Building a restaurant on the former home of a convicted Salem witch… what could go wrong?
The History: Turner’s Seafood is located in the infamous town of Salem, MA, wherein 1692 over 100 people were accused of witchcraft and 25 died as a result of it (19 were hanged, one crushed to death, and five died in jail). To be more specific, the building that is now home to Turner’s Seafood is built on the land that was once Bridget Bishop’s apple orchard. Bridget Bishop was one of the unfortunate souls accused of witchcraft and she was the first person executed in the summer of 1692. In 1831, Lyceum Hall was built on Bridget’s land and was host to many historical figures such as Frederick Douglass as well as Alexander Graham Bell who performed the first telephone call between Salem and Boston in 1877. The Great Salem Fire decimated much of the town in 1914, including the old Lyceum Hall which was replaced by the brick structure you see today.
The Haunting: With such a dark and grisly history as that found in Salem, it should come as no surprise that much of the town around Essex Street is haunted, including Turner’s Seafood. The main thing employees and guests have reported is the full-bodied apparition of a woman dressed in a long white gown. She’s appeared to visitors since 1989, sometimes referred to as the Lady in White, but almost everyone suspects that it is the ghost of Bridget Bishop, returning to her beloved orchard. Accompanying Bridget, is also the overwhelming scent of apples in the restaurant, on the sidewalk, and even in the breezeway behind the building leading to Essex Street… all where the orchard once stood. Despite her wrongful end, Bridget does not seem to be a vengeful spirit. According to recent stories, she seems to enjoy playing games with guests, stealing silverware to the point where wait staff will bring you a new spoon four or five times in a single sitting! My question is, where do all of those spoons go?
Many times, people put Salem and Gettysburg in the same category: they were both the sight of a dark chapter in American history. But despite that shared bond, the two towns have reacted and grown differently through the centuries and that is reflected in its haunted restaurants as well. Where places like the Farnsworth House have preserved its history almost perfectly, Turner’s Seafood is not nodding its head to Briget Bishop (aside from a cocktail in her name) or paying homage to the history of Salem. Instead, they focus on serving quality New England seafood. There is no mention of the building’s past (haunted or otherwise) and the design of the restaurant is so bright and open, it does nothing to add to a “spooky” feel. However, despite this, Turner’s at the old Lyceum Hall still has a reputation in Salem as being haunted and if you ask anyone in town where’s a good haunted place to eat, they’ll likely tell you to check this place out in the hopes of Bridget appearing to you.
For how much this place was built up as “the best seafood in Salem,” I was quite underwhelmed by the food. We tried a variety of foods in the hopes of getting a good idea of what the place had to offer and most of the things were not worth the hefty price tag even at lunchtime (we spent almost $100). One of their specialties was “Turner’s Seafood Stuffed Clams” and was described as two clam shells stuffed with scallops, clams, bacon, bread crumbs, and lobster cream filling. If those things were in there, they were chopped so finely, it just felt like a mouthful of stuffing (and overcooked, dry stuffing at that). We also got a lobster roll (because you’re in New England and it’s a must) as well as the crab cake sandwich. They were both good, not great (and again, at the price tag, it should have been great). The only saving grace at Turner’s was their lobster bisque. It is creamy and flavorful, with big chunks of lobster, and (best of all), it won’t shatter your piggy bank. They do have a great drink menu with cocktails ranging from $9-15. I got Bridget’s Orchard which was strong and delicious… and my favorite thing about the whole meal.
Type of Experience: Restaurant
Dining Style: Casual
Price Range: $1.50-29.50 (or the dreaded Market Price)
Address: 43 Church St, Salem, MA 01970
Phone Number: (978) 745-7665
Hours of Operation:
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