Looking for ways to better your fright game this month? With the fall of leaves and scent of woodsmoke in the air are you feeling pulled to the past and to those who came before? We are, too!
We all know by now all that Salem has much to offer in the way of October frights, but here are nine novel ideas you might not have considered to commemorate this month of Samhain, harvest season, and All Hallows’ Eve observations.
Wilmot Redd gravestone, Marblehead: More than 200 people were accused of witchcraft in Salem and the surrounding towns during 1692 and 1693, and 19 were executed by hanging. Just one woman, Wilmot Redd, was from Marblehead. While the court indicted her for, “detestable arts called Witchcraft and Sorceries,” in the end, it seems, her primary misdeeds amount to her being downright ornery and a bit crabby, and selling some townsfolk batches of soured butter.
Redd’s body was added to a common gravesite with an unknown location. But a marker for her can also be found at Old Burial Hill in Marblehead, one of the most picturesque graveyards in the area, where you can stumble upon colonial grave markers and walk the site of hundreds of revolutionary soldiers (though only a few of those graves are marked).
Bewitched After Dark tour, Salem: We had to include a stroll in one of our favorite Halloween villages. These evening walking tours of Salem are a treat for both their historical and less well-known fun facts about Salem, witchcraft in New England, and colonial lore. You will walk away from your spooky tour of town feeling more informed and with a few answers to questions you might not have even considered. Save time for a meal after your tour at Ledger or Settler to truly make it a night to remember. For more information visit bewitchedafterdark.com.
House of Seven Gables, Salem: The true test of wits will be whether you are one of those who sense unease in the attic of the house, also known as the Turner-Ingersoll mansion. Once the sleeping chambers of an indentured servant, the attic is known to be a location of what some visitors have described as “a strange presence.” By planning ahead and booking one of the very last tours of the day, if you are lucky, it will be as close to 6pm as possible and with the sun setting earlier and earlier as the days grow colder, you might just be up in the attic at dusk or even dark. For more information visit 7gables.org.
Dogtown, Gloucester and Rockport: Straddling the Gloucester-Rockport border, and open from dawn until dusk, Dogtown (or Dogtown Common) is the abandoned settlement that lost its way sometime during the 1830s. Originally settled in 1693 because its rocky location offered settlers protection from enemies, the settlement was named for the dogs that the wives and then widows of revolutionary soldiers kept with them when they were alone while their husbands were at war.
There are several cellar holes and paths to explore and over three dozen boulders to find that were placed on the settlement by philanthropist Roger Babson as a progressive public art piece. On the boulders are engraved motivational phrases put there by unemployed Finnish quarry workers during the Great Depression.
If you can stay until right at dusk, you might just hear the howls of the dogs who once lived on the settlement, protecting women and children and those who could not fight in the Revolution.
Hammond Castle, Gloucester: Built in 1926 by inventor John Hays Hammond, Jr. in the style of a medieval castle to house his collection of ancient artifacts, Hammond Castle makes for a great destination if you are heading to Cape Ann. The castle is said to be haunted by Hammond himself, his wife and groundkeepers, as well as some bonus spirits who have been reported to move in and around the castle and grounds. Check the website for tours and candlelight and Spiritualism events.
Garrison Inn, Newburyport: Sure, an overnight at the inn is a little less than spooky, these days, with fine linens, marbled bathrooms, a tearoom, and notable breakfasts in breakfast café The Liberator. But, staff, guests and those “in the know” still say the inn is haunted by the original heir to the building, Sarah White Banister. We checked the inn’s website. Their answer to the question, “Is the inn haunted?”: It is if you want it to be. For more information visit garrisoninn.com.
Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse, New Castle, N.H. If you feel up to venturing further north and are organized enough to remember to book in advance your private tour, a trip to Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse in New Castle, New Hampshire, is a spook-seeker’s joy with haunted lighthouse tours and multiple reports of a ghostly presence. It was even featured by the popular Ghost Hunters reality show on Syfy.
The 48-foot cast iron tower, erected in 1771, is said to be haunted by Joshua Card, the former keeper, who was reported to have barely left the lighthouse while he was in service, and is still attached to the place, after death. So come see for yourself: Is Joshua Card still posted at his station, in peacoat and hat? For more information visit portsmouthharborlighthouse.org.
Goodnight Fatty, Salem: Check out Goodnight Fatty, a beloved cookie shop and breakfast stop in the heart of Salem for fearsome idea number 8: more cookies than you care to remember the next morning. Enough said. For more information visit goodnightfatty.com.