WHEN A CITY IS OVER 388 YEARS OLD…
It is going to have ghosts.There are several haunted places and buildings in our city. Unsettled spirits still venture these places. Places that go bump in the night. Most are harmless. Some are camera shy. Public buildings to the private homes are not safe from these apparitions. Some are dangerous.
Like the house I am in now. The lot was originally developed in 1627 by Francis Skerry. How appropriate, to live in a haunted House in which its first occupant had a name pronounced Scary! The house constantly sounds like people are moving furniture in unoccupied sections of the house, faucets turn on by themselves, laptops are pushed out of your hands, and things always fly off the counter. Many people have seen a woman in a white nightgown walking down the stairs in the back of the house. Some of the ghosts feel welcoming and friendly and others make you feel edgy. Plus it is connected to the tunnels in town. The Howard family would sneak raw linen and other materials used to make sails for the mighty fleet that plied Salem waters. These ships would sneak the raw materials to them custom free and they would bring them back the sails through the tunnels. A later resident was Benjamin Creamer. He never lived in a house in which it did not provide him access to his store on the corner of Essex and Central Street through the tunnels.
Then you have a couple ghosts on Beacon Street. 79 Bridge Street on the corner of Beacon has a haunted third floor. It was built by the Knight family on an old farm the Parker Brother family inherited from their maternal grandfather, Watson. One of the x-tenants loss his head when cargo in a moving van came through the cab. Then kitty corner is a white house resembling a barn. It was moved here in the 1800’s from Federal Street. When the current owners bought the house they had seen the windows on the third floor, but thought nothing of it. Even though they thought they had a two story house. While renovating they pulled some wall paper down and found a door. The door led to a staircase which brought them to the third floor. Soon afterward the ghosts started trouble. In olden days owners would designate a section of the house to be left undisturbed to settle the homes old owners. These people unbeknownst to them broke into the ghost’s quarters. In time they all got along. Then the second to the last house on the left has an old Greek woman who likes to sit on the stairs. Caught between this world and the next, she does not know to go up or down. Either way she likes playing with small children.
Then if we venture back onto Bridge Street we will come to 146 Bridge Street. On the first floor there is a haunted living room. Some feel an eerie presence, but the dogs know who is there. Dogs have been seen to jump 180 degrees around and start barking or staring at the ghosts in this house.
Now stroll down to the commons. The bandstand. Many people have claimed to see an old Victorian band playing in the mist. In 1976 the bandstand was dedicated to Salem Band director, Jean Missud of the Salem Cadet Band fame. If you are lucky enough you might still be able to hear them play. The band started in 1838 and continued for the next 36 years. In 1801 it was the Salem Cadets that had hid the tunnel dirt in the ponds in Commons. It is rumored that the bandstand is connected to many of the homes around the park.
Then if you walk down to the seafront you will come eventually upon Blaney Street with the Salem Ferry and Mackey’s Sculpture Yard. Now Mackey takes scrap metal and puts a little soul into the critters he makes. Now these critters of iron do not like their photos taken. Your batteries will drain. Strange warning messages will appear on you device and orbs will fill your prints. Then to the right in the parking lot is the location of what was Salem’s most haunted house. Even though the house is gone, the spirits still remain and they loath cameras. I happened upon this area during major construction and found an open manhole. The hole went down almost 20 feet. Much deeper than most of the sewers in town. This lot was once called Phillip’s Wharf, a hot bed of smuggling in its day. So I was writing the book on the tunnels at the time and I wanted to take a few pictures, but it was too dark. I walked 30 feet away and thought that the light on my cellphone might help. So I barely lifted the phone out of the case on my belt when it flew 30 ft into the manhole.
If you continue on Derby till you get to Webb Street, hang a left till you get to Essex Street. There facing the water is another haunted home. On the third floor is an angry Norwegian ghost who always needs a shave. Below on the second floor is a ghost of an old prostitute. Quite friendly. In fact I will not tell you how friendly she was to me….
Then if you cross back to downtown you will find the Library in the Hawthorne Hotel to be haunted. This library is shaped like inside of a hull of a tall ship. It is pretty cool. Another building attached to the tunnels in town. Then go down Essex Street a little further and you come to the Harry Potter shop. There is a ghost cat walking through it and a gentleman who comes out of the basement named Nathaniel. Next door it gets sinister at Wynot’s Wands. A brother and sister had died in a fire on this location. They were both badly abused and the brother had been autistic. The ghost of the brother got along with the store owner who owned a tour company. The owner regularly dressed in colonial garb which made the boy feel comfortable. Also the owner hired many employees who have Asperger Syndrome, a minor form of autism. The girl liked the basement. Many women had used the basement of the store for various purposes, but not many would venture down there for long. The ghost of the girl would create a false sense of security and lead the women in. Then she would turn on them. One woman had a complete nervous breakdown spending too much time in the basement. Also the ghosts would turn a flashlight on and off. Even once they recorded the girl’s voice. The brother would also get frustrated when he could not communicate with the owner. Once he threw the ceiling tiles off the drop ceiling and flip his desk.
Across the street at the Essex Institute there is a ghost story involving Hawthorne. Hawthorne was attending a meeting one day. Across from him was a judge. The judge nodded in acknowledgement, but Hawthorne noticed throughout the meeting the judge did not speak to anyone else. He was used to the judge not speaking to him because he was from a different class in town. Though the judge did not speak to any of his peers as well. This struck Hawthorne quite strange. So much so he mentioned it the secretary at the desk. She informed him that the judge died the previous night in his sleep. Also in the building hangs a painting of a man who looks like my grandmother in drag, Edward Augustus Holyoke. One was a RN and the other a MD. They both had a father, a grandfather, and a son named named Edward. So I like to think if reincarnation exists, that my grandmother beat me to town by 300 years….
Then we get to the corner of Essex and Washington Street. This is the site of the first church in the country. The church that prosecuted Salem’s citizens for witchcraft. A church who kicked out the founder of the Baptist Church because he wanted to compensate Native Americans for their land. A church who had sent Hugh Peters back to England to help cut Charles I head off, an act which would loose him his own. A church that had its first building moved across town to where it was filled with spirits and horse shit. It had been used as a horse stable and a tavern. But the real ghosts are in the current 4th building of the First Church, now Rockefellas. Its dance floor was haunted. The spirit would enter intoxicated woman and harass men on the dance floor. Several woman who looked different would act the same over the years, until. One Halloween the owners placed some movie quality ghouls on the ceiling and the ghost of the dance floor never returned. Though upstairs in their catered hall is still haunted by the woman in blue dress. She slams doors and whispers into your ear something more sinister than sweet nothings. This building is also connected to the tunnels in town. Also another spirit can be seen enter drunken women on Derby Street in between Turner and English Street. An area once frequented by prostitutes….
Now a great fire started in Salem in 1914 at the Korn Leather factory on the corner of Bridge and Boston Street. Currently there is a Walgreens there. Above it on the corner of Proctor and Pope Street was the grove of trees which hung innocent Christians accused of witchcraft. Nearby on Boston Street the church that prosecuted them was moved to. In the Howard Street graveyard, on the night of the fire which started near where the church was at the time and below where the Christians were hanged, Giles Corey was seen by some nuns in the Howard Street graveyard laughing at them. The next time he was seen in the graveyard was on the night a young woman committed suicide down in the Willows. See he is only seen in the graveyard on nights of great tragedy in Salem. My complaint was I spent the night with the wrong woman in the wrong cemetery, for if I was in the Howard Street Cemetery he could of told me what a fruit cake she was…
Then back down Boston to Essex Street we will meet the intersection of Flint and a ghost of an old ship captain and his wife and child that died in childbirth. Not the captain, how else would of he almost fathered a child… Silly people. This captain had seen the age of sail transform into one of steam. While out on one of his journeys, his wife was caught in the thralls of labor as she eased herself onto the floor of her front foyer. When the captain returned from his sojourn he was greeted with the news of the death of his wife and child. He still sits in a chair in the corner of the front of the house on the second floor. At least half of him does. Remember the old phrase “I left a part of myself…”? It does happen. Tragic events can tear a piece of your soul out to remain in a place long after the rest of you has died. My friend had moved into the third floor of the house. There he had a succubus sit on top of him while he was sleeping. My friend had an uncanny resemblance to the dead captain. When he asked me about the incident I told him not to worry it was only his wife. He was the one who in another life left part of himself behind.
Another half soul was encountered under the old Essex Bank (Naumkeag Trust) building on Derby Square. I used to give tours of the tunnels in this building. We have had paranormal groups, mediums, water witches, and psychics go through. On one occasion a water witch had seen a large man in a white baggy sailors uniform with a hat and a large key chain. The ghost was of a tall pudgy built. We helped move the ghost on and then afterward we went upstairs to see a friend of mine who fits the description of the ghost asleep with a large grin. It was another half soul. This building had lots of activity. In its western corner under a staircase was a tomb of two people who died on the Underground railroad. To prevent other runaway slaves from being caught they opted for this non-ordinary burial. They encased the two of them in cement under the stairs. A symbol of Jacob’s Ladder that will bring one to Heaven. There is also a few bank employees who remain in this building after the 1898 fire on this lot.
Another place in which someone was buried under a staircase is on the lot the Joshua Ward House is built on. This was the homestead of the evil sheriff George Curwin who shoved Giles Corey’s tongue back down his throat with his cane. The Curwin family knew how hated George had become after the witchcraft hysteria. So they hid his corpse in their house under the stairs in the basement. When the town settled down, the family moved him to the Broad Street Cemetery. In the 80’s when a realtor owned the Joshua Ward House a woman named Tache stood on a staircase to have her photo taken at a Christmas party. In the final print there was a woman with black hair standing up on end behind her dressed in black. Other strange things happened in this house in which George Washington once slept in. Candles would be bent into S shapes, garbage cans would overturn, and chairs would fly onto desks. The owner of the real estate company would be woken up several times a week by the alarm going off in the building. He would drive across town and stick his keys in the lock, the alarm would always turn off. Also he was once pondering a question when a book flew off the shelf and opened up to the answer. This building is another one connected to the tunnels in town. It also was the first home of the Essex Mason Lodge after the Revolutionary War.
I will leave you with this last departing story. If you ever walk through the McIntire District on Hamilton Street during the winter, wear extra layers. For ghosts make their presence know by dropping the ambient temperature by 10 degrees. John Fullerton, brick yard owner, has been known to wonder the streets. Fullerton was the man who sold the bricks in town to be used to build the tunnels. Once after leaving the ghostly mirage of Fullerton I had bumped into the owner of the Harry Potter shop, who is also a medium, and warned him to put his gloves on.
This blog is brought to you by the Salem tunnel and ghost tour. The best Salem walking tour! Also read the book that everyone digs, Salem Secret Underground: The History of the Tunnels in the City available on Amazon.com.