Most people have at least heard of Salem, thanks to the infamous witch trials that took place there in 1692. If you read The Crucible in school, you probably know the gist of the unfortunate events. It may hold a darker past, but Salem, Massachusetts, is much more than its previous tragedies and superstitions—though these do provide a great tourist attraction, especially near Halloween.
Whether you’re planning to visit or move to Salem or are just learning about the area, we have some facts you should know before you go. Who knows, maybe this will push you to take a trip if you weren’t already planning to.
Salem is an American Military Birthplace
Back in 1628, before all thirteen colonies were established and the US had a formal military, Governor John Endecott created the first official militia to defend Salem. The militia drafted men from ages 16 to 60 and became known as the East Regiment under a legislative act by the Massachusetts Bay General Court on December 13, 1636. In 2013 signed legislation marked this the official birthdate of the Army National Guard. Training was conducted in what is now Salem Common, with the very first militia muster organized in 1937. This event was the foundation for what would eventually become the National Guard of today.
Salem is also home to a couple of nearly four-century-old military fortifications. First, Fort Pickering was a coastal defense post along Salem Harbor during the Anglo-Dutch Wars. This fort has a history dating back to 1643. Then it was initially named Fort William and Fort Anne, and its first actual military use was in 1663. Second is Fort Lee, located at the highest point on Salem Neck. This earthwork fort dates back to 1690 and was used during the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, and the American Civil War.
Salem Was a Prosperous Trade Port
Salem’s waterfront location made it an ideal seaport and trade route, especially with China. This led to amplified wealth and growth, making Salem one of the largest cities in the nation by 1790. Though it’s now a small city by today’s standards, Salem’s prosperity made room for increased construction during the colonial era, with many new builds being mansions.
One particular mansion is now part of the Salem Maritime National Historic Site. This is the home of Elias Derby, one of America’s first millionaires following the American Revolution. Elias’ wealth stemmed from managing a shipping empire from New England to the East Indies. Another well-known and preserved estate is The House of the Seven Gables, which inspired Salem resident Nathaniel Hawthorne when he penned his novel of the same name. You might also recognize him as the author of The Scarlet Letter.
Salem is Also Known for Pirates
Pirates were not an uncommon sight along the New England shores and a very real threat compared to the Puritan fears of black magic. The city was targeted due to its valuable trade cargo and comfortable summertime climate. Several infamous pirates docked right in Salem during the Golden Age, which lasted from the 1650s to the 1730s. You may recognize names like Blackbeard and Captain Kidd, but other local legends include “Black Sam” Bellamy and Edward “Ned” Low.
A little different from pirates, Privateers also played an essential role in aiding the Navy during the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. The main difference was that privateering was legal, and piracy was not. As a result, over 150 privately owned ships that operated out of Salem were enlisted to attack and seize enemy ships. Today, you can board The Schooner Fame, which was converted from a fishing vessel into a privateer combat vessel during the War of 1812. It’s noted for being the first American privateer during the war to capture prizes, two of which were The Concord of England and the Elbe of Scotland.
Expect Massive Crowds in October
Remember how we mentioned that Salem is a tourist attraction around Halloween? We weren’t kidding. Salem is a relatively small New England city, spanning just over 18 miles with a population of about 45,000. But throughout October, the area is bustling with events and visitors. People come from all over to see the chilling yet peaceful Salem Witch Trials Memorial and neighboring historic Charter Street Cemetery, among tons of other festive or Haunted Happenings.
If you plan to be in the area during this time, you’ll need to plan ahead. Parking becomes scarce, and pedestrian traffic spikes. You’ll also want to book early if you plan to visit many shops and attractions, as lines can get insanely long. Weekends are the busiest, so if you can avoid them, it’s recommended. Events are generally held multiple times throughout the week, though, so you can put your FOMO to rest.
Part of Hocus Pocus Was Filmed in Salem
If you haven’t seen this iconic film, you’re missing out! Hocus Pocus was released way back in 1993 B.D. (Before DVDs), and several scenes were filmed right in the “Witch City” at locations you can still visit today. Of course, this only adds to the tourism lure, as many come to the area to snap photos of these scenic movie settings.
Take a walk back in time at the Pioneer Village, a living history museum featuring 17th-century colonial life. This location was used during the film’s opening scenes and offers tours from spring through fall. You can also visit the Ropes Mansion, which was partially filmed during the Halloween party scene at Allison’s house. Inside, the home is preserved with original centuries-old furnishings across 15 rooms, which can be toured seasonally. Beautiful gardens in the back of the house are also open to the public.
Other locations from the movie worth visiting include Phillips Elementary School, the Old Town Hall, and Salem Common, an 8-acre public park. While the school is no longer functional or open to the public, the exterior makes for a good photo op. The Old Town Hall can be found a few blocks from the Ropes Mansion. It hosts the Salem Museum and other events during Haunted Happenings. If you want to step outside Salem, you can also visit the Old Burial Hill Cemetery in neighboring Marblehead, MA. This setting was used for some cemetery scenes in the film and is one of the oldest graveyards in New England.
Several Popular Board Games Originated in Salem
Monopoly. Clue. Trivial Pursuit. Most probably don’t know the name of the company that created these well-known games, but they’ve at least heard of, if not played them. In 1883, young Salem local George S. Parker started a game manufacturing company after successfully modifying and profiting from a game called Everlasting. The company would later be named Parker Brothers after George’s brothers Charles and Edward joined the company in 1888 and 1898, respectively.
Through all of the company’s ups and downs, one of the most notable is the Great Depression. During this time, Parker Brothers purchased the rights to Monopoly. The game’s popularity ultimately saved the business from going under. It is still sold today, though under a different manufacturer name. The company remained family-owned until 1968 when it was sold to General Mills. While Parker Brothers has sold many games—about 1,800 titles—many are no longer in print. So chances are, if you find one of their early releases, it’s a collector’s item worth a pretty penny.
There is nearly endless history and attractions for everyone in this domestic hotspot. So better add visiting Salem to your bucket list. And if you love the area so much and decide to stay? Prime is here to help you move into your new place with Salem storage options. We have several storage facilities in the Salem and Boston area, with various unit sizes and amenities, such as climate control. Purchase boxes, tape, and more for your move from our on-site packing supplies shop. Then, store your household furniture and other belongings with us as you relocate to or renovate your new place. We’re also an excellent seasonal storage solution if you have more things than space. So, find a storage unit in Salem today!