The Witch House
Jonathan Corwin was heir to one of the largest fortunes of the Puritan New England era. He would go on to take part in the well-documented and much-publicized Salem Witch Trials of the early 1690s. During the time that he lived, witch hunts were a common and widely accepted practice, although other parts of the world were quickly abandoning such nonsense.
The New England territories had to first deal with much public fear and mass hysteria before they would learn to abolish their archaic ways. Nineteen innocent lives were lost due to society’s twisted thinking of centuries’ past.
Men, women, and even young children were involved in these heinous trials. Salem will always go down as a major learning experience going forward. While most repented of their involvement in the trials, some did not, and perhaps these are the ones cursed to wander the very area in which they condemned others.
But how did this all start? What were the implications, and why do some believe that Salem is haunted to this very day by lost spirits of yesteryear? Read on and get an in-depth look at a time when old America was still learning its way and the price it had to pay along the way.
Witch House? This House
Properly known as the Jonathan Corwin House, it is named after its owner, Jonathan Corwin, who just happens to be one of the Salem Witch Trial judges. He investigated much of the claims associated with the alleged witchcraft activity, signing several arrest warrants during his time. However, due to an inadequacy in records, it’s difficulty to surmise his role completely.
The Witch House is the only structure still standing today that has direct ties to the Salem Witch Trials. Since it served as the home for one of the judges who took part in arrests leading to multiple executions, it is said to be haunted by spirits of the innocent who were hanged during the trials.
To add to the belief that this particular abode is haunted, it has been rumored that the Witch House was used by Jonathan Corwin to interrogate those accused of witchcraft. One can only imagine the veracity of these interrogations, most especially since Corwin’s friend and fellow judge was involved…
Judge John Hathorne
Which brings us to Judge John Hathorne, prominent judge of the trials and good friend of Jonathan Corwin. Judge Hathorne built a small empire through mercantile trading with England and the West Indies. He owned much land in Salem, helping him to gain positions of power and authority in the town.
He was eventually appointed a justice of the peace and served in the high court. While he primarily mediated disputes within Salem Village, he quickly rose to further authoritative power once the Witch Trials began.
One of the most sinister and heartless judges involved in the Salem Witch Trials, John Hathorne is responsible for handing down the most executions. Hathorne had a well-documented reputation for his callousness toward those accused of witchcraft, and it’s primarily because of his treatment of the innocent that this house is a central focus for those interested in Salem’s haunted history.
After more than 300 years since his death, Hawthorne is still remembered throughout Massachusetts as a cruel zealot incapable of showing mercy; so much so that he earned the nickname “the hanging judge”. Many also accused him of using his seat on the bench to commit murder.
Interestingly, Judge John Hawthorne is the great-great-grandfather of author Nathaniel Hawthorne, who wrote the novel The House of the Seven Gables, of which the Turner House was eventually named after.
Not too far from the Witch House is the cemetery where Judge Hathorne is laid to rest, Old Burying Point Cemetery. Allegedly, his spirit has been captured on camera numerous times and thrill seekers still visit here at night to try and catch a glimpse of the infamous judge.
To add to the intrigue, nearby residents claim that wandering ghosts from the cemetery have made their way into their homes.
Inside the Witch House
When taking one of the available tours through the Witch House, there are several artifacts from the 17th century that can be observed. Within the kitchen area there are many documents from the actual Salem Witch Trials.
An odd practice from this era was to place a shoe inside a home’s walls to ward off witches and warlocks. And wouldn’t you know it, they have an old black shoe from the past owner doing just that.
Perhaps the most frightening item on display is that of an actual witchcraft doll. Called a “poppet”, witches would allegedly place hexes on these dolls in order to curse their victims. The doll in question was actually found in a different, yet nearby, house – said to be the very one in which Bridget Bishop lived; the first woman executed by hanging during the Salem Witch Trials.
Reported Paranormal Activity
One of the most oft-reported encounters of paranormal activity is encountering that of a disembodied voice. Thought to be the most haunted place in Salem, Massachusetts, people have even claimed to have been touched by unseen forces, as well as feeling cold spots in certain areas of the house.
There have been a few reports of hearing the voice of a little girl, quite possibly that of the youngest accused of witchcraft during the trials – a four-year-old girl.
Some of the claims include people hearing the disembodied voice of a child, people being touched by an unseen entity, and feeling cold spots throughout the house. Even the Ghost Adventures crew of paranormal investigators explored this iconic location for their television series.
Interestingly, the Witch House was set be demolished in 1944 to make way for widening of the street. Locals, however, banded together and put a stop to it by raising the $42,000 required to move the house back a mere 35 feet where it currently sits.
After two architects restored the residence to its original 17th-century splendor, the Witch House was handed over to the city of Salem, at that point becoming the museum that it functions as today.
With it being the oldest standing structure of the Salem Witch Trials, there’s no doubt as to why the house is visited by many on a yearly basis, most notably around Halloween; it has the perfect recipe for what makes a traditional haunted house.
It is so popular and well-known as being haunted, in fact, that it was featured on the hit television series Ghost Adventures in 2011.
Perhaps it is best that this house remains open as a museum – haunted or otherwise – as it stands to serve as a reminder of how far we’ve come as a nation. What was once considered normal practice, the execution of witches and the like is laughable by today’s standards.
If there ever was a time period that we can reflect upon to see just how much we have bettered ourselves, the Salem Witch Trials is it. Sadly, many innocent men, women, and children had to die before we realized the error of our ways. Such is often seen throughout our history, however. We must crawl before we can learn to walk.
But with these strides comes a responsibility for us to ensure that these types of overzealous actions never again occur. If in doubt, one need only to look to the Witch House of Salem, Massachusetts. Here you’ll find more than enough evidence of our once brutal ways in a time when the freedoms that we have today were unheard of.
If you ever feel overwhelmed with the worries, struggles, and anxieties of today’s way of life, simply refer back to the olden times of Salem. You’ll most likely change your tune really quickly.