By J.A. Gooch

If you discover yourself longing to go where the werewolves wail and the spirits spook, pack your cauldrons, witches!  You’re headed to Salem! 

Although nestled along the coast of the sunshiny Massachusetts North Shore, the small Essex County city is notoriously known for its dank and dark history.  More than three hundred years ago, as you might’ve learned in high school, over 200 people were accused of witchcraft and occult practices, of which 20 were mercilessly executed.  However, while stories of dancing with the devil swirled through the township like a toxic mist, there existed no real evidence to support the charges on which these men and women were indicted.  Now, with so much time having passed between the events of 1692 and 2017, present day Salem looks little to nothing like it did during the era of the witch hunts.  Instead, 21st-century visitors will find an exceedingly delightful and welcoming place with A LOT to take in, especially during Halloween!  And just to give you an idea, here is Gay Travel’s top 5 things to do while visiting Witch City during the month of October!

ESSEX ST.

Have you ever wished that you could go on a shopping excursion down the narrow margins of Diagon Alley, the wizarding shopping district of the Harry Potter novels?  If so, you will absolutely fall in love with Essex St., the main strip running through most of Salem.  Complete with a craggy stone road and brick sidewalks, not to mention some of the most charming New England architecture you will ever see, Essex St. is everything spells are made of.  Dive into the world of modern witchcraft by dropping into the many occult shops found alongside the street, where you can purchase your very own cauldron, broom, crystal ball, love potion, protective talisman, or anything else you could possibly desire.  Or predict the future by having your palm or tarot cards read by some of the most famous witches and warlocks in the craft!  All this, partnered with a smattering of one-of-a-kind, delicious eateries, sweet shops, and an artisan street fair running the entire month of October, is plenty enough to keep your wand whipping in pure witchy wonderment! 

The ‘Hocus Pocus’ Tour

Whether you’re a wee little witch or old crone, you have probably seen—or at least heard of—the 1990s Disney cult classic ‘Hocus Pocus’, starring Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy as the Sanderson sisters, a trio of resurrected zany, soul-sucking witches.  Sound familiar?  Well, whether you’re a diehard fan or are just simply familiar with the film, everyone will appreciate seeing the many on-location film sights that are sure to “put a spell on you.”  From Alison’s mammoth white mansion (the real-life Rope’s mansion on Essex St.) to Old Town Hall to Salem Commons park and school to Max’s house on Ocean Blvd.,, you are certain to be overwhelmed with nostalgia as you embark on your self-guided ‘Hocus Pocus’ tour.  Just be sure to do some research to make sure you’re visiting the right places. If a talking black cat name Binx offers to help, take him up on that.

The Witch House

Another thing to consider while on Essex St. is stopping by the easily identifiable Witch House.  Once home to Judge Jonathan Corwin and his family, the 17th-century New England house is the only structure standing with direct ties to the events of 1692.  For less than $10, you can either embark on a guided or self-guided tour through the house, which is overflowing with original period artifacts, including a fork belonging to John Proctor (you may remember him from Arthur Miller’s play, ‘The Crucible’.), and an abundance of information concerning both the history of the house and its inhabitants, as well as the witch trials themselves (It is speculated that at a handful of the witch trial hearings were held in the house’s parlor.).  Regardless of how much you know going in, the Witch House is definitely a MUST see for anyone visiting Witch City!  And the cool thing is, you can take as many pictures as you want!

Proctor’s Ledge/Gallows Hill

Until sometime last year, it was unknown precisely where the majority of the witch trial executions took place, despite some educated speculation.  However, upon the discovery of a local history professor, Emerson Baker of Salem State University, and 6 other researchers, we now know exactly where it all went down.  Having just been marked and dedicated to the victims this past July, the now memorialized site, located directly behind the Walgreens on Boston St., provides an opportunity for tourists to glimpse the tiny knoll where the supposed witches swung.  Despite being a little bit out of the main mix, it is definitely worth taking in.  Just be sure that if you do indeed visit to remain respectful; many of the accused’s decedents still reside in Salem to this very day. 

The House of the Seven Gables

While Salem is mostly famous for its witchcraft, the coastal city has a lot more to offer than witch trial tours and supernatural experiences.  Boasting a long-lived literary legacy, Salem, once home to the likes of ‘The Scarlet Letter’ author Nathaniel Hawthorne, has yet another treat in store for both the architecturally fascinated and lovers of classical literature.  The historic House of the Seven Gables, a colonial mansion located near Pickering Wharf in Salem, served as the inspiration for Hawthorne’s gothic classic by the same name.  There, not only will visitors find and learn about the mysterious, sprawling manor by the sea, but they will have the opportunity to tour the lush gardens and bask in the sunny glory of the Massachusetts North Shore, as well soak up the quaint charm of the nearby Pickering Wharf district, home to a variety of gourmet seafood cuisine and shops.  

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