The Witch House in Salem, Massachusetts



image from: (author: chensiyuan)

I’d like to kick-off the month of All Hallows’ Eve by featuring one of the most notorious spooky old houses in America – the Salem Witch House in Salem Massachusetts.

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Officially called the Jonathan Corwin House, this 17th century structure was the home of Judge Jonathan Corwin who investigated and presided over the infamous Salem Witch Trials.

Although the exact date of origin of this house is unknown, historians believe it was built anywhere from the 1620’s to the 1670’s with 1642 being the most frequently cited date.

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Jonathan Corwin lived in the house from 1675 (when he bought it at the age of 24) until about the year 1715. The house was kept in the Corwin family until the mid 19th century.

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The Jonathan Corwin House is the only surviving structure in Salem that has direct ties to the 1692 witch trials.

Despite rumors to the contrary, no interrogations or trials were ever conducted in the Witch House. There are no documents in which an accused is demanded to be brought to Judge Corwin’s home, nor is it likely the judge would have used his own home as a place to conduct legal proceedings of this nature. Interrogations were done at either the Old Meetinghouse or Ingersall’s Tavern.


Nonetheless, it was home to the judge who helped send some 19 souls to the gallows for allegedly practicing witchcraft.

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The Salem Witch House has been extensively restored and is now one of the finest examples of 17th century residential architecture in the United States. However, it did not always look the way it does at present day.

The house was moved about 35 feet to its current location in the 1940s when the adjacent street was widened. At this time the house was restored to look as it would have in the 17th Century and the gambrel roof was altered.

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This is a postcard from about 1910 that shows what the house looked like at that point in time:

image from: c. 1910

Yes, that’s it there in the middle sandwiched between all those other commercial buildings (with the gambrel roof)! Far cry from what it looks like today…

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I could not find record of when the gambrel roof was added but I did find an 1859 drawing of the house that shows the house looking similar to what it would have looked like in the 1690’s.

image from: wikimedia commons – c. 1859 drawing

It’s remarkable to see how different the house was made to look up until it was restored in the 1940’s! I would never have guessed this is the same structure. Apparently, sometime between 1859 and 1910, the Jonathan Corwin house underwent some drastic alterations.

image from: circa 1908 post card

One constant about the house is that distinctive thick center chimney.

Today, the Jonathan Corwin house operates as a public museum and is open from March-November. They do lots of fun stuff during the month of October so if you are in or near Salem, Massachusettes this month, check it out!

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***Stay tuned for more spooky/haunted/creepy old houses during the month of October on House Crazy!

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