With a history like this one, it's no wonder that Salem, Massachusetts, is a city filled with creepy stories and haunted folklore. In 1692, witchcraft hysteria swept through Salem, ultimately leading to the deaths of 20 innocent people during the notorious Salem witch trials. As he was being tortured, accused witch Giles Corey cursed the town and its sheriff, and now his ghost appears as a bad omen before terrible events.
But the town's trouble didn't end with the Salem witch trials. Pirates, sailors, smugglers, and bootleggers also made Salem their home, and their ghostly remains haunt everything from a basement embalming studio/speakeasy to the creepy underground tunnels that crisscross the coastline.
Read on for true stories of some of the many spooky and sinister things that have happened in Salem, and the ghostly effects from its tragic history that still linger today.
If you've passed through Salem or Peabody, MA, you may have noticed Bunghole Liquors and had a good laugh. But the funny name actually comes from the liquor store's Prohibition history. Back then, the building was a funeral home and the owner ran a speakeasy in the basement where dead bodies were embalmed. The slang for the secret drinking spot was "bunghole," as in "Will I see you at the bunghole tonight?" One of the regulars said that if Prohibition was ever lifted, the owner should turn the place into a liquor store, and that's exactly what happened in 1933.
Today, it's said that spirits still lurk in the store. A female ghost roams behind the wine racks and a feline ghost haunts the shop.
Wicked Good Books occupies the space that was formerly Derby Square Bookstore. During renovations, tunnels were discovered beneath the store which connected to a warehouse in Derby Square. According to a Salem tour guide, the tunnels were used to smuggle goods and people. Investigators discovered evidence of human remains inside the tunnels, and it's believed that two runaway slaves were entombed there.
In the late 17th century, the strip of taverns on Derby Street across from Derby Wharf became the go-to place for illegal activity. Sailors and sea captains visiting Salem used underground tunnels to make their way to brothels in the red light district. It's also rumored that they would use the tunnels to kidnap people.
Today, the stretch of Derby Street is still home to cafes and taverns, including The Witch's Brew. The spirits of the old sailors linger, with disembodied voices floating through the air and sightings of pirates mysteriously emerging from the water.
The Old Salem Jail was the site of an estimated 50 hangings - and you can now live there in a luxury condo, if you're into that sort of thing. The jail opened in 1813 next to the Howard Street Cemetery, where Giles Corey was pressed to death by Sheriff Corwin during the witch trials. The Boston Strangler, Albert DeSalvo, was also jailed here.
In 1984, the conditions in the prison were so bad that the inmates successfully sued the county. A federal judge ordered it to be closed down seven years later, but until then, it was the oldest operating prison in America.