No town in the United States has as rich a history of witchcraft and terror as Salem, Massachusetts.
In its earliest days, Salem was a haven for Puritan settlers, a place where they could practice their own religion in peace and quiet. This was one reason the infamous witch trials in 1692 were found so shocking. The moral panic that gripped this town was rooted in an intimate sense of the supernatural, tensions among a divided population, and local family feuds. At the time, the New England region—and also most of Europe—was rife with belief in witchcraft as the cause of horrible fits, violence, and physical pain. As such, it is hardly surprising that a moral panic spread like a virus through the town’s population: taking the lives of 20 innocents by the time it abated.
Salem is a much different place today, it’s a thriving community with tourist trade based mostly around the witch trials. Ironically, there’s a high concentration of practicing witches that call Salem home. They seem unbothered by all the buildings that still stand to remind folks of those darker days. More than just the buildings are still there, many of the women and men who were persecuted and murdered there have stuck around. Are they seeking vengeance or are they searching for peace after a dying a death they didn’t deserve. Let’s talk about one of the most well known hot spots in the area.
The Witch House
The Jonathan Corwin House, also known as the Witch House, can still be found at 310 Essex Street. One of the last standing structure with direct ties to the Salem witch trials, The Witch House was home to Judge Jonathan Corwin. He was a local magistrate that became the orchestrator of the trials. Corwin took over this madness when Judge Nathaniel Saltonstall resigned in protest after Bridget Bishop was sentenced to death. Bishop was the first chick to be killed during the trials. Corwin comes along and fans the flames by sensationalizing the whole witch panic thing and winds up sending another 19 people to the gallows.
So, Corwin bought his place from this dude named Richard Davenport in 1675, but it was several decades old when that went down. The house stayed in Corwin’s family until the mid-1800s, and it kind just sat around rotting until it was moved in the 1940s to make space for a widened street. Then it was dubbed as a museum in the McIntire Historic District, and was restored back to its 17th-century appearance. Ghost-hunters flock there claiming that its the most haunted house in Salem. Folks frequently encounter cold spots, disembodied voices, and experience the touch of spectral hands.
The man who lived here was dubbed the most prolific witch torturer of his time. Most of his handy-work went down right there in his own home. This dude would hunt down and arrest the accused then bring them back to his custom built home. From the outside, it looked just like every other house in the neighborhood. But beneath the foundation, there was a dungeon complete with torture chamber and holding cells, where Corwin lavished in tormenting those that had been accused of witchcraft. He developed some pretty cruel methods for getting “witches” to admit their allegiance to Satan, one of which included tying the neck of the accused to their ankles until blood exploded out of their nose.
So, when Corwin died of a heart attack in 1697, he was buried in his favorite spot, the basement. Actually, his family had him buried there because they feared that if he was put down in the cemetery that the locals would dig him up and dismember him. It was years later when they dug his corpse up and planted him in the Broad Street Cemetery. Needless to say, he still makes regular appearances here, but he’s not alone. There are many folks that will be quick to tell you that his victims return there frequently, some are said to have never left.
After the Corwin family, the Joshua Ward House was built on the same spot. So, as you can imagine, building over top of the home where Corwin lived, committed murders, and eventually died, is pretty much a perfect recipe for paranormal activity.
There are three spirits that supposedly haunt the Joshua Ward House. For years people have reported being choked by invisible hands that are usually attributed to the ghost of the “Corwin the strangler” himself.
Another is the spirit of Giles Corey, a man who was personally tortured and killed by Corwin after being accused of being a warlock. He often is responsible for trash cans being kicked over, books being pulled from shelves, cold spots, and candles that are often found in a puddle of wax even through they have never been lit.
Giles Corey, one of the Salem Witch Trial’s most famous alleged warlocks. This dude was a trip! Corey refused to confess to practicing the dark arts, even after days of torture, so Corwin decides that he’s gonna come up with an even more painful way of forcing the man to admit his crimes.
Day after day, large stones were placed on Giles Corey’s chest, slowly crushing him to death while witnesses watched on. With his last remaining breath, Giles Corey cursed George Corwin for his sadistic methods, demanding “more weight to be piled on top of him” and then died.
As it turns out, some believe that Corey may very well have had some supernatural abilities, because not long after, Corwin dies of a heart attack. Besides haunting the Ward House, Corey is said to hang out at his unmarked grave in Howard Cemetery. According to legend, he shows up before the shit hits the fan, kind of like an omen of the horrors to come. In 1914, several witnesses saw Corey wandering the cemetery just before the Great Salem Fire. This kind of just reiterates his final words, when he cursed both Sheriff Corwin and the city of Salem.
The kicker is that many of the town’s sheriffs over the years have reported to being woken in the middle of the night with a sensation of something heavy sitting on there chest, as if being they’re being crushed. Some of the others have had to remove themselves from the office after having heart palpitations, some have even died after suffering major heart attacks, when they were known to be healthy with no prior heart condition.
The most famous ghost at the Joshua Ward House is the spirit of an innocent woman who was accused and killed for being a witch. This chick was photographed by a realtor one afternoon, standing in the hallway of the mansion. When the picture was taken no one was there, but once the film was developed an image of a woman with wild black hair appeared. Needless to say, the realtor wasn’t exactly motivated to show the house to clients after this! link to photo
Over the course of 2 years one alarm in the home was triggered over 60 times without explainable cause. Cold spots are felt in specific parts of the home. The apparition of Sheriff Corwin has even been seen and photographed sitting on a chair near one of the fireplaces.
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