Salem is the Halloween capital of New England, and with good reason — few places possess so much eerie history, and the citizens of Witch City have perfected the art of macabre merriment. But if you fancy a fright, it’s hardly your only option near Boston. Here are three historic and believed-to-be-haunted spots where you can get your scare without the fanfare:
Portsmouth, New Hampshire
Settled in 1623, Portsmouth is even older than Salem — with the ghost stories to prove it. The narrow streets and picturesque period architecture belie a darker history of occult encounters and unsolved murders. “In the mid-1800s, there were 6,000 residents, more than 60 brothels, and just two full-time police officers,” says Roxie Zwicker, founder of New England Curiosities walking tours. One of Zwicker’s tours focuses on the waterfront’s Point of Graves burial ground, where skull-adorned gravestones date to the 1600s — and the ghost of Elizabeth Pierce, a member of a notable family who died of consumption in 1717, is said to communicate with the living. “We call it the crying tour,” she says. “It’s intense.” 19 Sheafe Street, 603-343-7977, newenglandcuriosities.com
Lizzie Borden Museum, Fall River
Few unsolved murders are more notorious than the gruesome 1892 ax slayings of Abby and Andrew Borden in Fall River. While Lizzie Borden was acquitted in the murder of her father and stepmother, no one else was ever charged, and the house — the well-preserved scene of the crime — is said to voice its discontent. You can find out for yourself by spending the night: The museum is also a bed and breakfast. Rooms book up months in advance (groups can rent the entire house). But be warned, there are no refunds if you freak out and depart come nightfall — which apparently happens often enough to warrant a sign. 230 Second Street, 508-675-7333, lizzie-borden.com
Wayside Inn, Sudbury
I’ve eaten plenty of comfort food at the Wayside Inn over the years without any sort of otherworldly encounter. But then again, I’ve never spent the night in this 300-year-old inn, whose past guests include, of course, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Thomas Edison . . . and Jerusha Howe, the “Belle of Sudbury,” who lived for a time in rooms 9 and 10 in the early 1800s. Many guests describe highlights of their stay in notes they hide throughout the inn as part of the “Secret Drawer Society” — and more than a few of them mention encounters with Jerusha’s graceful ghost. 72 Wayside Inn Road, 978-443-1776, wayside.org
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