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  Columnist: Matt Forde

Image credit: Wikipedia

The witch of the Joshua Ward House

Posted on Wednesday, 10 March, 2010 | 10 comments
Columnist: Matt Forde

[!gad]The town of Salem, Massachusetts is no stranger to macabre record and disturbing legends, but for the first time perhaps something belonging to the town’s supernatural facet has been caught on camera.

The Joshua Ward House has stood in mute witness to a dark history. The Georgian/Federal style building was constructed by Joshua Ward, a wealthy merchant sea captain, in the late 1780s on the remaining foundations of former sheriff George Corwin’s house on Washington Street. Corwin was a bloody figure whose zeal added to the unfortunate events surrounding Salem in the late 1600s. Nicknamed ‘The Strangler’ after his preferred torture modus operandi (which included tying his prone victims’ necks to their ankles until the blood ran from their noses), he is said to be responsible for many of the ‘witches’ deaths, including that of Giles Corey, a man who stood accused of witchcraft who Corey crushed to death by placing heavy stones on his chest in order to extract a confession (and, it must be said, to seize his property). Despite the horrific treatment Corey never confessed, indeed he is said to have implored his torturers to pile on more rocks and hasten his departure.

Legend states that just before he died, Corey cursed Corwin and all sheriffs that follow in his wake for his despicable acts of barbarism. It should be noted here that every sheriff since Corey uttered his curse had died while in office or had been ‘forced out of his post as the result of a heart or blood ailment.’ Corwin himself died of a heart attack in 1696, only about four years after the end of the trials. By the time of his death, Corwin was so despised that his family had to bury him in the cellar of their house to avoid desecration of the corpse by the public.

In the early 1980s a real estate company named Carlson Realty had bought the house with the intention of turning it into their headquarters. After moving in, a realtor by the name of Dale Lewinski began the task of taking photographs of the staff members to add to a welcome display. Lewinski was using a Polaroid camera to snap the head-and-shoulders, passport-style pictures. Upon photographing a colleague by the name of Lorraine St. Peter a peculiar sight greeted Lewinski.

The Polaroid was developed and, instead of showing St. Peter, it appeared to depict a frightening image: a strange, black-haired, feminine figure. St. Peter was nowhere to be seen (the photograph has not been cropped at all; St. Peter has been entirely replaced by the ‘apparition’).

This reproduction was originally published in the book Haunted Happenings by Robert Ellis Cahill (himself an ex-sheriff) in which he describes St. Peter as “both genuinely frightened and embarrassed by the picture.”

A hoax is of course, always possible, but unnecessary considering the rich nature of other paranormal occurrences that are reported to take place within the Joshua Ward House: aportation (objects moving of their own accord), candles that leap from their holders and subsequently melt, candles that are found bent into ‘S’ shapes, alarms that go off by themselves (one alarm was triggered over sixty times in two years), phantom strangulations and the sightings of a myriad spirits including an elderly-looking spirit sitting by a fireplace and along with the photograph in questions subject, another ghostly woman roams the upper floors.

One room in particular seems to be more haunted than the rest. 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 lamp shades askew.’

Sheriff Corwin’s body was eventually moved to the Broad Street Cemetery, but it is said that his spirit too lingers in the Ward House.

It is truly a bizarre photograph, certainly containing a degree of menace and so starkly strange as to create fright in the onlooker, especially upon first viewing. But, whatever conclusions you may draw from the photograph, I can’t help thinking that it rather resembles Diana Ross…

Further Reading:

Article Copyright© Matt Forde - reproduced with permission.

Matt has also written two e-books:

Eerie Britain and Eerie Britain 2

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