Investigating the Hawthorne Hotel in Salem, Part 3, and the Salem Marine Society

Investigating the Hawthorne Hotel in Salem, Part 3, and the Salem Marine Society

Continuing our look at Salem’s most haunted hotel, we unearth a strange synchronicity in the history of the land that the Hawthorne Hotel stands on and take a look at the mysterious Salem Marine Society.

Following up on a lead that Chris found last time, we dive into what happened at the site of Salem’s famously haunted Hawthorne Hotel. We find a really strange set of circumstances that we can’t believe aren’t spelled out more in many of the sources we found online. We also correct a big inaccuracy perpetuated by many websites about the Hawthorne Hotel.

Highlights include: Arson, a man named Estes, two buildings with the same name burning down on the same weekend, a ship’s cabin located on the hotel’s rooftop, and more

For pictures of the Hawthorne Hotel, check out Investigating the Hawthorne Hotel in Salem, Part 1 .

Episode Script for Investigating the Hawthorne Hotel in Salem, Part 3, and the Salem Marine Society

DISCLAIMER: I’m providing this version of the script for accessibility purposes. It hasn’t been proofread, so please excuse typos. There are also some things that may differ between the final episode and this draft script. Please treat the episode audio as the final product. 

Oddly, fire may be the “psychic residue” visitors claim to sense when visiting the hotel. Lederhaus reiterated that the myth, perpetuated in several books, that the hotel marks the former site of the apple orchard owned by Bridget Bishop isn’t true.

Investigators with Ghost Hunters told the general manager that they went to the library and City Hall, and did research on the physical property and claimed “nothing happened at the hotel that would cause hauntings.” Seriously? The TV reearches completely overlooked the six fires that plagued the land’s previous occupant, the Franklin Building, during the 1800s. -Ghosts of Salem: Haunts of the Witch City by Sam Baltrusis


  • Before the Hawthorne, the Franklin Building was at the site.
  • It was a large, four-story brick building where people could rent out offices, and it was built in 1809.
  • It was located on Newbury Street, extending from Essex street to the Common.

I saw advertisements for different businesses there, like:

  • a penmanship instructor
  • a school that taught the classics
  • a natural history society
  • a headquarters for a Whig political party members
  • and of course the Salem Marine Society (who owned the building)
    • The Marine Society was founded in 1766 to share navigation information and to help the families of sailors who had died. It was common for sailors to be lost at sea at the time, so the society used the rent earnings from the Franklin Building to help fund their donations for widows and their children.
    • The Marine Society came to own it when a merchant named Thomas Perkins donated it to the society (sidenote: I read in one book that apparently Perkins participated in both the slave and opium trades, tho not sure if it’s true)
  • There were, in total, at least 4 fires in the Franklin Building. Though the book Ghosts of Salem by Sam Baltrusis says there were 6, but I couldn’t find articles about the other 2.
    • The first fire I could find was on March 29, 1825 (see article below)
    • There was another on January 29, 1845, which damaged a ton of the building, and which some people thought was caused by arson. (see article below)
    • Another building had burned down, and a building across the street from the Franklin building had signs of a fire having been started, but then dying down itself.
    • The city put out a $500 reward for finding the arsonist
    • About a year and a half later, in June 1846, the building was struck by lightning, but it wasn’t damaged badly. (Sounds like the lighning went down a chimney and messed up the bricks a little.) The same night, though, several cottages in neighboring towns were severely damaged by the lightning.
    • There was another fire on January 4, 1859 (see article)
    • In October 1860, the building caught fire and completely burned down.
      • MR CHASE’S LEG
      • Another building called the Franklin Building, located in Philly, burned down the same weekend: The Philly Franklin Building burned down on Friday night, and the Salem one burned down on Saturday night
      • Also, tragically, unbeknownst to the Marine Society, their insurance policy lapsed at noon on the day that the building burned down. Some sources say that the letter informing them that it was going to run out had been delivered but hadn’t been picked up by society members yet, while other sources say that they misremembered the date and thought it expired later that week.
      • Also, that same night, Captain Jonathan Porter Felt, the Marine Society member responsible for managing the building died from a “lingering disease” while the building was burning down.
        • (read from article)
    • The Marine Society had the building rebuilt, and by the following November, tenants started moving in.
      • John C. Weber, a grocer, was the first to move in. He’d been in the old Franklin Building, but his new store was way nicer and bigger.
    • On August 2, 1862, the new building’s flag pole was hit by lightning, but not damaged.
    • In 1921, 1,100 Salem residents banded together in support of building a hotel on the land that the Franklin Building occupied. 
      • They basically wanted a luxury hotel to lure wealthy visitors.
      • Though the fought it at first, the Marine Society eventually relented and allowed them to build the hotel there, as long as their meeting house could be on the rooftop. So they built a replica of the  Taria Topan, a ship that they’d used in travels to India as part of the shipping trade.
    • In October 1997, there was a fire in the basement of the Hawthorne. It caused about $10K of damage, and smoke got into all 6 floors of the hotel, and there was a lot of smoke damage in the ballroom.
    • RE: Bridget Bishop’s orchard, it sounds like that was an incorrect legend started by Ghost Hunters when they came to investigate the hotel in 2007. Her orchard was where the Lyceum is.
    • Supposedly, members of the Marine Society have found objects in their quarters missing, misplaced, or scattered around. (Stuff like maps, charts, and other antiques)


  • More about the Marine Society from Yankee Magazine, “Ship’s Cabin | The Most Unusual Room in New England”:
    • “Captain Edward B. Trumbull designed this unique room—a replica of the deckhouse aboard the Taria Topan, his last command—in 1925 as a meeting place for the Society, founded as a charitable and scholarly organization in 1766.”
    • “John leads me through the Hawthorne’s luxurious lobby to a guests’ elevator, where he hits the number 6 for the hotel’s top floor. From there it’s a long walk to the opposite end of an Oriental-carpeted corridor, through an unmarked door with frosted-glass panes, and up a steel-railed stairwell to a concrete landing. John waves a magnetized card in front of an armed reader. The door opens.
    • I’d heard whispers about this room for years. But I was unprepared for the time-travel jolt of walking out of a hotel stairwell and into an actual ship’s cabin. The room is lit with hurricane lanterns and paneled in teak. Cypress “hanging knees” brace overhead timbers; brass instrument dials and solemn portraits stud the walls. The dark-wood ceiling is cambered, or arched, as if a water-shedding weather deck lay directly above. A massive deck-stepped mast rises centrally. The detail is so authentic—the 1925 collaborative effort of Captain Edward Trumbull and hotel architect Philip Horton Smith—that Society members were recently informed that if they wanted an appraisal they’d better find a marine insurer.
    • . . .
    • John shows me one of the room’s most beloved possessions: an 18th-century wooden voting box holding white marbles and black cubes. During new-member votes, a chosen white marble affirms; a “blackballing” black cube opposes. Those who’ve heard it swear that the black cube makes a chillingly hollow sound when dropped into the box’s secret compartment. The “master” at those meetings—the Society’s chief officer—wears a silver anchor around his neck and keeps order with a “fid” gavel (a tapered wooden club ordinarily used to splice rope). Current master Ben Shreves says he could do without a literal anchor around his neck but dutifully abides by the custom.
    • . . .
    • The . . . routes to membership . . . are maritime achievement and legacy. Originally the only people allowed into the Society were “deep­water” sea captains who had completed a full voyage. Those days are gone, of course, and to survive, the Society has periodically amended its restrictive bylaws. In 1790 it allowed in ships’ owners; by 1994 it had from time to time begun inviting sons, grandsons, great-grandsons, and eventually female descendants of members, as well as past and present ship owners and masters.
  • I went through the society’s recordbooks, everything I could find online, and looked for a 132.
  • One thing I noticed is that members are numbered.
  • According to a book detailing the rules of the Marine Society and listing the members, the 132nd member of the Salem Marine Society was Francis Roach, who joined on February 28, 1792, and died in November 1798, when he was 43. He died in Salem, and served in the Revolutionary War. It looks like during the war, he like many of the other members of the society, spent time in Mill Prison in Plymouth in the UK. That was an overflow prison during the Revolutionary War (and then later during the French Revolutionary wars and the War of 1812.) From 1777-1783, 10,000 prisoners passed through Plymouth, and only 179 died, so hygiene and food was prob pretty good for the time.



Ghosts of Salem: Haunts of the Witch City by Sam Baltrusis



  • The Franklin Building. Salem Register (Salem, Massachusetts)October 25, 1860
  • Alarm of Fire. Salem Gazette (Salem, Massachusetts)March 29, 1825
  • Advertisement. Salem Observer (published as SALEM OBSERVER.) (Salem, Massachusetts)June 19, 1824
  • Advertisement. Salem Observer (Salem, Massachusetts)April 7, 1827
    [Mr. Editor; Marine; Society; Franklin; Building] Salem Gazette (Salem, Massachusetts)June 14, 1833
  • Advertisement.Salem Gazette (Salem, Massachusetts)July 19, 1836
  • Advertisement. Salem Gazette (Salem, Massachusetts)November 8, 1836
  • Fire. Boston Courier (Boston, Massachusetts)January 30, 1845
  • News Article. Boston Daily Times (published as BOSTON TIMES.) (Boston, Massachusetts)January 30, 1845
  • Another Serious Fire. Salem Register (Salem, Massachusetts)January 30, 1845
  • Incendiarism. Salem Register (Salem, Massachusetts) January 30, 1845
  • News Article. Boston Traveler (published as AMERICAN TRAVELLER.) (Boston, Massachusetts)January 31, 1845
  • $500 reward. Salem Register (Salem, Massachusetts)February 6, 1845
  • News Article. Boston Semi-weekly Atlas (published as The Boston Semi-Weekly Atlas.) (Boston, Massachusetts)June 24, 1846
  • Events in Salem and Vicinity during the Year 1846. Salem Observer (published as The Salem Observer.) (Salem, Massachusetts)January 2, 1847
  • News Article. Boston Evening Transcript (published as Boston Evening Transcript.) (Boston, Massachusetts)January 4, 1859
  • News Article. Boston Traveler (published as Boston Daily Traveller.) (Boston, Massachusetts)January 5, 1859
  • News Article. Boston Traveler (published as Boston Daily Traveller.) (Boston, Massachusetts)January 5, 1859
  • Fire In Franklin Building. Salem Register (Salem, Massachusetts)January 6, 1859
  • Re Opened. Salem Register (Salem, Massachusetts)November 19, 1860
  • News Article. Boston Evening Transcript (published as Boston Evening Transcript.) (Boston, Massachusetts)October 23, 1860
  • The Franklin Building Fire. Salem Register (Salem, Massachusetts)October 25, 1860
  • Franklin Building Destroyed. Salem Observer (published as The Salem Observer) (Salem, Massachusetts)October 27, 1860
  • Salem And Vicinity. Salem Observer (published as The Salem Observer) (Salem, Massachusetts)March 9, 1861
  • Salem And Vicinity. Salem Observer (published as The Salem Observer) (Salem, Massachusetts)May 4, 1861
  • Salem And Vicinity. Supreme Judicial Court. Salem Observer (published as The Salem Observer.) (Salem, Massachusetts)November 16, 1861
  • Removals. Salem Register (Salem, Massachusetts)November 18, 1861
  • The New Armory Of The Cadets. Salem Register (Salem, Massachusetts)February 20, 1862
  • Freaks Of Lightning. Salem Observer (published as The Salem Observer.) (Salem, Massachusetts)August 2, 1862
  • Salem Marine Society Centennial. Address By The Master, Capt. Nathaniel Brown. Salem Register (Salem, Massachusetts)June 12, 1871

Also see sources used for Investigating the Hawthorne Hotel in Salem, Part 1 and Investigating the Hawthorne Hotel in Salem, Part 2. 


Don’t miss our past episodes, like The Smallpox Hospital, aka Renwick Ruin, on Roosevelt Island, NYC – Part 1, The Renwick Ruin and Charity Hospital, Roosevelt Island, NYC – Part 2, and Playing the Ghost in 19th Century Australia .