Your ultimate guide to Halloween in Salem, Massachusetts

Between 1692 and 1693, a mass hysteria swept over the newly settled town of Salem, in Colonial Massachusetts. From February until May of the following year, over 200 people were accused of witchcraft, thirty of those were tried and found guilty, and twenty of them were executed. This event is known as the Salem Witch Trials, one of the most well known and well documented incidents of mass hysteria in Colonial America. Fascination with this tragedy has endured, and public interest in the events that occurred in this small Puritan settlement continue to capture the public’s interest to this day. And although the city of Salem worked hard in the aftermath of the Trials to keep its own history quiet, by raising many of the original houses and features of colonial life at the time, the public has continued to be fascinated by this event and the place where it all happened. Although there were no witches in Salem, only victims of a mass hysteria, the town now embraces its “spooky” roots and each October, visitors come flocking, hoping to see for themselves what makes Salem so hauntingly fascinating. And beyond the Witch Trials, Salem is actually a beautiful Massachusetts town, complete with picture-perfect architecture, walkable streets, stunning nature and history to fill a textbook! So let us take you through our guide to our favourite things to do in Salem at Halloween.

Salem, Massachusetts

- © Actium / Shutterstock

Haunted Happenings

A staple of Halloween in Salem, Haunted Happenings is the largest Halloween celebration in the world and puts on just about every kind of festivity you can think of on a yearly basis. From parades to parties and even walking tours, Haunted Happenings is the master of ceremony when it comes to spooky season in the town. 

There’s so much to enjoy, visitors are absolutely spoilt for choice. What’s great about Haunted Happenings is that they make sure to organise a little bit of everything, so whether you’re looking for a spooky family-friendly activity, or to party the night away in a historic mansion, it’s all on the program! The festive celebration runs annually, from October 1st to 31st, all throughout the town. Take a look at their website to see what’s on when you plan on visiting and to get a unique halloween experience. 

The Witch House

An undeniably iconic Salem location, the Jonathan Corwin House, more famously known as the Witch House, is an essential part of any visit to the town, and in particular at Halloween. The only structure still standing with direct ties to the Witch Trials in Salem, the Witch House was the home of judge Jonathan Corwin for over forty years. Corwin was a key figure in the mass hysteria around witchcraft which swept the town from 1692 to 1693, replacing judge Nathaniel Saltonstall on the Court of Oyer and Terminer when he resigned upon the execution of Bridget Bishop. The court ultimately tried over 200 people for accusations of witchcraft, and sent 20 of them to be executed, not counting those who died while in prison. 

The house itself is rather stunning, and a fine example of 17th century local architecture. It is open to visitors from Monday to Sunday at this time of year, from 10am to 5pm. Admission costs $9 and children under 6 go free. Check out their website to find out more about the house and visiting it. 

The Witch House in Salem.

- © AlessandroV / Shutterstock

A Walking Tour

Salem is a wonderful, walkable city. There’s no better way to see it all and to learn its history than to take a walking tour. Haunted Happenings does organise some excellent ones as part of its celebration, Bewitched Tours offers many tours which offer a general overview of Salem, and Witch City Walking Tours offer five different tours, each with its own unique twist. The “History and Hauntings” is a fantastic introduction to Salem and its history, while some people might be more interested in their “Merchants & Mansions, Architecture Stroll”, whatever you’re interested in, they’ve got a tour that covers it. Please make sure you book your walking tour well in advance as October is, unsurprisingly, their busiest time. 

Tourists walking past the Witch House in Salem

- © Heidi Besen / Shutterstock

The House of the Seven Gables

Built in 1668, the House of the Seven Gables gained notoriety for a few things, the first being, you guessed it, for its gables, and the second, for serving as the main source of inspiration for Nathaniel Hawthorne’s 1851 novel The House of the Seven Gables. Originally a purely colonial house, owner John Turner II transformed it into amore Georgian house in the 18th century and the property was subsequently purchased by Captain Samuel Ingersoll. Author Nathaniel Hawthorne, a Salem native who was related to the Ingersolls, used the house as the setting for his novel which would come to bear its name. In the novel, the house is almost a character of its own, taking on a central role and a life of its own. There’s something incredibly mystifying about the novel, much like the house it was inspired by, and you’ll find yourself incapable to shake off this aura of mystery that permeates both the house, and the pages of Hawthorne’s book. 

The iconic house is open to visitors, with seasonal admission rates applied throughout October. You can find out all about those here. If you’re looking to pick up a copy of The House of the Seven Gables, head to Wicked Good Books on Essex Street, a delightful independent bookstore stocked with all your essential Salem-related reading materials. 

The Witch Trials Memorial

It would be a shame to come to Salem without paying your respects at the Witch Trials Memorial. Dedicated in 1992 by Nobel Laureate and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel, the memorial is made up of twenty granite stones with the names of each of the victims who were put to death as a result of the mass hysteria that swept this town between 1692 and 1693. It is a quiet and peaceful place where people can come pay their respects, reflect on truth and justice, and remember the innocent victims. Visitors will note the multiple words on the ground as you enter the memorial, which are the last recorded phrases of the victims before they were executed. The memorial is located on Liberty street, in the town centre and is very easy to find.

Where to stay?

The Hawthorne Hotel is the obvious choice for a stay in Salem. Widely rumoured to be haunted, the hotel was built in 1925 and is a member of the Historic Hotels of America. The hotel is named after famous Salem native, author Nathaniel Hawthorne. The place is absolutely buzzing in October and is perfectly situated in the heart of town, an ideal location for your Halloween stay.

Hawthorne Hotel Boston

Hawthorne Hotel

A lovely hotel located in Salem, greater Boston area, Massachusetts.
£166 /night

How to get to Salem?

From Boston, the easiest way to get to Salem is to hop on the commuter train. It’s fast and efficient, and saves you the trouble of being stuck in traffic or aimlessly driving around Salem in the hopes of finding a parking spot. The Newburyport/Rockport Line takes passengers directly from Boston North Station to Salem Station. Standard one-way tickets cost $8 and the journey takes about 30 minutes. The trains are regularly scheduled and make for a much easier travel experience. 

by Venice HANCOCK
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