The Joshua A Ward house can be found just one block south of Town House Square, in the heart of historic Salem.
The Joshua A. Ward House is an impressive, three-story, brick Federal-style structure and is now the home to businesses. The Massachusetts Historical Commission restored it beautifully.
Retired sea captain turned merchant Joshua Ward built this home in the mid-1780s. While visiting Salem in October 1789, George Washington stayed here as the honored guest of Joshua Ward.
In the late 1800s, this structure became an upscale hotel called The Washington Hotel.
The house faced a shaky future during the 20th century. As land near downtown is valuable, changes were coming for this property, with a building in need of TLC. In 1970, a developer approached the Salem Redevelopment Authority to demolish the house and build a commercial building.
The Authority turned his offer down. Instead, funds were raised to restore the mansion. Because of these efforts, the former home and hotel became a commercial enterprise, with businesses moving in to set up business offices.
In the early 1980s, a real estate company named Carlson Realty bought the Joshua Ward House, intending to turn it into their headquarters. After moving in, an employee named Dale Lewinski began taking photographs of the staff members to add to a welcome display.
Lewinski was using a Polaroid camera to snap head-and-shoulders, passport-style pictures. After photographing a colleague by the name of Lorraine St. Peter, a peculiar sight greeted Lewinski.
Instead of showing Lorraine St. Peter, the Polaroid developed but showed a strange, black-haired female figure. (The apparition completely overshadowed and even replaced St. Peter.)
Robert Ellis Cahill published a reproduction of this photo in his book Haunted Happenings. Ellis, himself an ex-sheriff) describes St. Peter as “both genuinely frightened and embarrassed by the picture.”
The possibility of the photograph being a hoax is ever-present, but the House endures frequent paranormal events. So, it’s almost as if it’s more unlikely to NOT capturing something bizarre on camera.
Whether it is accurate or not, it is truly a bizarre photograph, one that certainly seems to contain a degree of menace and so starkly strange as to create fright in the onlooker, primarily upon first viewing.
Joshua Ward built his mansion on the land where the infamous Sheriff George Corwin had his house/jail during the 1680s.
Corwin was a bloodthirsty character whose zeal added to Salem’s notorious events in the late 1600s—nicknamed ‘the Strangler’ after his preferred method of torture (which included tying his prone victims’ necks to their ankles until the blood ran from their noses). Corwin executed Nineteen men and women under Corwin’s watch, including that of Giles Corey.
Corey’s torture consisted of placing heavy stones upon his chest in an attempt to crush a confession from out of him (and seize his property). Despite his horrific treatment, Corey never confessed, and indeed he is said to have implored his torturers to pile on more rocks to hasten his departure. Legend states that just before he died, Corey cursed Corwin for his despicable acts.
Sheriff George Corwin died of a sudden heart attack in 1697. His family interred him in the house’s cellar—an odd place to put a body. However, the townspeople so dispised the sheriff that his family was afraid that an unruly crowd would dismember his body. His grave remained there for many years before being moved to Broad Street Cemetery.
Rumor is every sheriff after Corwin died in office or was “forced out from a heart or blood ailment. I cannot rule out these illnesses and deaths could be old age instead of a centuries-old curse.
One room, in particular, seems to be more haunted than the others. An employee would “lock her office door nightly only to return in the morning to find books and papers thrown across the floor, the wastebasket upside down and lampshades askew.”
At least two entities who reside here who were innocent victims of the witch trials, perhaps looking for Sheriff George. Neither of these apparitions are at peace or happy by the sounds of it.
One is the spirit of a woman with a black, rather wild hairstyle and may be an unjustly executed victim. People see her apparition roaming the hallways throughout the building. (This is the woman rumored to be in the Lewinski photograph.)
The second is said to be the spirit of Giles. Trash cans are found, turned over, books are pulled from shelves, rooms found in disarray.
Sheriff George is a third entity reported. He appears as an older male entity, sitting in a rocking chair by a fireplace.
In the mid-1980s, people reported being choked by an unseen entity. No one is sure which entity causes this manifestation. Some think it is Sheriff George, while others believe it could be one of his angry victims.
People report many spirits, including the above-referenced elderly-looking gentleman sitting by a fireplace and a ghostly woman who roams the upper floors.
Other paranormal activity includes: Aportation (Objects appearing to move of their own accord) occurs at the Joshua Ward House. Candles leap from their holders and subsequently melt, or candles are mysteriously bent into ‘S’ shapes. Alarms go off by themselves (one alarm was triggered over sixty times in two years).
People report cold spots in certain corners of certain rooms.
The reports of hauntings in this house are numerous. Maybe one day it will be open for public tours. Until then, we can enjoy its extraordinary history and legends.
Until next time,