joshua ward house

Salem, Massachusetts

Few American cities are so famous for a sordid past as Salem. Its nickname “Witch City” comes from the Salem Witch Trials of 1692, when 19 men and women were accused of witchcraft and hanged, and 150 more were arrested and charged. Today, this town of 41,000 residents throws one of the country’s biggest Halloween celebrations, including the annual Festival of the Dead which “explores death’s macabre customs, heretical histories, and strange rituals.”

Salem is also home to the Joshua Ward House, said to be one of America’s most haunted houses since being built atop the grave of the witch trials’ malevolent high sheriff. The grave was eventually relocated, but the ghostly phenomena persist.

 "A real estate agent was snapping some publicity pictures of another person inside the Joshua Ward house in Salem, Ma. when this picture appeared when the film was developed. The exact date of the picture is unknown. The Ward House was built on the foundation of former sheriff George Corwin’s home. Corwin was responsible for the death of many alleged witches during Salem’s dark days. It is said a curse was put upon him and all subsequent sheriffs by Giles Corey, who was crushed to death by placing rocks atop his body in an effort to force him to confess to dabbling in the black arts (and to a greater degree allow Corwin to lawfully seize his property). Other activity said to surround the house includes candles that fly out of their holders and melt, alarms that go on by themselves and the sighting of an elderly spirit by the fireplace. Could the subject of this photograph be one of the poor souls who was condemned to death by Sheriff Corwin?“

I’m doing up some Salem inspired blocks for people to print themselves on the Peabody Essex Museum’s roller press at the Salem Horror Festival launch party.
This one focuses on the Lady in Black, said to be the ghost of a woman killed during the Witch Hysteria. There are some photos of her out there, a lady in black with wild hair (or maybe someone was standing in front of a wreath…) so I took that and added a dash of the original Fright Night poster. The house is a real place, the Joshua Ward house, and it is now a hotel just in case you want to meet Her in person.

The Witch of Joshua Ward House

This Georgian and Federal style building was constructed by Joshua Ward, a wealthy merchant sea captain, in the late 1780s on the remaining foundations of former sheriff George Corwin’s house on Washington Street in Salem, Massachusetts.

Corwin was a bloody figure whose zeal added to the unfortunate events surrounding Salem in the late 1600s. Nicknamed ‘The Strangler’ after his preferred torture (which included tying his prone victims’ necks to their ankles until the blood ran from their noses), he is said to have been responsible for many of the ‘witches’’ deaths, including that of Giles Corey who was crushed to death by placing heavy stones on his chest in order to extract a confession.

Legend states that just before he died, Corey cursed the sheriff and all sheriffs that follow in his wake, for Corwin’s despicable acts. It should be noted here that every sheriff since Corey uttered his curse died while in office or had been “forced out of his post as the result of a heart or blood ailment.” Corwin himself died of a heart attack in 1696, only about four years after the end of the trials.

 By the time of his death, Corwin was so despised that his family had to bury him in the cellar of their house to avoid desecration of the corpse by the public. In the early 1980s Carlson Realty bought the House with the intention of turning it into their headquarters. After moving in, a realtor by the name of Dale Lewinski began the task of taking photographs of the staff members to add to a welcome display.

 Lewinski used a Polaroid camera to snap the head-and-shoulders, passport-style pictures. It was the photograph of a colleague by the name of Lorraine St. Peter that caused a stir. The Polaroid was developed and, instead of showing St. Peter, it appeared to depict a frightening image: a strange, black-haired, feminine figure. St. Peter was nowhere to be seen on the snap. The photograph has, apparently, not been cropped at all. St. Peter has been entirely replaced by the apparition. 

This mysterious photograph was taken by someone who was taking photos of another person within the Joshua Ward house in Salem, Massachusetts.

The Ward House was built on the foundation of what was once Sheriff George Corwin’s home. Corwin was responsible for the death of many alleged witches, and it is said that a curse was place upon him.

Potential Locations

So far, Emily and I have planned on photographing:

  • Lizzie Borden House
  • Dudley Road
  • Joshua Ward House
  • Hockomock Swamp
  • Ridgewood Cemetery
  • Hawthorne Hotel
  • St. Mary’s Cemetery

There is also some sort of paranormal investigation tour in Salem, MA from 10:00 to Midnight. We might go on this because it’d be a pretty good opportunity for photographing not to mention it’d be more creepy, which would just add to the project.