, Bunghole Liquors is not just an irresistibly amusing thing to say, it’s also a rather popular spot down by the water in the Pickering Wharf area. But before this liquor store was a hole for bung, it was a hole for cadavers. It served as a funeral home for some time, most notably during the Prohibition-era. 

 

Now, don’t get me wrong, I like a stiff drink every now and then. But I’m not sure I would go to the lengths that Prohibition-era Salemites did to get one. With limited access, the owners of the funeral parlor decided to run a sort of tavern out of the basement. This was, quite grossly, the exact same spot where bodies were embalmed in preparation for their ultimate rest. 

After Prohibition was lifted and the parlor received its second liquor license, one of the original owner’s relatives (who was actually a priest), suggested that the now-governmentally permissioned liquor spot adopt the name that locals had taken to calling it during the Prohibition. Ya know that little hole in a barrel? That thing was called a bunghole in 1930’s slang and it commonly became shorthand to refer to the Parlor without any interested parties knowing what the heck you were talking about. So, instead of saying, “Hey Brian, let’s meet at the funeral parlor later and drink whiskey next to corpses.” You could simply say, “Hey Bri-bri. Bunghole later?” 

These days, shoppers at the Bunghole claim that a female spirit and black cat both haunt the establishment. Perhaps they are the spectral remains of frequenters from the speakeasy era. Or maybe the black cat could’ve been a stowaway from a recently-docked pirate ship. Oh, you didn’t know Salem had pirates? Yeah, totally did. Speaking of which…

 

3) Mercy Tavern

One of those incredible areas that tourists don’t usually explore when they come to Salem is the town’s world-famous maritime trade industry. Honestly, this is way too big of a topic to get into in this video, but here are the highlights. Following the Revolutionary War, many of the burgeoning seaport towns on the east coast were financially decimated. This was not true for Salem. In many cases, Salem’s early maritime merchants actually came out richer than they were before. The reasons for this are numerous, but a large part of it is definitely owed to Salem’s natural harbor being absolutely perfect and a healthy spirit of industriousness being totally woven into Salem’s cultural fabric.

 

After the war, many international traders were eying Boston as the most likely Massachusetts. The burgeoning Salem maritime elite needed a big plan and they needed it fast. Luckily their ports were positively stuffed with armed trading vessels from the war. Thus began an era of trade and privateering (or legal piracy) that vaulted Salem into the ranks of serious international trade player, competing even with the likes of Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Charlston. 

 

In this era, the Pickering Wharf area became an infamous red light district of sorts. The reason why is pretty obvious – it’s a long stretch of businesses and houses right by the ports and, as we’ve already discussed, Salemites are industrious like nobody else. 

 

So with the swell in privateering and an unending flood of incoming travelers from China, India, Sumatra, and Arabia as well as whatever American ne’erdowells happen to have found their way to the Salem ports, Derby Street businesses shifted to seedier enterprises to capitalize. One such establishment is present day Mercy Tavern. A few years ago, the tavern was called “In a Pig’s Eye” and the patrons of it claimed to often hear disembodied voices, see sea captains disappear into walls, and be shocked by sudden, untraceable screams. Mercy Tavern is even reported to be linked via a secret network of underground tunnels that Pirate-era Salemites would use to traffic illicit goods and stolen people from Salem proper to the oceanfront in an effort to whisk them out to sea on some dark vessel. Geeze, what is it with Salem and secret tunnels? 

 

2) Gardner-Pingree House

Many tourists’ first indication that Salem’s history might have a bit more to it than witches alone rests at the intersection of Essex Street and Hawthorne Boulevard. This particular spot has three historically-fascinating spots all within a few block radius and each coming from a wildly different era of Salem’s past. 

 

Our second-to-last haunt reportedly inspired the following passage, an abridged performance of which I now humbly beg your indulgence for: 

 

“No doubt I now grew very pale; — but I talked more fluently, and with a heightened voice. Yet the sound increased — and what could I do? It was a low, dull, quick sound — much such a sound as a watch makes when enveloped in cotton. I gasped for breath…I foamed — I raved — I swore! I swung the chair upon which I had been sitting,{j} and grated it upon the boards, but the noise arose over all and continually increased. It grew louder — louder — louder! And still the men chatted pleasantly, and smiled…Villains!” I shrieked, “dissemble no more! I admit the deed! — tear up the planks! — here, here! — it is the beating of his hideous heart!”

 

Edgar Allen Poe was inspired to pen the famous Tell Tale Heart based on the murder of Joseph White at the Gardner-Pingree House in Salem on the night of April 6th, 1830. The house is very much still a major part of the Salem scenery and is positioned right across the street from a few of the more frequented witch shops in town. So, if you’ve been to Salem, you’ve likely seen this place. And, if you’ve taken a ghost tour or two in the past, you may have even heard of the gruesome assissanation that occurred within. 

 

On that early April eve, the 82 year-old Sea Captain and former slave trader Joseph White was asleep in his bed when John Francis (or Frank) Knapp crept in through a downstairs window and silently made his way up the stairs to the bed chamber. There he bludgeoned White to death with a club-like weapon fashioned by co-conspirator Richard Crowninshield. 

 

Very long and fascinating story short, Knapp and Crowninshield had occasion to believe that if Joseph White were to die with his will having disappeared, his considerable wealth would be spread out among his surviving relatives. As it turns out, one of those was Knapp’s mother-in-law. So that explains why Knapp wanted White dead, but what about Richard Crowninshield. Turns out, he was just a bastard and everyone knew it. He frequented spots of ill repute and was known locally as “disreputable.” 

 

The conspirators met at the Salem common and planned the theft of the will and subsequent violent slaying. Unfortunately for them, none of it really worked out. Frank’s brother Joe (another conspirator) attempted to steal the will from an iron lockbox before the murder, but took the wrong document which was, as White was old and not a complete idiot, already safe in his lawyer’s lockbox. So, in the end, a fascinating hunt insued after White’s murder and John Francis Knapp was eventually apprehended as an accomplice to the crime. He rolled over on Richard Crowninshield as the principle in the murder and, therefor based on the legal system of the time, the first to be tried. Richard found this out from a friend before his trial date could occur and as a final insult to the legal system, hanged himself before the authorities could do it. This caused a bit of a problem as the law at the time held that the principle agent in the murder must be tried in order to pursue the accomplices. Cue the legendary Daniel Webster. 

 

Honestly, this segment is already super long, so I’m not going to go in-depth with who Daniel Webster was and why he’s one of the most iconic Americans who has ever lived, but suffice it to say his coming into this ordeal was a massive affair. He went on to deliver one of the most beautiful, elegantly phrased prosecutorial arguments in the history of my country’s legal system all in an effort to shift the principle blame from the now-deceased Crowninshield to Frank Knapp. Webster was successful and a few months later both Frank and his brother Joe were hanged. 

 

The murder and trial were such that the echoes of them reverberated all the way even to New York City and influenced the likes of Edgar Allen Poe and Nathaniel Hawthorne who was in his mid-twenties at the time. These days, the Gardner-Pingree house still stands as a reminder of the brutal slaying and almost cinematic aftermath of it. Plenty of visitors report hearing odd footsteps, doors slamming. They see odd, ghostly faces in the windows. Some even claim that on a certain night in April, if you listen very closely, you can hear the thwack of the club and groans of the old captain as his life slips gruesomely away. 

 

1) Hawthorne Hotel

Now, Salem is like a lot of old New England towns in that it can be difficult to draw distinctions between historical facts and legends. Unfortunately, to even begin talking about the historical reasons behind our final haunting, we have to indulge in a bit of legend. Bridget Bishop was the first victim of the Salem Witch Trials and she was, to put it mildly, someone of an enigmatic character in 1692’s Salem. The next video we’re putting together is all about her, actually, so if you’re interested, check out the channel for that.

 

Booking.com

 

Anywho, our final haunting could really be subtitled “A Tale of Two Orchards.” Oddly enough, for reasons I don’t really understand, Bridget Bishop’s apple orchard is somewhat famous in Salem. Both the Lyceum or present-day Turner’s Seafood and The Hawthorne Hotel claim to be built upon the land where the apples once fell. Perhaps they both were? I’m not really sure. Maybe I’ll find out in the course of researching Bishop. 

 

Anywho, the hauntings of The Hawthorne Hotel begin, at lease chronologically with Bishop and her apple orchard. She is one of many spectres that have reportedly haunted the Hawthorne over the years. Visitors report seeing her spectral visage wandering the halls, bringing with it the scent of freshly bitten apples. She seems to favor room 612. Why that particular room? Well, I’m no numerology expert, but here are some guesses. She was hanged in 1692. There’s an obvious 1, 6, and 2 in there. She was killed on June 10 of that year. So, that would be 6-10-92, which is also kind of close. But this one’s the most interesting. If you actually add up all of the numbers in her death date, you get 1708. Then, divide that number by 2.79 to get 612. What’s 2.79 you ask? A number that works for this scenario. Again, I’m really not an expert. 

 

But Bridget isn’t the only deceased denizen of the Hawthorne. The hotel is rather famously the home of The Salem Marine Society. Now, again, this is a topic that’s bigger than this video. But, for our purposes here, know that many sea voyagers have made their way into somewhat hidden alcoves in The Hawthorne. And some of these reportedly never left. 

 

Sea captains, mariners, pirates, all have been reported in The Hawthorne. If I had to suppose such a thing, I would suppose that The Hawthorne is probably the most haunted place in Salem in terms of sheer volume and claims of sightings. Why exactly? I’m not sure. It certainly doesn’t have as colorful a history as some of the other places even on this list. It was only built in 1925, which by Salem standards, isn’t that old. Perhaps it has more to do with the venerable nature of its location and namesake. Everything about the Hawthorne feels like Salem. It is, in my opinion, the most Salem of the Salem hotels. Perhaps its very Salemness and the transient nature of its inhabitants, both marine or otherwise, somehow creates a liminal space between our material world and another, less graspable one. 

 

I don’t know, really. But I do know that the spirits here aren’t just seafarers and apple pickers. Infant ghosts reside here as well. Room 325 is a coldspot of electrical fault. The plumbing disrupts, the lights falter with no reason behind any of it. Perhaps that’s what’s truly terrifying about The Hawthorne – the sheer variety of seemingly malevolent, inexplicable entities prowling its halls. Viewed through such a lens, one almost longs for the comfort of a known ghost. A woman in the orchard, a drunkard in the cellar, an elderly victim in his deathbed, a merchant creeping through a darkened tunnel. The lens of history reshades each of these into yet more maddening horrors. But none such as these are as chilling as the infant with no name, the slow unexplained motion of a captain’s wheel untouched, yet still revolving on its axis, the moans from nowhere to noone. The Hawthorne Hotel has each of these and more in wait for any and all who dare to invite them in. 

 

Thank you so much for checking out this video. Please do like the video, subscribe to the channel, and hit the notification bell for more witchy goodness. Check out ToSalem.com for a boatload of images and articles and more all about the witch city. Stay weird witches. I’ll see you next time. 

 

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