Explore the real-life mysticism of Salem, Massachusetts.
Salem, Massachusetts is world-renowned for its infamous persecution and execution of twenty people for witchcraft in 1692-1693. What is less commonly known is that Salem, affectionately nicknamed “The Witch City” by locals, has since become a thriving haven for real-life witches, Wiccans, and neopagans. There’s even a section of town called Witchcraft Heights!
With more than a million visitors every year, there are several tourist hotspots to be found, such as the Salem Witch Museum, The Witch House of judge Jonathan Corwin, and the Samantha Stevens statue of Bewitched fame. But trek off the beaten path and you’ll find limitless witchy treasures ranging from the spiritual to the bacchanalian—and often both at once!—including witchcraft and occult shops, street festivals, and even a new age travel company. Open your mind to this storied New England city and let Salem cast its spell on you.
New England Magic: A Shop and School of Witchcraft and Wizardry
New England Magic has an excellent variety of books on witchcraft and paganism, as well as assorted witch essentials like tarot decks and bags, jewelry, wands, and more. Peruse the wares found in two large connected rooms full of herbal encyclopedias, spellcasting guides, and both introductory and advanced texts on several pagan religions. The staff is always ready and willing to suggest just the right book for you, whether you identify as a witch or you’re simply an interested traveler.
INSIDER TIPIf you visit during the month of October, there will be—similarly to many of the witchcraft shops scattered across the downtown area—long lines to enter, with staff letting in a few people at a time so as not to overwhelm the building’s capacity. Plan accordingly to give yourself all the time you need.
Have you always wanted to roam shelves and shelves filled with glittering crystals and semi-precious gems at wholesale prices, organized by stone type and size, with dozens of each to choose from? Then you’ve come to the right place! Village Silversmith is a one-stop shop for crystal aficionados and curious passersby alike. As their name implies, they also carry a large collection of silver earrings, rings, and other jewelry, many with witchy and occult themes.
The back door of Village Silversmith acts as a direct shortcut to Museum Place Mall, which provides handy access to a smattering of souvenir shops, a food court, small theatre, and bathrooms. While there’s not much to fawn at over here, definitely consider visiting Witch Pix, where you can get your very own witchy professional photos taken.
The Coven’s Cottage
What makes The Coven’s Cottage unique among Salem’s witch shops is that it caters to Norse and Germanic pagan traditions. Enter into the Cottage and you will immediately be welcomed by the soothing, earthy fragrances of sweet herbs, burning oils, and drying flowers hanging from the eaves. This is an ideal place to find rune sets, herb bundles, and natural decorations made of wood, straw, and corn husks such as autumn wreaths and corn dollies. Many “kitchen witches,” who incorporate natural ingredients and food recipes into their magical workings, have undoubtedly become loyal customers of The Coven’s Cottage.
HausWitch is, in all the best ways possible, THE millennial witch shop of Salem. Inside you’ll find a mix of feminist art (like “Hex the Patriarchy” prints), locally-produced zines, and social justice-savvy potions, lotions, and spells—so many people could use one of their “Student Debt Be Gone” candles! These empowering products are displayed against a backdrop of tasteful, minimalist home decor, such as white throw blankets and accent pillows printed with the phases of the moon. HausWitch is like if your favorite queer witch Etsy shop had a love child with IKEA, although admittedly with prices closer to Crate & Barrel’s.
HausWitch also offers an impressive array of educational workshops, community rituals, progressive political advocacy opportunities, and walking tours in partnership with their sister business NOW Age Travel + Healing (another pick on our list!). Check out HausWitch’s site for an ever-expanding events list.
The Rebecca Nurse Homestead
The only Danvers location on our list, it’s an important one. As the historic home of elderly witch trials victim Rebecca Nurse, it’s one of the only surviving structures directly connected to the 1692 witch hysteria. The homestead has been restored to what it would have looked like during Rebecca’s lifetime. You can take a public tour ($7 for adults) that includes a partial walk-through of the home, a trip through a reproduction Salem Village Meetinghouse and gift shop, and access to the grounds and family cemetery where, according to the tourism brochure, “[i]t is likely that Rebecca Nurse was secretly buried … by her family, who brought her body back from Gallows Hill following her execution.”
Danvers was formerly Salem Village, the actual setting of much of the witch trials terror. What we now call Salem was in 1692 called Salem Town. While the witch trials were held in Salem Town, many of those accused lived further out in Salem Village, including Rebecca Nurse. The residents of Salem Village changed the town’s name to Danvers in 1752, perhaps after the settler Danvers Osborne.
Salem 1630: Pioneer Village, Forest River Park
Pioneer Village, built in 1930 as the set for a play, is “America’s first living history museum” to educate the public about what Salem would have looked like in 1630. Located a ten-minute drive from downtown Salem, historic tours are given on Saturday and Sunday afternoons at 12:30, 1:30, and 2:30 from June to September. In October, the spooky Lanterns in the Village event is held, with ghost stories illuminated by jack-o-lanterns and candlelight.
While it is less relevant to most modern witches than many of the picks on our list, Pioneer Village’s charm endures as one of the lesser-known filming locations—others include the Ropes Mansion and Salem Old Town Hall—for the 1993 Halloween fan favorite Hocus Pocus, so we couldn’t help but include it.
Salem Haunted Happenings
The peak Salem experience is to be found, of course, throughout the month of October, when The Witch City transforms (even more than usual) into the real-life Halloweentown of your wildest dreams. Among the extensive seasonal list of events offered up by the city’s Haunted Happenings planning team, you can browse the open-air vendors on cobblestone Essex Street during the Haunted Biz Baz Street Fair, ride the Ferris wheel at the Derby Street Carnival, and see the glowing orange and purple lights strung all over downtown businesses. And don’t you dare show up in muggle attire in the days leading up to All Hallows Eve—everyone will be donning their Halloween best, from all over the world, as costumed revelers parade through the streets.
Don’t forget to grab some hot apple cider from Gulu Gulu Cafe after taking a selfie with the Samantha Stevens statue, and if you’re hungry, grab pizza at Flying Saucer Pizza Company next door. Visitors often prepare for their October trips all year, with the iconic Hawthorne Hotel—host to the annual Salem Witches’ Ball—booked several months to a year in advance. Remember to stay for the 10:30 pm fireworks if you’re there on Halloween!
INSIDER TIPIf you’re trying to visit Salem at any time during October, it is highly advised that you NOT drive, as parking will be nearly impossible if you’re not a resident. Instead, leave your car at a commuter rail station and take the MBTA train in. If you’re staying in Boston, there’s direct commuter rail service from North Station.
NOW Age Travel + Healing
Many Salem companies operate walking tours of the city, but NOW Age Travel + Healing does so from an authentically magical place. Perhaps the only business in town to offer healing workshops, tours, and what they call “walking workshops” on tarot, flower magic, herbs, and writing, founder Melissa Nierman and energy healer Grace Harrington Murdoch bring their own training in reiki and astrology as well as their business acumen. If you’re interested in visiting The First Spiritualist Church of Salem, you just may want to take NOW Age’s History of Spiritualism walking tour, or their tour Witches: 1692-Today, advertised with the preface, “This is not a traditional Salem Witch tour!” Indeed.
Picture a charming, mustard-colored colonial with white trim, stuffed with a well-stocked but neatly organized apothecary of magical delights, and you’ve got Artemisia Botanicals. Inside, you’ll find shelves upon shelves of over 400 herbs, more than 100 teas, and a diverse assortment of spices, tinctures, flower essences, oils, and soaps; in short, anything you could possibly cook up for an enchanted brew. If Practical Magic’s Sally Owens set up her shop in Salem—and the book was set in Massachusetts, after all—it would look like Artemisia Botanicals.
INSIDER TIPIf you’re interested in a witchy education, Artemisia Botanicals also offers courses through their Green Witch School of Herbalism.
NU AEON surpasses all other witch shops in Salem for the vibes of warmth, serenity, and peaceful joy that greet visitors, which comes from a combination of its ethereal surroundings and the soothing, earth goddess employees. Located on scenic Pickering Wharf, take a deep breath of cleansing sea air as you gaze out at the harbor before entering the shop. As you step inside, take in the colorful floor art of pentacles and other spiraling designs as music by Loreena McKennitt hums in the background. With a wide variety of books, jewelry, spell candles, incense, tarot decks, and other ritual supplies, NU AEON is the real deal.
INSIDER TIPTry chatting up a staff member about any witchy supplies you’re looking for. The staff are both friendly and knowledgeable and love helping you find just the right ingredients.
Proctor’s Ledge Memorial at Gallows Hill
Proctor’s Ledge Memorial stands at the base of Gallows Hill Park (and, mundanely, adjacent to a Walgreens drug store) as a monument to the hillside location where 19 people were hung for witchcraft in 1692 (Giles Corey was the exception; he was tortured and pressed to death). Surprisingly, visitors looking for the exact location to pay their respects had to wait until July 2017—on the 325th anniversary of the first round of the witch hangings—as it took researchers hundreds of years and much painstaking research to finally pinpoint and come to a consensus about where the hangings occurred. The memorial features a semi-circular viewing area from which visitors can gaze up at the ledge where the victims were killed, and stones bearing each victim’s name are individually illuminated by an in-ground light.
Prior to the construction of Proctor’s Ledge Memorial, The Salem Witch Trials Memorial served as Salem’s main tribute to the victims and can be visited at the Old Burying Point Cemetery downtown.