Open daily 10 A.M. – 5 P.M.

Legend, Lore & Legacy

Yes, we all know Salem has a darker side. But let us separate fact from lore as we walk through the city’s beautiful tree-lined streets and historic neighborhoods. Salem’s history is filled with enterprising people who brought riches and opportunity to its citizens. Let’s bypass those good folks for now and peek at the rest of the story….

House of the Seven Gables
Photo courtesy of The House of the Seven Gables

Matthew Maule’s Bloody Curse at The House of the Seven Gables

Nathaniel Hawthorne’s descriptions of The House of the Seven Gables, in his novel of the same name, are dark and ominous. His fictional house is old, weather-beaten, in terrible disrepair. You won’t see that version of the house today on your guided tour, but you will hear about the awful curse that animates the dark underbelly of Hawthorne’s story. The novel that he called a romance begins with scenes describing how The Gables had been built upon the razed home of Matthew Maule. When entitled Col. Pyncheon decided he wanted the property, he joined others who accused Maule of witchcraft. Just as Maule was to be hanged, he pointed to Pyncheon and said, “God will give him blood to drink.” Pyncheon obtained the land he coveted and built his mansion. A similar curse was said to have been delivered to John Hathorne, Nathaniel Hawthorne’s great-great-grandfather, and one of the judges in the Salem witch trials. Where in The Gables do you think the fictional Col. Pyncheon took his last blood-stained breath?

115 Derby Street

Gardner Pingree House
Photo courtesy of the Peabody Essex Museum

The Murder of Captain Joseph White at the Gardner-Pingree House

Who would imagine that the Gardner-Pingree House, a masterpiece by architect Samuel McIntire, would be the setting of the savage murder of a rich, old sea captain? Tour the elegant townhouse, now part of the Peabody Essex Museum’s architecture collection, and hear details of the grisly murder, the “trial of the century” prosecuted by the great orator Daniel Webster, and the murder’s influences on authors Nathaniel Hawthorne and Edgar Allen Poe. Before you climb the elegant staircase to Capt. Joseph White’s bedroom, you will learn about the McIntire carving, the parties that didn’t end till dawn and White’s illegal slave trade. Impulsive and unpleasant, the 82-year-old was not beloved in Salem. His iron chest containing gold doubloons and his decision to disinherit his niece Mary Beckford prompted Beckford’s new husband Joe Knapp and his brother Frank to hire brothers Richard and George Crowninshield to kill White. On May 6, 1830, Richard killed White in his bed. Richard hanged himself in jail, and Joe and Frank Knapp were found guilty and hanged. 

128 Essex Street

Read More about the Gardner-Pingree House

A 12-minute walk from The Gables.

Salem Witch Trail Documents
Photo courtesy of Destination Salem.

Read Salem Witch Trials Documents

  • Peabody Essex Museum
  • Phillips Library Reading Room
  • PEM witch trial document transcriptions and images

The Peabody Essex Museum in Salem holds 511 original documents from the 1692 Salem witch trials. These documents — such as letters, trial transcriptions and court orders — were entrusted to the museum by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for safekeeping. Some can be viewed and read online here, while a few works of art connected to the trials are on view in the American Art galleries at PEM. Look for the dramatic painting, “Trial of George Jacobs, August 5, 1692” by Tompkins Harrison Matteson, 1855. Jacobs pleads with the court, on his knees, his walking stick nearby. That very walking stick is also on view. Between May 1692 and March 1693, 200 innocent people from the Salem region were accused, 25 sentenced to death, 19 hanged and one man pressed to death. A visit to PEM’s Phillips Library Reading Room in nearby Rowley is a special occasion for authors, researchers and history buffs. Check for hours and to make an appointment to visit. 

Peabody Essex Museum
161 Essex Street
Salem, MA

Phillips Library Reading Room
306 Newbury Turnpike
Rowley MA

PEM witch trial document transcriptions and images

PEM is about a 15-minute walk from The Gables. The Phillips Library Reading Room is about a 40-minute drive. 

Salem Witch Trials Memorial of Giles Corey
Photo courtesy of Destination Salem.

Pickman House Welcome Center for the Old Burying Point Cemetery

• Old Burying Point, also known as Charter Street Cemetery

• The Pickman House Cemetery Welcome Center at 43 Charter St.

• Witch Trials Memorial at 24 Liberty St.

Start your visit to this historic cemetery at the 1665 Pickman House Welcome Center to get oriented and shop for gifts. Begun in 1637, Old Burying Point is one of the oldest cemeteries in the country and the oldest of eight in Salem. The first surviving tombstones are dated 1673. Until then, grave markers were made of wood that deteriorated. Two judges who oversaw the witch trials are buried here — John Hathorne (great-great-grandfather of Nathaniel Hawthorne) and Bartholomew Gidney, along with numerous notable Salem residents. Though relatively small at 1.47 acres, there are 700 headstones and 17 box tombs here. None of those accused of witchcraft and executed are buried here because they were not allowed Christian burials. The whereabouts of most of their bodies is unknown. Also located at this site is the Salem Witch Trials Memorial, dedicated in 1992 by Nobel Laureate Eli Wiesel. It, like the cemetery, is intended to be a place of quiet and contemplation. 

Pickman House Welcome Center for the Old Burying Point cemetery

Read More about the Charter Street Welcome Center

The cemetery and the memorial are next to each other, and a 14-minute walk from The Gables.

Witches, Wiccans and Wizards Proctor’s Ledge
Photo courtesy of Destination Salem.

Witches in Media

People love to check out Samantha, the 6-foot bronze statue in downtown Salem. Many fondly remember Samantha, the witch on the popular TV series “Bewitched.” Did you know that several episodes of “Bewitched” were filmed in Salem, including one episode in which Samantha and Darrin take a guided tour of The House of the Seven Gables? An enchanted bed warmer follows Samantha and causes a ruckus. Elizabeth Montgomery’s endearing nose twitches are far from the only depiction of witchcraft where Salem has a leading role. In the 1993 cult classic, “Hocus Pocus,” starring Bette Midler and Sarah Jessica Parker, a teenager named Max resurrects old trouble on Halloween night. Ropes Mansion (318 Essex St.)  and Pioneer Village (310 West Ave.) are two Salem locations. In the TV documentary, “Who Do You Think You Are,” Sarah Jessica Parker shares her ancestral connections to the Salem witch trials. And “Mass Hysteria,” a 2019 film, was made entirely in Salem. The movie tells the fictional story of historical re-enactors caught up in a modern-day witch hunt on Halloween night.

The “Bewitched” statue is at 235 Essex St., at the intersection of Washington and Essex streets in downtown Salem. It’s a walk of about 17 minutes from The Gables. Ropes Mansion is about a 25-minute walk.

Salem Witch Museum
Photo courtesy of John Andrews.

The Witch House and The Salem Witch Museum

Salem is more than the witch trials and hangings of 19 innocent people. Nonetheless, it’s impossible to overlook the impact that 1692 had on the city — then and now. Monuments, cemeteries and museums are forever reminders of what happened. Both the Witch House and the Witch Museum have made it their purpose to tell the story in graphic, even cinematic ways. The Witch House on Essex Street was once owned by Jonathan Corwin, a wealthy merchant and judge who participated in pre-trial interviews and, for three months, as a judge in the infamous Oyer and Terminer court set up to handle the numerous witchcraft accusations. His dark and impressive gabled colonial home is now a museum that intersperses stories of Corwin and the trials with everyday life in the Puritan community. The Salem Witch Museum is open throughout the year and offers two primary presentations — a deep dive into 1692 Salem and a look at the evolving perception of the witch dating back to Europe pre-1692. The museum is hard to miss, with its Gothic Revival architecture, and its central location across from Salem’s beautiful common. Its website is filled with stories and videos that describe the trials’ timeline and historical events. Tickets must be purchased online.

The Witch House
310 ½ Essex St., Salem

University of Virginia witch trial documents digitized

The Witch House is a 24-minute walk from The House of the Seven Gables.

The Salem Witch Museum
19 ½ Washington Square North

The Salem Witch Museum is a 15-minute walk from The House of the Seven Gables.

Reading list:

Proctors Ledge
Photo courtesy of The House of the Seven Gables

Proctor’s Ledge Site of the Salem Hangings

Proctor’s Ledge is a somber memorial at the site where 19 Salem residents were hanged in 1692. The names of all 19 innocent victims killed are inscribed on stone plaques. In July five women, the first of the 19 women and men, were hanged from a tree, then dropped into a crevice and loosely covered with soil. More hangings followed through the summer and fall. Those accused of practicing witchcraft and executed were not allowed a Christian burial. Some have said that grieving family members came after dark to retrieve the bodies of their loved ones. They could be heard crying quietly as they went about the heartbreaking task of recovering bodies. For decades if not centuries, the site of the killings was thought by most to be nearby at Gallows Hill. Even neighbors whose property abuts Proctor’s Ledge had no idea. John Lennon and Yoko Ono were among those said to have paid their respects at the wrong location. 

7 Pope Street, Salem, MA

Proctor’s Ledge is about a 15-minute drive from The House of the Seven Gables.

Salem MA woods

Salem Woods

To get a sense of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s imagination, consider a walk at dusk along a 2.3-mile path in Salem Woods — a 12-minute drive from The Gables. It’s in a forest somewhere on the outskirts of early Salem that one of Hawthorne’s most famous short story characters, Young Goodman Brown, encounters an evil that destroys his faith in humanity. At dusk, writes Hawthorne, Young Goodman Brown sets off on “a dreary road, darkened by all the gloomiest trees of the forest.” But you won’t find evil in these woods. Instead, you’ll find a fun, hour-long hike, easy in spots with some short elevations. Consult the All-Trails link below for the trail route, comments and photos. Driving directions from The Gables are listed here, also. Bring something to drink, bug/tick spray and your smartphone so you can follow along on the All-Trails map. The trail is marked with yellow blazes. Highlights include boardwalks, beautiful wetlands, birdwatching and pretty streams. 

Trail map:

Directions from The Gables:

A 12-minute drive from The House of the Seven Gables.

Rebecca Nurse Homestead
Photo courtesy of Henry Rutkowski.

The Rebecca Nurse Homestead

The Rebecca Nurse Homestead is in a part of Danvers that was once Salem. This house is (1) the only home of a person executed for witchcraft open to the public and (2) the only known burial site of any of those executed in 1692. Nurse was an upstanding member of her church and Puritan community. The accusations of witchcraft baffled many. But then, what happened in Salem in 1692 may never be accurately understood. The saltbox home that the family leased in 1678 originally sat on 300 acres. They developed a large, successful working farm. It required the constant labor of Nurse and her family. The site is now 25 acres and includes a reproduction of the Salem Village Meeting House where early witchcraft hearings occurred. Joseph Everett Chandler directed the Homestead restoration in 1909, about the same time that he oversaw The House of the Seven Gables restoration with direction from its new owner, the philanthropist Caroline Emmerton. 

149 Pine Street, Danvers, MA 01923

A 20-minute drive from The House of the Seven Gables.

Frankenstein on Essex Street Salem MA
Photo courtesy of Destination Salem.

Haunted Happenings: October in Salem

October in Salem must be experienced to be believed. Think morning-to-night festivities punctuated by raucous moments and jaw-dropping creativity. If you go, do your homework in advance. There are ways around the lack of parking and long waiting lines at popular venues. The Haunted Happening website listed here contains a calendar of events and many helpful tips. Each venue, including the House of the Seven Gables, will give you pointers, as well. Highlights start off with people-watching. Costumes are spectacular. A Grand Parade draws a big crowd early in October and signals the official beginning of Haunted Happenings. Ghost tours, film nights, children’s events, museums, shopping and dining, live theater, psychic readings, haunted harbor cruises, magic, trolley tours and a fabulous Halloween Ball at the Hawthorne Hotel are among the many events from which to choose. The first Haunted Happening, in 1982, drew 50,000 people — families, couples, history buffs and Halloween enthusiasts. Today, the city estimates that about 500,000 people visit Salem in October.