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Salem Witch Museum Review Most Popular Attraction in Salem Massachusetts In The Great Wide Travel Blog

Salem Witch Museum


Touted as the most popular attraction in Salem, is the Salem Witch Museum all it’s hyped to be? We’ll give you our HONEST opinion and give you other suggestions for what to do in Salem.


CONTENTS



Where is the Salem Witch Museum?

The Salem Witch Museum is located at 19 1/2 N Washington Square, Salem, MA 01970. It is across from the Salem Commons (a park), behind the statue of Roger Conant, Salem’s founder. It’s a rather lovely building and is hard to miss, as it was originally built as a church in 1846.



How to Get to the Salem Witch Museum

To get to Salem from Boston, take the MBTA Newburyport/Rockport Commuter Rail Line train from North Station. It will take about 45 minutes and costs $8 each way, as Salem falls into Zone 3 on the MBTA’s fare zone pricing system. You can buy your tickets once at North Station or in advance through the MBTA mTicket app for Apple or Android. Don’t make the same mistake we did by thinking you can pay for it using your Boston transit pass; it’s a separate ticket! We talk more in detail about it in our blog post about the Old Burying Point.


The train starts at 5:30am and leaves about once an hour until around 11pm, with a couple extra trains during heavier commuting times. The return trains run until around 11pm too, so you don’t have to worry about cutting your day short because you need to catch an early train back to Boston.


Once you’re off the train in Salem, it is easily walkable (just a few blocks) to Old Salem and all of the attractions there. Essex Street is the main drag with lots of shops and tourist attractions, and the Museum is only 1 block north from there.


If you would rather drive, there’s some parking available in and around the area, but it will be scarce if you’re visiting in October. The train will be faster and may even be cheaper than parking. If you must drive, see our Old Burying Point “How to Get There” section for info about parking nearby and taking the train 5 minutes into Salem.


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How to Get Tickets for the Salem Witch Museum

The Salem Witch Museum is open year-round, with extended hours during their busiest season: October. Over half a million tourists visit Salem in the month of October alone, so if you can go another time of year, we definitely recommend doing that instead. However, they are usually closed for a while in January for scheduled maintenance.


Only same-day tickets are available for the Salem Witch Museum, and you must go online to buy the tickets. Tickets will not be available at the door, and will most likely sell out very quickly online in the mornings in October, so make sure you get your tickets FIRST THING in the morning the day you’re planning to be there. Tickets for each day go on sale at 12:01am and are for specific timed entry, starting every half hour, and there are NO REFUNDS. Expect to plan the rest of your day in Salem around your time slot at the Salem Witch Museum if you do decide to go. Phoebe woke up early that day to make sure we were able to get in at the time we wanted, in the mid-afternoon, because we already had tickets for the Peabody Essex Museum in the morning and the Salem Night Ghost Tour in the evening.


One more time, we want to reiterate: if you’re going in October, either stay up late to get your tickets a few minutes past midnight when they’re first released, or get up early and buy them first thing in the morning, because they WILL SELL OUT EVERY DAY IN OCTOBER. Take the train into Salem if you can because otherwise you might miss your time slot because you’re sitting in traffic or searching for parking and they WILL NOT REFUND your money and cannot move your time slot because they will be sold out!


Salem Witch Museum Statue Of Roger Conant Founder of Salem Massachusetts Photography By In The Great Wide Witch Travel Blog

Our Experience

While on our month-long Amtrak USA Rail Pass adventure, we visited Salem during our short stay in Boston, as it was close, and both of us were very excited to visit such an historical place, and in October nonetheless! However, Salem did not turn out to be what we were expecting, as the city turns into a giant tourist trap with offensive levels of commercialization during the Halloween season.


Phoebe managed to get us tickets for the mid-afternoon, and it would be the last thing we’d get to do with our friend and his daughter, who drove up from Boston to spend the day with us. We weren’t sure if the Salem Witch Museum was going to be ok for her, as she was around 11 years old, and the museum warns that there are some depictions of violence during the tour, but our friend (her dad) assured us that she’d be fine. It turns out, it was an unnecessary worry, and she was perfectly fine (maybe even a little bored) during and after the ‘tour’. So while it may not be suitable for young children, I think most kids over the age of 7 or 8 will be fine.


The Museum is built inside of an old church, and the exterior of the building is beautiful. The architecture is fabulous, but unfortunately, upon entering, you realize the interior does not match the beauty of the exterior. It was originally built as a church in 1846, but stopped being used as one after a fire in 1902. After sitting empty for a while, it housed a car museum until that was destroyed by a fire in 1969. It was then that the interior had to be completely rebuilt and the Salem Witch Museum was born, opening in 1972.


They do not allow pictures or videos to be taken while inside the Museum, and once the ‘tour’ started, we knew why: if anyone actually saw what was inside, no one would actually buy tickets to see it.


Let’s first just say this: it’s not really a museum in the way that we think about museums. You do not wander through freely, taking time to really take in what you want to take in. Instead, it’s a “guided” tour through a narrated presentation and past a few other small exhibits.


Salem Witch Museum Statue Of Roger Conant Founder of Salem Massachusetts In The Great Wide Travel Blog

To start, you’re shuffled into the large main room with a bunch of other people and sit on a bunch of stools in the center that allow you to get a 360 degree view of the main room. I believe some of the stools allowed you to spin to follow the presentation around the room, but on ours, you had to constantly shift your body around to follow along. The ‘tour’ was essentially an informational video soundtrack, set to a large number of life-size dioramas on raised platforms, depicting events of the Salem Witch Trials.


The first diorama to light up was a realistic depiction of Satan in full scary glory. I imagine this is what they were warning us about when they said “The museum presentation depicts dark and tragic history. Some of the visuals may not be suitable for younger audiences.” I was immediately concerned for our friend’s daughter, but she didn’t seem to care. The lights follow the soundtrack around the room as you stay seated and spin around to see the different scenes light up during different parts of the story. You see depictions of various aspects of the Trials, including events that lead to the trials, prison conditions, and punishments for the accused and convicted witches, such as the pressing of Giles Corey. It wasn’t poorly done, necessarily, but it was cheesy and just looked like it came straight from 1965, without a lot of updating.


After that ends, you’re herded into the “second exhibit”, which includes how witches have been portrayed in the media and in other parts of the world. There are a few other small dioramas here, depicting modern day witches, which they essentially made into hippies living in the woods. It does not depict the vast array of what modern witches are, at all, which is rather offensive, because it’s safe to assume that it’s unlikely for most of the people coming through this “museum” to be exposed to other forms of modern witch culture or witchcraft practices. It seems like whoever set up this exhibit is ignorant of how modern witches actually act or dress, as it doesn’t even begin to show the inclusiveness and varying cultures of that community.


After the second exhibit, you’re herded into the gift shop, where the museum sells random useless tchotchkes and costumes and candles and whatnot. We rolled our eyes and left.


Now, we’re not saying that the Salem Witch Museum was promoting the Trials as good, nor were they saying that modern witches are bad; it was just very poorly done. Phoebe was pretty offended by the entire affair, being one of those modern witches herself. I found it to be oddly entertaining, in a ‘watching a train wreck’ sort of way. When we stepped out of the gift shop and said our goodbyes to our friend and his daughter, another couple overheard us talking about it on their way in and asked if it was worth it. Phoebe was adamant, that no, it was not.


Salem Witch Museum In October Stuff To Do In Salem Massachusetts Review In The Great Wide Pagan Travel Blog

Our Verdict

After sitting on this experience for a while, we can confidently say that it’s a hard pass on the Salem Witch Museum. It doesn’t give you any other information that you can’t find through other avenues, like their own website. It’s not worth the money or the time, especially for how much of a pain in the ass it is to get the tickets. If you want some history, visit the Peabody Essex Museum and take the guided Ghost Night Walking Tour we did, which was highly entertaining and educational. If you want to learn more about the Salem Witch Trials, Phoebe recommends season 1 of the Unobscured podcast with Aaron Mahnke.


Quick Reference Guide


What

Where

How to Get There

The MBTA Newburyport/Rockport Commuter Train Line runs through Salem. Parking is available but can be extremely scarce and expensive in October.

Time Commitment

The ‘tour’ takes 60 minutes, with timed entry during October.

Cost

Adult - $16.50, Senior Citizen - $15, Child (3-14 years) - $13.50

Reservation Info

You must buy tickets online, on the day you’re visiting the Museum. Tickets go on sale at 12:01am for that day. During October, the Museum will sell out every day, so get your tickets early.

Our Verdict

Skip it. It’s a tourist trap in dire need of an update and doesn’t honor modern witches. Book a walking tour and/or visit the Peabody Essex Museum instead.


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Adam Neubauer Writer for In The Great Wide Travel Blog

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