Salem, Massachusetts began as a small trading settlement in 1626 after being founded by Roger Conant, and a group of immigrants arriving from Cape Ann.
Upon its founding, the town was originally named Naumkeag, but settlers renamed it Salem, adapted from the Hebrew word for peace.
As the Massachusetts Bay Company arrived in 1628, a group of puritan settlers led by John Endicott arrived shortly after. Despite this largely Christian community, Salem would become renowned for witchcraft – a fascination which continues to this day.
As early as the 14th century, witchcraft had become feared throughout Europe. Communities and authorities had begun to suspect people of making pacts with the Devil, in exchange for power. This fear had spread to Salem, and would leave a stain on the land forever.
The Salem Witch Trials
In the year 1692, the infamous Salem Witch Trials began. It would take just three months, for 19 innocent people to be executed. Of the 19 accused were 14 women and 5 men – 18 hanged and 1 man pressed to death.
The trials began after a group of young girls claimed several local women had begun practicing witchcraft.
In January 1692, 9-year-old Elizabeth Parris, and 11-year-old Abigail Williams, began experiencing episodes of fits, along with uncontrollable outbursts of screaming. Elizabeth and Abigail were the daughter and niece of Samuel Parris, the minister of Salem.
Seeking medical attention, the girls met with William Griggs, the local doctor. He diagnosed bewitchment, and soon after, other girls began to show similar symptoms. The other girls that also began to show signs of bewitchment were Ann Putnam Jr., Mercy Lewis, Elizabeth Hubbard, Mary Walcott and Mary Warren.
The first suspects and arrests made in the case were the Parris’ Caribbean slave, Tituba, along with Sarah Good (a homeless beggar) and Sarah Osborn, whom the girls had originally claimed bewitched them.
As the witch trials began, a special court was organized and dedicated purely to the trials. The first person to be found guilty of witchcraft by the court, was Bridget Bishop, who was hanged in just a few months. Bridget wasn’t the only unfortunate victim though, 18 others would follow her to Salem’s Gallows Hill to meet their end.
Over time, the deaths of the 19 accused weighed heavily on the consciences of the townspeople, and the trials eventually ceased.
Residents of The Salem Witch House
In 1675, the Salem Witch House was completed. It was the home of Judge Jonathon Corwin, who had taken his place in the court of the witch trials. He served on the Court of Oyer and Terminer. Some of the prior questioning in the trials was said to have even taken place in the Salem Witch House.
The Corwin family resided at the Witch House until the mid 1800’s. The home has seen a series of unfortunate events throughout its time, mostly related to the many deaths in the Corwin family.
Judge Jonathon Corwin moved to the Witch House with his wife Elizabeth, who already had 4 children from a previous marriage. One of her children died prior to moving into the house, and her 12-year-old daughter died shortly after moving in.
Elizabeth had 10 more children with Corwin, however tragically, 8 of them died before adulthood.
The Corwins lived in the Salem Witch House until their deaths in the late 1710’s, followed shortly after by their remaining two adult children.
Today, this is the only structure still standing from the time of the trials, and has become the center attraction for tourism in Salem. It now operates as a popular Museum.
The Ghosts of The Salem Witch House
With all the death and dark history surrounding the Witch House, it’s no surprise that it’s associated with paranormal activity. It’s widely regarded as one of the most haunted places in Salem.
Tourists and paranormal investigators alike have reported creepy on-goings in the house, even the famed Ghost Adventures team were drawn to investigate the property.
Among the ghostly inhabitants are the spirits of children who are thought to roam the house, as visitors have reported hearing their disembodied voices, along with the feeling of being touched by something unseen. One of the more prominent reports of disembodied voices, is of a little girl. It’s often thought the voice could belong to the youngest of the accused – a four-year-old girl.
Other reports of paranormal activity include sudden temperature drops and cold rushes of air.
The Massachusetts General Court declared a day of fasting in January 1697, for the victims of the trials who were unlawfully tried and executed. The leading justice Samuel Sewall publicly apologized for the role he played in the Salem Witch Trials.
Though the town of Salem is still surrounded by witchcraft today, the Salem Witch House stands as a testament to the most gruesome time in its history.
The museum takes you through the story of the properties involvement in the Witch Trails, the lives and experiences of the Corwin family and those who lived in the area back in the 1600’s.
The Witch House has been restored to it’s former glory, so you can get a glimpse of what life in the house would have really been like.
If you’re looking to visit the house anytime soon, you can visit the website to find all the relevant information you’ll need.