Huntington Beach family buys Massachusetts home with link to Salem witch trials

A Huntington Beach family recently became the owners of a $600,000 18th-century home believed to have ties to a victim of the Salem witch trials.

The chocolate-brown single-family home with red doors sits on about a half-acre at 348 Lowell St., a prominent road in Peabody, Mass., near Salem. The house includes six bedrooms, seven fireplaces, an attic, a spiral staircase and a pool.

It’s dubbed the “John Proctor house.”

Fans of literature and witchcraft may recognize the name from Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible.” It tells a partially fictionalized story of Salem’s witch trials in 1692-93 with historical figures such as Proctor. Actor Daniel Day-Lewis portrayed Proctor in the 1996 movie adaptation.

Proctor was a puritanical patriarch of New England who ran a tavern from his home. He was falsely accused and convicted of witchcraft and was hanged in 1692.

The Peabody home garnered online and media buzz in October when it was placed on the market. The previous owners, who had the property since the late 1960s, felt it was time to pass the torch to a new family to help restore and maintain the home, according to the Peabody Historical Society and Museum.

A TV segment featuring the home caught the attention of longtime Huntington Beach resident Barbara Bridgewater.

With support from her husband, Christopher Mendez, she jotted down the real estate agent’s information and spoke to him later that day.

“I was like ‘Wow, that’s really neat,’ ” Bridgewater said. “It seemed like a great opportunity to purchase a piece of American history and for our daughters as well, kind of a neat thing to leave to them once we’re gone.”

Bridgewater said the family was lucky to get the home after a first buyer fell out of escrow. They got a virtual tour of the house by FaceTiming the Realtor.

It seemed like a great opportunity to purchase a piece of American history and for our daughters as well, kind of a neat thing to leave to them.

Barbara Bridgewater

Amid online chatter about the home’s sale, some historians took to social media to help set the record straight about the complexity of the house’s history, which the agent shared with the family.

Though a white plaque on the home reads “1638 John Proctor House,” Kelly Daniell, curator for the Peabody Historical Society and Museum, says evidence shows otherwise.

For one thing, Daniell said, the original house on the site burned down. The historical society believes Proctor occupied a second house there that was leased to him by a farmer named Emmanuel Downing.

Based on architecture, property records and museum archives, the historical society believes one of Proctor’s sons, Thorndike, built a third house on the property — the one that was sold to the Huntington Beach family.

A dendrochronology exam on a sample of a beam from the house dated it to 1726, more than 30 years after John Proctor was executed, Daniell said.

“Like anything in history, it’s never simple,” she said. “We don’t know exact answers, but we can take the best educated guesses. John Proctor never rubbed his face on those walls, but he absolutely lived on that plot of land.”

Despite the house’s convoluted history, Bridgewater and Daniell agree about its value, even though John Proctor never lived in it. They’re partnering to open the house to the public when the family isn’t using it as a vacation home.

Plans are being made to hold Halloween parties and book club meetings there.

Bridgewater and Mendez’s youngest daughter, Gabby, created an Instagram account where she is sharing facts and photos about the house.

During the family’s first stay at the home in December, everything felt normal and cozy — almost.

“On the first night — my daughter heard it on the first floor — we heard someone coughing and laughing at 3 a.m.,” Mendez said. “Take that for what you want.”

Twitter: @vegapriscella