Of all the historic sites associated with the Witch Trials the one the exerts the most fascination is the controversial Gallows Hill. Shrouded in mystery and controversy the infamous Gallows Hill is one of the very few places I refuse to take guests on my Spellbound Tours Salem Voodoo, Vampires, and Ghosts Tour. If you ask politely, I might give you directions, but no way am I bringing guests up there! At least not anymore.
In a previous article I discussed the way some historians have attempted to hide the actual location of Salem’s grim execution ground, yet the true Gallows Hill location is easy enough to discover with a little bit of research. However I recommend against going unless you are prepared for possible consequences. Gallows Hill today is a populated area and the people who live in the vicinity largely do not take well to invading ghost hunters, nor do they enjoy being reminded of their ancestor’s grim legacy. If you are caught investigating after dark, be prepared to get run off!
In the past I would sometimes make exceptions and bring private tour groups up to Gallows Hill, but I discontinued it after some far too intense reactions. The point of taking the ghost tour is to get scared, but in a fun way. On Gallows Hill it ceased to be fun, people would become legitimately disturbed. It is hard to put into words the feeling of dread that follows a trip up the Hill, it has been described as a fast acting depression, a feeling of intense forboding dread, and a sensation of being surrounded and closed in on from all sides. At the base of hill, it is normal, birds chirp in the trees, people go about life, but once you reach the execution plateau, even in the middle of the day it is dead silent, as if time has stopped. It is the eeriest place we have ever investigated.
I remember taking up a group of very professional paranormal investigators up there, after just a few minutes they set down their equipment and declared they were done ghost hunting for life. When we sent a team of popular television ghost hunters up to find the hill they found it and promptly called us back, voices shaking, asking if we could direct them to a haunted location more “controlled”. A group of fraternity meatheads wanted to go snap a few pictures and were willing to pay for the trip, I brought them up, they became convinced we were lost in the woods and by the time we got to the hanging place they were crying like babies! Gallows Hill brings out people’s inner demons. Sane people may act like maniacs, tough guys weep. The overwhelming dark energy of the tragedy of Gallows Hill can affect even the staunchest of skeptics. There are even rumors of people becoming possessed.
Certain scientists will claim that animals are more sensitive to supernatural energy than human beings. You may have noticed your own cat or dog reacting in a haunted situation minutes before you or another human notice anything is amiss. Spellbound Tours used to have a mascot of sorts, a giant akita named Renfield. He was well behaved and accompanied us on many tours, and even more paranormal investigations around the country. He was an intelligent dog, and clearly sensitive. This poor dog went to some of the most haunted places in America and was calm as could be. We would see Renfield’s fixation on something invisible to us and start taking photographs and energy readings. On more that one occasion he led us directly to what we were hoping to find, we even managed to take photographs of energy swirling around the dog! Yet he would not even get out of the car on Gallows Hill. When we pulled up to the spot where the victims met their fates Renfield would cower and whimper, and refused to budge from the backseat of the car until we departed and were far from the hill.
In Autumn of 2014, against my better judgement, I took a friend to the hill. For the sake of privacy we can call her Megan. We have been friends since high school and she has taken Spellbound Tours, the best tour in Salem many times. So she knew the history of Gallows Hill. She had heard the ghost stories and tales of possession. The problem was she did not believe them. Megan is very stoic, very unemotional, and will say she does not believe in any supernatural phenomena. She claims to find the whole thing ridiculous. She is the worst kind of skeptic, not willing to test her belief against the possibility that there might be something more out there. She is a devout atheist, and has no room in her life for ghosts. Megan also questioned how, after all the controversy about the hill’s location I could be so confident as to place it at the Gallows Hill Park site.
For several years she demanded I take her to the Hill after the tour. I always demurred, either making excuses or telling her the truth about exactly why I did not want to go. Finally she had beaten down my resistance and I agreed to take her, the one time, to Gallows Hill. We drove from the old Prison Lane down streets that have been in Salem since the Puritan days, and eventually arrived at the base of Gallows Hill. We parked in a residential neighborhood and began the walk towards the woods and the plateau that had seen so much death. I felt like we should not trespass. Megan wanted to push ahead, paying no heed to the dark history of the place. As we beat through the unpaved path towards the execution spot Megan abruptly sat down. She was breathing heavily. I asked her what was the matter. She did not speak. She looked sick, pale and bug eyed. I was confused. She started to weep. In all the years of our friendship I had never seen this woman cry. She broke down wailing claiming she could feel the pain of the people who lost their lives on the hill. At first I thought she might have been joking, trying to scare me, but she did not stop, she was in a state of panic, breathing heavily. I worried we might have to call an ambulance.
Finally I got her to stand. Still softly sobbing she consented to departing Gallows Hill even though we had not reached the top. We turned to walk back down. We took a few steps and Megan went tumbling. She screamed and rolled some feet down the hill. When I reached her, her glasses were broken in the middle and she claimed that someone had forcefully grabbed her by the back of the neck, and kicked her feet out from under her! She said it felt as though something was physically interacting with her even though we were the only living people there. Nowadays Megan still scoffs at the idea of the supernatural, but if Gallows Hill comes up she quiets down and will refuse to discuss her experience. Trust me, you want to stay away from Gallows Hill. Unless you want to tempt fate like my friend did.