Readers’ Choice: Salem Is the Most Haunted City in America
No one loves Halloween, ghost tours and haunted houses more than Americans. The country has its fair share of places that make the hair on the back of your neck stand up.
But, which one gets the crown? We asked our readers to vote on it, and the verdict is in: Salem, Massachusetts, is the most haunted city in America.
This isn't too surprising given the historic witch trials for which the town is famous. Happening between 1692 and 1693, the mass hysteria event saw more than 200 people accused of doing witchcraft. Twenty of them were executed.
The event still shapes life in Salem today, making it an epicenter for all things spooky. If you love anything that sends shivers down your spine, here are all the things you should do while on a witch-centric visit.
Learn About the City's Haunted Past at the Salem Witch Museum
The absolute best thing to do in Salem is to visit the Salem Witch Museum. Opened in 1972, the institution celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2022. It's set in an 1846 Gothic revival former church that really sets the mood.
You'll find two main exhibitions. The first one takes you through a detailed history of the Salem Witch Trials. If you want a deeper understanding of the event, we recommend you do this before anything else in the city.
After seeing the first wing, you can follow the history of witch trials in Europe and see how the perception of witches has evolved in the western world over time.
Don't Miss Salem's Halloween Celebrations
Halloween is the best time of the year to visit Salem. There's a joke that the city has five seasons: winter, spring, summer, October and fall. Of the five, October is, without a doubt, the most important since it's when the city hosts Salem Haunted Happenings.
Lasting from the first to the 31st, this gigantic Halloween celebration is the largest in the entire world! Over 500,000 people from the city and around the country participate in hundreds of events, contests, food tastings and haunted experiences.
Other Spooky Things to Do in Salem
If you can't make it to Salem in October, don't worry! Scaring visitors is a year-round pastime for the town. Besides the Salem Witch Museum, you should visit the Witch House. Judge Jonathan Corwin, one of the people who condemned accused witches to be hanged, once lived in this 17th-century house. The Charter Street Cemetery is also a popular spot for visitors looking for a ghoulish experience.
Of course, ghost tours abound in this town. We recommend the Salem Wax Museum's Candlelit Ghostly Walking Tours. Yes, they really are done by candlelight. For a haunted house experience, head to the Witch Mansion.
There are also several live re-enactments of the trials that bring the event to life. Of these, the coolest one is Cry Innocent. You won't just see the trials, but you'll actually be the jury, having to decide the fate of the accused.
Best Salem Restaurants
All that touring cemeteries at night and learning about witches will leave you hungry. Salem has a number of delicious eateries where you'll find cuisines and flavors from all over the world.
Village Tavern is a town darling, with locals coming here for good burgers, clam chowders and creamy mac-n-cheese. Though the beer on tap and pool tables are also crowd pleasers. Go to Turner's Seafood for fresh New England dishes and to Bella Verona for Italian in a chic setting.
And if you want to keep up with the haunted theme of your trip (in name, not in food quality), start at Flying Saucers Pizza Company or at Howling Wolf Taqueria. Follow up with a signature cocktail at All Souls Lounge.
Where to Stay in Salem
For a true witch trials vacation, stay at Daniel's House Bed & Breakfast. Built in 1667, it is the oldest bed and breakfast in the country and was an actual inhabited house during the trials. The accommodation organizes witch and ghost tours, but it also offers a cozy stay with open-hearth fireplaces perfect for gathering around and telling scary stories.
Another great place to stay is the Hawthorne Hotel, registered as part of the Historic Hotels of America. You'll feel like New England royalty when you walk into the Grand Ballroom, which hosts the hotel's annual Halloween Party, one of the most coveted annual events in town.