Salem's haunted hearse tour is a grave undertaking
From the pages of AAA Horizons, a publication of the American Automobile Association

Photo by Joe O'Shea
Standing in front of Angelique, Mass. Hysteria's Doug Antreassian casts a spell on his guests.

By Joe O'Shea

Of Salem's countless tours, spooky and otherwise, none stand out like Mass. Hysteria's Haunted Hearse Tour of the Witch City's dark history.

First, Mass. Hysteria boasts the most unique transport of the group, a 1969 Cadillac hearse named Angelique. Like the raven of Poe's imagination, Angelique is black, yet glows a deep purple when viewed from an angle. With fire-belching dual-exhaust pipes and a roaring motor, she's the star of this show.

Second, Angelique's tour of this jinxed city doesn't focus solely on the infamous witchcraft hysteria of 1692. Many of its unique and historically accurate stops focus on modern-day horrors, much to the displeasure of Salem's community leaders.

“People tend to get ‘witched' out,” says Mass. Hysteria founder Doug Antreassian. “We want to convey that Salem's bad luck did not begin – or end – with the witchcraft hysteria. So our stops are before 1692, and we go right up to the present.”

Photo by Joe O'Shea
The Howard Street Burial Ground sits in the long shadow of the Old Salem Jail.

One such stop is the old Salem Jail, now vacant, but still active in a sense. Designed to house 75 inmates when built in 1811, it was forced to close in 1985 due to its dungeon-like conditions. For a time, hangings were performed in the jail, where the hanging trap door still looms over the kitchen area.

“There have been innumerable sightings of ghosts in the old jail, many of them ongoing,” says Antreassian. “Several individuals have seen lights in the abandoned building. Unearthly screams are sometimes heard from within the actual granite walls.”

Abutting the abandoned jail is the Howard Street Burial Ground, the final resting spot of one Giles Corey, the accused witch who, at age 83, was crushed to death in order to force a confession in 1692. Although Corey never did fess up, he did find the breath to curse sadistic Sheriff George Corwin and Salem. Over the years, Corey's spectre has been seen just prior to a disaster striking Salem.

“This guy was a firebrand, a real-life elderly Rambo,” notes Antreassian. “There were quite a few sightings of Corey's ghost in the summer of 1914 that immediately preceded the Great Salem Fire.”

Photo by Joe O'Shea
Angelique, pictured here in front of the Pickering House, has transported about 1,000 living guests.

Offbeat, ghoulish stories of more recent vintage are told as well. The 1991 murder of Martha Conant Brailsford, a direct descendant of Salem's founder, Roger Conant, is told as the hearse rolls through the Collins Cove condo complex, her former home.

On the next peninsula sits Salem's MBTA Commuter Rail station, a triangular patch of land with a bizarre history. Most recently, three people have been bludgeoned to death on the path from the train station to North Street, and the serial killer (or killers?) remains at large. The cause of the tract's tragic past, according to Antreassian, is a ley line – magnetic energy that wells up from the earth's core – that causes people to act recklessly.

“Angelique has transported over 10,000 dead people since 1969, and we've had about 1,000 living people on the tour,” says Antreassian. “When we hit 10,001 living guests, we'll move on to a new hearse.”

To learn of Mass. Hysteria's two- and four-hour day and evening tours, visit or call 1-877-4-HEARSE. Reservations are required.
Copyright 1990-present Joe O'Shea, Jr.
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