The Salem Witch Trials are legendary among historians and horror fans alike in the United States. The seventeenth-century scandal started when the uncontrollable fits of a minister’s daughter and niece had no medical explanation. The extreme Puritan faithful reckoned the mannerisms were consistent with the devil and witchcraft. The only question was, who is a witch? What happened next was one of the most incredibly violent and accusatory purges in legal history. A modern-day Inquisition replete with conspiracy, torture, and death. The Salem Witch Trials had more questions than answers after ruining the lives of over two hundred people and executing nineteen. With so much purported witchcraft, the location begs the question of, are there any haunted places in Salem, Massachusetts? The Joshua Ward House is one such haunting location in Salem.
Is the Joshua Ward House Haunted?
George Corwin was the local sheriff in Salem during the witch hunts. He was a ruthless man who did not hesitate to torture suspected witches. In 1697, four years after the Salem Witch Trials had ended, Corwin died in his home of a suspected blood clot. Due to his notorious reputation during the trials, his family feared his body would be dismembered or stolen by victim’s families. To counter this, his body was entombed in the basement area of his home. Later in 1784, a builder named Joshua Ward constructed this home over the ground of the Corwin home. Renowned American architect, Samuel McIntire, designed the interior which is still present today.
The Ghosts of the Joshua Ward House
Historians who have held seances over the years conclude that there are three distinctively different spirits haunting the location. The first is that of George Corwin himself. Visitors report to have the feeling of someone or something, wrap what has been described as cold hands around their necks, and gently squeeze. Corwin was a brutal man who often resorted to strangling those of witchcraft into a confession. In fact, historical documents show he was nicknamed as, “The Strangler.”
The second spirit is said to be Giles Corey. A bullish farmer who was accused of being a witch during the trials, he was personally tortured by Corwin and his men by the method known as crushing. Corey was laid flat and heavy stones were placed upon his body, as the weight was to coerce him into confessing. A fighter to the end, Corey is famous for asking for “more weight” while being crushed to death. His ghost has been responsible for knocking various items off shelves throughout the house, as well as stacking up books that his spirit takes right off the shelves.
The final ghost in the home is that of an unidentified and accused witch. Reputed to be a victim of Corwin’s own hand, the young woman has no formal identification or backstory. Adding to the supernatural mystery, the home was purchased in 1981 by a realty company looking to use it as a satellite office. At the employee Christmas party, many polaroids of the house were taken and one of them of an empty hallway showed something most shocking. A ghostly woman dressed completely in black. To this day it is thought that she is responsible for the crying sounds heard in the house, no doubt centuries old residual screams from the torture she endured at Corwin’s hands.
For the present day, the Joshua Ward house is something of a boutique hotel, now called The Merchant. It’s registered as a historical landmark there in Essex County and every year receives thousands of visitors. For many locals though, they say that there is something eerie and unsettling about the place, and all too many confess to taking other streets late at night and avoid having to pass by it whenever possible.