A local’s guide to ‘Hocus Pocus,’ 25 years later
All of the must-visit filming locations for "Hocus Pocus" in Salem and Marblehead.
It’s been 25 years since “Hocus Pocus,” the lighthearted Disney live-action classic about three ancient witches who are magically transported to modern-day Salem and the kids who must fight them off, first hit theaters. To celebrate, Freeform is airing a two-hour “Hocus Pocus” reunion special this Saturday night at 8:15 p.m. that will bring together many of the actors and actresses featured in the film, including the three actresses who played the witchy Sanderson sisters: Bette Midler, Kathy Najimy, and Sarah Jessica Parker.
The film’s 25-year anniversary has caused a notable uptick in “Hocus Pocus” fans visiting Salem, according to Kate Fox, the executive director of Destination Salem, the town’s marketing organization.
“We’re getting a huge ‘Hocus Pocus’ bump this year because of the 25th anniversary,” Fox said. “Our annual parade was ‘Hocus Pocus’-themed, and I’ve seen so many people visiting with ‘Hocus Pocus’ T-shirts, and some in Sanderson sisters costumes. There’s always been a ‘Hocus Pocus’ component to the visitors to Salem, especially in October. But it’s like the film’s following grows every year.”
While the movie is set in Salem, much of the interior filming actually took place in California. However, some of the most iconic settings of the film are in Salem and nearby Marblehead.
For any “Hocus Pocus” fans hoping to spot those locations while visiting, here are the buildings you should map out.
The opening scene set in 1600s Salem
Actual location: Pioneer Village, 310 West Ave.
The majority of “Hocus Pocus” happens in the 1990s, but the opening scenes show how the Sanderson sisters captured Emily Binx in the 1600s and turned her brother Thackery into a black cat. Those exterior shots were filmed in Pioneer Village, a “living history museum” built in 1930 in Forest River Park, according to its website. Tours of the village are offered during the summer, and the village is open from 12:30 to 3:30 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays through the month of October. While you can peek inside the village’s houses, none of them were used for the interior of the witches’ house in the film.
Max and Allison’s school
Actual location: The now-closed Phillips Elementary School, 56 S. Washington Square
The school serves as a backdrop for a pair of key scenes: first at the beginning of the film when new-in-town Max initially woos Salem history buff Allison, and later when Allison, Max, Max’s sister Dani, and Binx the cat try to capture the Sanderson sisters. The Phillips Elementary School building stopped serving as a school in 1992, which made it easy to use as a film set. According to Fox, the building has since been converted into apartments and is not open to the public, but can easily be seen and photographed from the town common.
Daytime cemetery scenes
Actual location: Old Burial Hill, Orne Street, Marblehead
Max gets a rude welcome to Salem (and loses his shoes in the process) when he’s accosted by school bullies Ernie and Jay while crossing through a graveyard on his way home from school. The scene was filmed in nearby Marblehead at Old Burial Hill, which dates back to the 1600s and contains the graves of around 600 Revolutionary soldiers, according to the graveyard’s website. It also offers a picturesque view of the town, and is open to the public.
Actual location: Private residence, 4 Ocean Ave.
Max’s movie bedroom was the envy of many a viewer, especially because of its distinctive crow’s nest lookout at the top of the house. Unlike most of the buildings on this list, the house remains a private residence, and is closed to the public. Fox said the owners tend to have good attitudes about tourists stopping by for photos, but also said she has seen some very careless behavior from tourists. If you do visit, try to respect the owners’ property and their privacy.
“It’s inundated with visitors, and I feel very badly for them because not everybody minds their manners,” Fox said. “They’re really good sports about it, to a point. But people walk right up onto their porch or leave trash in their yard. It’s very disrespectful.”
Actual location: The Ropes Mansion, 318 Essex St.
In the film, Max and Dani are wowed by the opulence of Allison’s house and the party inside that feels like it takes place in a different century. The actual building is known as the Ropes Mansion, and was built back in the 18th century. Now owned by the Peabody Essex Museum, you can tour the interior of the home on weekends from 12 to 4 p.m. through the end of fall, though it should be noted that the interior was not used during filming. Also not featured in the film but still worth checking out are the gardens behind the mansion, which are exquisitely maintained.
Salem Halloween party
Actual location: Old Town Hall, 32 Derby Square
Filmmakers used Salem’s Old Town Hall for the exterior of the film’s town-wide Halloween party — one of the most famous scenes in the film thanks to Midler’s performance of “Put a Spell on You.” The building now plays host to the Salem Museum and performances of “Cry Innocent,” a regular theatrical performance based on the Salem Witch Trials.