Joshua Ward House

More From Salem More From Massachusetts

There are at least two vengeful witch hunt victims who
suffered grisly torture and death here.

Spirit of their sadistic torturer resides here, perhaps
fearful about going to the other side.


Set back from the street, with a large, sloping front yard, The Joshua A. Ward House is an impressive, three story, brick Federal-style structure that is now the home to businesses; Higginson Book Company, and Carlson Realty. It has been restored beautifully, thanks to a grant by the Massachusetts Historical Commission.

There is a lovely wooden central staircase that leads up to the other floors. There are offices on the first floor, in both the library and the parlor. (We peeked into the entry way for a better look!) Some of the magnificent woodwork was done by Samuel McIntire. We saw mail boxes in the foyer, and offices in the various rooms on the first floor.



This large brick mansion was built for a retired sea captain turned merchant, Joshua Ward in the mid 1780s. George Washington stayed here while visiting Salem in October, 1789, the honored guest of Joshua Ward.

In the late 19th century, this structure became an upscale hotel, called The Washington Hotel.

As land near downtown is valuable, changes were coming for this property, with a building in need of TLC. Sometime in the 20th century, a multi-storied commercial building was constructed on the large front, sloping yard of the Joshua A Ward House, perhaps a sign of the mansion/hotel’s coming demise. In the 1970s, when most of America lost its mind and started to tear down wonderful old structures, a commercial developer submitted a proposal to the Salem Redevelopment Authority, to tear down this mansion, and build another commercial building behind the one already standing in the former front yard.

Fortunately, his proposal was turned down, and efforts were made to get the funds to restore this lovely old structure. The commercial building that had been built in the front yard was torn down, and the mansion’s front yard was restored! The former hotel was turned into a commercial enterprise, with businesses moving in to set up business offices.


Joshua Ward built his mansion on the land that once was where the infamous Sheriff George Corwin had his house/jail, during the 1680s. Uh oh! Sheriff George Corwin, nick-named “The Strangler”, had the duty to interrogate suspected witches and warlocks, and carried out the painful death sentences, during Salem’s shameful witch hunting era, which took place in the years of 1692 – 1693.

Nineteen men and women were executed under his watch; either hung by the neck, suffering a slow strangulation, if they were lucky enough to survive the cruel interrogation process. Sheriff George Corwin turned out to be a sadist, and came up with dastardly methods, such as tying the accused prisoner’s neck to their ankles, until blood came out of their nose. On more than one occasion, the accused was crushed by rocks to either get a confession or a denial. The tortured often cursed his/her accusers, the judge and Sheriff George Corwin.

Sometimes entities haunt the land where their house/business once stood, only too glad to move into the next structure built on the land.

People who have been executed/murdered often haunt the place where they suffered, died, reliving their torment, unhappy/angry about their death; not wanting to accept it or perhaps looking for their tormentors.

Sheriff George Corwin died of a sudden heart attack in 1697, and was interned in his cellar because the ground was probably frozen during the winter at the time of his death. Also, the sheriff was so despised, that his family was afraid that his body would be dismembered by an unruly crowd. His grave remained there for many years before being moved to Broad Street Cemetery.

When graves are moved or disturbed, this can make spirits restless/confused.



There are two entities who reside here who were innocent victims of the witch trials, perhaps looking for Sheriff George.

Entity of a woman with black, rather wild hair style –

She is thought to be one of the victims unjustly executed. She isn’t a happy camper.

Her apparition has been reported, roaming the hallways throughout the building.

When a photograph was taken of a Realtor for a publicity shot for the Carlson Realty, the angry image of this malevolent female spirit was caught on film, standing in one of the mansion’s hallways.

The male entity of Giles Corey –

A man falsely accused of being a warlock, who was tortured and killed by the crushing rocks method of interrogation. Apparently, he isn’t happy either. He isn’t satisfied that his final curse has stayed with not only Sheriff George, but has affected many sheriffs who followed in the years after his horrendous death.

Trash cans are found, turned over, books are pulled from shelves, rooms found in disarray.

Candles are taken out and melted.

Cold spots are felt in certain corners of certain rooms.

The entity of Sheriff George –

An older male entity has been seen, sitting in a rocking chair by a fireplace.

Back in the mid-1980s, people have reported being choked by an unseen entity. This could be Sheriff George, trying to reclaim his authority, or it could be one of his victims, trying to show the living what they suffered.

Items are moved around the mansion.

Candles are bent into the shape of an S.


A strong “Probably so”! Many experiences have been reported, and the Polaroid of the agitated female entity point to entities who were on the loose. Not much has been revealed, as this building is home to private businesses who don’t want to scare away visitors. Paranormal investigators and psychics don’t share hard evidence with the public unless allowed to do so by their client.

Not much hard evidence has been published, but I bet the owners of the building had a private investigation done to see what was there, after several people had experienced the choking feeling, and the female entity made her presence known in the Polaroid picture! Some issues must have been worked out with the spirits, because Carlson Reality still has an office there, as well as a publishing company, as of 2010.



148 Washington Street
Salem, Massachusetts 01970

The Joshua A Ward house can be found just one block south of Town House Square, in the heart of historical Salem. It once overlooked the South River, but this part of the river was filled in at some point in time.


  • “The Ups and Downs of Saving Buildings” on
  • “The Haunted History of Salem” on
  • Joshua Ward House page on
  • “The Witch of the Joshua Ward House” by Matt Forde on
  • Joshua Ward House page on

Our Haunted Paranormal Stories are Written by Julie Carr

Haunts in Salem Haunts in Massachusetts