If you’re looking for a spooky town to visit during October for Halloween fun, Salem, MA should be at the top of the list. The town has a rich haunted past, steeped in the Salem Witch Trials from 1692 to 1693. Salem has not only taken on a persona of educating visitors about colonial Massachusetts and the 200+ people accused of witchcraft, but of today’s modern witches. As a result, the city, which was founded in 1629, has been rightfully nicknamed the Witch City and takes great pride in celebrating Halloween throughout the month of October. The town even has a special name for their month-long Halloween celebration: Haunted Happenings!
1\ Gallows Hill Museum and Theater
Check out “Professor Wunders School of Magic” for younger kids. It’s a great show for enjoying Salem without being scared. A friendly wizard takes visitors through a wonderful world of magic, wizardry, and Halloween fun. Children get to walk away with a special treat, too (after all, it is Halloween); children’s admission includes a magical glow ring!
Gallows Hill Museum and Theatre is located at 7 Lynde Street in Salem.
2\ Salem Witch Museum
The Salem Witch Museum offers an immersive experience about the Salem Witch Trials and the twenty innocent people put to death during the witch hysteria of 1692. The main presentation is based on actual trail documents. Their second exhibit, “Witches: Evolving Perceptions,” takes visitors through the changing interpretations and stereotypes of witches through modern time.
You can also check out their YouTube channel for more information about the witch trials before heading to Salem.
The Salem Witch Museum is located at 19 1/2 Washington Square North in Salem.
3\ History Alive Cry Innocent: The People vs. Bridget Bishop Show
Experiencing the short, but very informative Cry Innocent: The People vs. Bridget Bishop interactive show by History Alive is a must for understanding the witch hysteria. This educational performance puts you in the place of the Puritans and those on trial for witchcraft, allowing visitors to get a sense of what the experience was like in 1692. During the play, Bridget Bishop has been accused of witchcraft, and the audience is the Puritan jury.
The Cry Innocent play is held at Old Town Hall, which is located at 93 Washington Street in Salem. Ten minutes before the Cry Innocent show, Bridget is arrested on Essex Street. Ask the box office for the location of the day to catch the arrest in action.
The Cry Innocent show admission also includes all activities available at the Old Town Hall. This includes the Salem Museum, The Spirit of Salem film, History Afoot Walking Tour, and hands-on activities.
4\ The Witch House / Jonathan Corwin House
Judge Jonathan Corwin’s house, known today as The Witch House, is the only structure still standing in Salem with direct ties to the Witchcraft Trials of 1692. As a result, it’s a must-see for any history buff. Judge Corwin was called upon to investigate the witchcraft accusations. He served on the Court of Oyer and Terminer that ultimately sent nineteen innocent people to the gallows and one to stone pressing.
This site usually has the longest lines of the Salem attractions. To avoid the lines, try visiting the historical house during off-hours or days. The Witch House is located at 310 Essex Street in Salem.
5\ Ropes Mansion
If you love Disney’s movie Hocus Pocus, you will probably immediately recognize the above house. The Georgian Colonial mansion, located at 318 Essex Street, was Alison’s house in the film! After years of being closed, as of 2015, it is now open to the public, operated by the Peabody Essex Museum (while not on this list, another great place to visit in Salem). Don’t expect to be taken through fun facts about Hocus Pocus when you walk inside. Instead, learn about who the house was originally built for, merchant Samuel Barnard, and how in 1768, Judge Nathaniel Ropes purchased it for his family.
6\ Wynott’s Wands
7\ Old Burying Point and Salem Witch Trials Memorial
Reflect and remember those from Salem’s past at the Old Burying Point Cemetery and Salem Witch Trials Memorial, located right next to each other.
The Old Burying Point has many famous people from Salem’s past interred there, including Justice John Hathorne of Salem Witch Trials fame. Also known as the Charter Street Cemetery, the Old Burying Point is the second oldest burying ground in the United States and is estimated to date back to 1637.
The Salem Witch Trials Memorial consists of 20 granite “benches” cantilevered from a low stone wall (not meant to sit on), right next to the Old Burying Point. The benches are inscribed with the name of the accused and the means and date of execution. It was dedicated by Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel in August 1992 as part of the Salem Witch Trials TerCentenary.
For Nathaniel Hawthorne fans, don’t miss the gray-shingled house right next to the Old Burying Point and Salem Witch Trials Memorial, at 53 Charter Street. Now known as the Grimshaw House, the abode has ties to the author. The Old Burying Point Cemetery is mentioned in Hawthorne’s “Dr. Grimshawe’s Secret,” as well as the house itself. At this house, Hawthorne met his future wife, Sophia, in 1837.
8\ Salem Pioneer Village
Pioneer Village, also known as Salem 1630: Pioneer Village, is a living history museum. It’s actually the first living history museum in the United States. Pioneer Village was originally created in 1930 as the set for a play, held in Forest River Park in Salem. The play re-created what Salem, MA may have been like in June 1630 when John Winthrop and the families of Thomas Dudley and Simon Bradstreet arrived in Salem.
The set was meant to be temporary, but the City of Salem and Essex County, Massachusetts decided to keep it. Pioneer Village was even used as a filming location in Hocus Pocus; it’s where Binx as a human and his family lived in the opening scenes of the film!
Pioneer Village is located in Forest Hill Park, at 310 West Avenue in Salem. The village features various examples of colonial architecture. Many events are held there, such as “Lanterns in the Village” and “The Dark of Night.”
9\ Annual Hawthorne Hotel Halloween Party
The hotel changes the theme every year. The 2015 theme was “A Night to Dismember,” the 2016 theme was “7 Deadly Sins,” and the 2017 theme is “Hollywood Horror.” Tickets sell out fast, so make sure to grab tickets early if you’re interested in attending. Hawthorne Hotel usually also offers packages for staying at the hotel and attending the party. The Halloween party is usually held the Saturday of or before Halloween. The Hawthorne Hotel is located at 18 Washington Square W in Salem.
If you won’t be in Salem during the weekend of Halloween, but still what to have some Halloween party fun, try to visit the town during The Haunted Happenings Grand Parade. This parade is the annual kick-off of the Halloween Season and Haunted Happenings for the town, and is usually held the first Thursday of October.
10\ Arts After Hours
For a spooky night out that’s just a 12 minute drive outside of Salem, head over to Arts After Hours in Lynn, MA. Every October, they produce a musical based off of a horror movie or event. In 2013, they put on Evil Dead The Musical; in 2014, they performed Cannibal! The Musical; in 2015, they performed The Texas Chainsaw Musical; and in 2016, they returned to Hannibal Lecter for Silence! The Musical.
For 2017, Arts After Hours will be performing Bat Boy, The Musical. The musical is based on a June 23, 1998 Weekly World News story about a half-boy, half-bat dubbed “Bat Boy,” who grew up living in a cave. The musical will be running from October 19 – 29, 2017.