The Salem Witch Museum is probably one of the most famous buildings in the Witch City. Salem hope owners frequently plaster it’s visage on postcards, t-shirts, stickers, and so much more. Today we explore the history of this world-renowned landmark from the beginning of its storied history in 1718 to today. On this page, you’ll find everything you need to know about The Salem Witch Museum.
Don’t Have Time for a Deep Dive?
For a very fast, general overview, check out this one minute overview of The Salem Witch Museum.
Everything You Need to Know about The Salem Witch Museum
Below you’ll find a much more comprehensive exploration of the history of The Salem Witch Museum. Continue past the video for transcripts from both of the videos on this page as well as some supplemental tourist and visitation information. This video features a bunch of research and fascinating photographs of the building throughout the ages as well. So if you’re interested in seeing the Salem that was, watch the entire thing. And also see where The Salem Witch Museum placed in our Top 5 Things to Do in Salem Massachusetts video.
Quick Info on The Salem Witch Trials Museum
The Salem Witch Museum is one of the most iconic locations in Salem, Massachusetts. The structure originally functioned as a church built in 1718. In 1956, a fire nearly destroyed the structure. Soon after, the owners sold the building. Amazingly, the building housed a variety of congregations from 1718 until the sale in 1956. In 1958, it opened as an automobile museum and shop. Then, a decade later another fire destroyed that enterprise. In 1972, The Salem Witch Museum officially opened its doors. It went on to be pivotal in the beginning of Salem’s October-long Haunted Happenings Festival a year after its opening. Learn more about the history of this fascinating building here.
The Salem Witch Museum Inside
The attraction features a primary presentation, secondary presentation, and gift shop. After entering the building, guests meet a hallway housing various artifacts relating to the witch trials. They are then led into the main chamber, within which the primary presentation occurs. Wax figure dioramas perch above and around guests.
Light cues and audio narration sequence the dioramas and detail the events that lead to and occurred within The Salem Witch Trials. The secondary presentation is led by a museum guide and it is in a much smaller back room. It has to do with the perception of witchcraft through the ages. Guests are led through the gift shop after this second presentation on their way out of the attraction.
How Long is the Salem Witch Museum Tour
The entire tour, including both collections, takes no more than 30-45 minutes. The second half of the tour, which takes place in the smaller back room in the building, varies in time depending on tour guide and audience size.
Salem Witch Museum Hours
The attraction is open all year from 10am to 5pm. In July and August, they extend their closing by two hours to 7pm. October hours vary, so check here for those. The Museum closes on Thanksgiving, Christmas, at 3pm on New Year’s Day, and a couple weeks in January.
The closest hotel to the Salem Witch Museum is The Hawthorne Hotel with its entrance roughly two blocks from the museum. Other nearby hotels are The Salem Waterfront Hotel and Hotel Salem. Both are about as far away from The Salem Witch Trials Museum. The Waterfront is in the Pickering Wharf area of the Witch City, which is slightly removed from the main Essex Street drag, but still well within walking distance of everything in Salem and on the Trolley line.
Hotel Salem is on the main Essex Street drag and is centrally-located to everything in downtown Salem.
Contact the Salem Witch Museum
You can reach The Salem Witch Museum at 978-744-1692 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Salem Witch Museum – What’s the Story Full Video Transcript:
Below you’ll find the recording transcript for this video.
Hello witches and welcome To Salem, the weirdest place on earth. Today we’re having a look at one of the most iconic buildings in everyone’s favorite haunted locale, the Salem Witch Museum. If in your many wanderings you have ever Googled Salem, gotten a Witch City postcard from a friend, or just happen to have seen literally anything from the town, there’s a pretty good chance you’ve already been exposed to this gothic landmark. But what’s the deal with this place? Was it built to be a spooky-looking museum? Does it double as a satanic church by chance? Are there blood sacrifices in the basement?
Let’s find out in this episode of What’s the Story With the Salem Witch Museum.
Let’s get the most obvious point out of the way right at the top. Yes, this used to be a church. Now, when you visit Salem, one of the more disappointing things you’ll likely learn is that there remain very few actual public artifacts from the Witch Hysteria of 1692. The Peabody Essex Museum houses some notable trinkets from the trials in its collection, but is not displaying them any time soon.
The town does its level best to work against this with interesting attractions that allude in an immersive way to its witchy history. The Salem Pioneer Village and Witch House are probably the best two examples of this. But, in general, most of the actual buildings connected to the Witch Trials no longer exist.
Salem Witch Trials Connection
There are, however, some structures in town with interesting bits of anecdotal or peripheral witch trials history. And The Salem Witch Museum is one such place. In April 1718 a mere 26 years after the conclusion of the witch trials, Cotton Mather preached the first sermon at The East Church. This building is the present day Salem Witch Museum, albeit slightly modified – we’ll get to that later. You’ll remember Cotton Mather penned, among other things, the infamous account of the possession of the Goodwin children in Boston in 1684 titled Remarkable Providences.
Cotton Mather’s Involvement
This work outlined behaviors that were eerily similar to that of the Salem accusers’during the witch trials and some speculate that that is no coincidence. Mather was not directly involved in the witch trials. But he did warn the court to be cautious when considering spectral evidence, an urging that, had it been heeded, might have kept the entire sordid affair from ever occurring. He was also instrumental in the makeup of the trial’s judges and he and his powerful father Increase Mather both seemed to justify the trials after they occurred.
Cotton was also directly involved in the execution of the only minister to be hanged in the witch hysteria, George Burroughs. So, Cotton was a lot like all of us: a bit of a good guy and a bit of a frightened mouse in a giant maze trying desperately to have some order in a disordered world and helping kill innocent people to do it. What? You don’t do that?
From Church to Museum
But there’s more to the East Church’s history than Cotton Mather. In 1897 the East Church and Barton Square Church combined forces to create the Second Unitarian Church. Five years later, a fire destroyed a good deal of the interior including the pipe organ, causing major renovations to occur. The beginning of the end of the church days for this building came in 1956 when another church merger caused the congregation to vacate the space. It was then put up for sale in 1958. A year later, the Salem Auto Museum and Americana Shops opened inside and housed vintage automobiles and 14 shops. This museum remained in the space until 1969 when another fire destroyed the interior of the building. Another remodeling followed this and in 1972 the Salem Witch Museum officially opened its gigantic doors.
What’s It Like Inside?
Upon entering the museum, the lobby houses all the history you’d like to know before the presentation begins. We’re talking the names of the victims, some interesting period replicas, and even information on some cool media things like Arthur Miller’s The Crucible and the movie adaptation of it with Daniel Day Lewis and Wynona Rider. Inside the cavernous main area, a series of sets and life-size figures surround visitors. The presentation involves lighting the sets sequentially as a voiceover narration tells the tale of the Witch Hysteria.
After the main presentation, guests relocate to the back room. In this much smaller space waits an installation from 1999 titled “Witches: Evolving Perceptions.” This area attempts to talk about the western perception of witches throughout the ages and its correlation to the real witches of today. There’s a gift shop on your way out because of course there is, this is Salem after all.
Who Owns The Salem Witch Museum?
The museum is owned by Biff Michaud, a Marblehead resident who comes from a prominent local family. Biff is responsible for helping turn Salem into Halloween central as he worked with the Salem Chamber of Commerce to create “Haunted Happenings” which was, initially, a one-day family celebration, but has evolved into a month-long October behemoth that draws in most of Salem’s tourist bucks and keeps a lot of the local businesses afloat.
The museum itself is touted as the most popular in Salem, a claim backed up by the Boston Business Journal. It was also heavily involved in the 300 year remembrance of the witch trials in 1992 as well as the dedication of the Salem Witch Trials Memorial by Elie Wiesel. It remains a must-visit for every Witch City tourist, although in my opinion it could definitely use some serious updating.
So there you go! That’s the story with the Salem Witch Museum. Please be sure to subscribe for all things Salem and check out all the videos linked to this one for more information on the Witch City. Stay weird witches! I’ll see ya next time.