310 1/2 Essex Street, Salem, Massachusetts 01970
One of the oldest (if not THE oldest) house still standing in the United States is this one — known as The Witch House, or The Jonathan Corwin House, in Salem, Massachusetts. It is thought to have been built in 1642, but some scholars suggest it was possibly built a decade or more earlier. There are others who believe evidence places its construction (or at least its completion) closer to the year Jonathan Corwin purchased the home in 1675. The architectural style is representative of New England architecture of the 17th century.
The Witch House is the only structure in Salem still standing with direct ties to the witch trials. When Jonathan Corwin purchased the home, he hired Daniel Andrews to remodel the house and finish its construction. Seventeen years later, in 1692, Judge Corwin presided over the Salem witch trials which resulted in the execution of nineteen people for witchcraft. One of the accused was the builder of the Witch House, Daniel Andrews. Andrews was later acquitted.
While no witches ever resided in the home, for many years it was believed that some of the witch examinations took place in the home though no evidence has been found to corroborate the rumors.
The Corwin family lived in the home for forty years but experienced tragedy after tragedy. Called the “Corwin Curse,” Jonathan Corwin and his wife, Elizabeth, lost five children between 1684 and 1690. Four died in infancy. The fifth was a toddler. By 1717, Jonathan and Elizabeth’s son, George, was the head of household, but he died in November of that year as the result of a fever, followed by his wife a few months later. Jonathan and Elizabeth died in 1718 of the same fever. George’s two young sons were all who remained of the Corwin family.
The house stayed in the Corwin family until the mid-19th century. In the 1940s, the house was moved thirty-five feet from its original location to make way for widening of a road. During the renovation, human bones were found on the property, but the remains were never identified. The home was restored and was opened as a museum in 1948. Today, the house remains open for tours.
Visitors report the sounds of disembodied voices and feel a chill as if a ghost crossed over the threshold. Many visitors report odd smudges or shadows in photographs taken inside the home. Some believe the house is haunted by the spirits of those Corwin sentenced to death. Others believe the Corwins never left. The City of Salem, for its part, has done a nice job of adding to the witchy vibe by placing superstitious tokens throughout the house to ward off witches including a black shoe placed in the wall, witch bottles to capture the wicked ones, and a poppet (a small doll) said to have been found in the home of Bridget Bishop, the first person executed by hanging for the crime of witchcraft on June 10, 1692.
The Witch House was featured on Ghost Adventures on the Travel Channel. To learn more and plan your trip to the Witch House, visit their website at www.thewitchhouse.org.