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The spellbinding houses of ‘Hocus Pocus’

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Bewitching architecture

The Ropes Mansion, otherwise known as Allison’s house.
Via  Daderot at en.wikipedia

Ah, Hocus Pocus. Whether it’s the wandering eye of Winifred Sanderson’s spellbook or when the Sanderson sisters break out into improbable song, it’s safe to say that everybody has a favorite bit of the 1993 cult-hit film.

For a historic-home lover, the film’s at its most enchanting when the camera lingers in an old house—and many of the ones used for filming are real and actually on location in Salem, Massachusetts. They’re also all within 2 miles of each other. In fact, Google says you can walk to all of them in less than 30 minutes.

Thackery Binx’s House

The movie starts off in the year 1693, with Thackery Binx waking up to discover that his sister, Emily, has been lured out of bed by Sarah Sanderson.

We briefly get a glimpse of his simple wooden cottage before we tumble with him through the forest (really, if Emily and Sarah can make their way to the Sanderson household without falling down a steep hill, there must be a cleared path).

The cottage is a typical example of early English Colonial architecture, common in the northeast U.S. in the 17th century. The houses are framed in timber and have steep roofs and diamond-pane casement windows that swing open. The cottages featured in the movie are quite small—one or two rooms at most—and they would have also had large walk-in fireplaces for heat.

Thackery’s cottage is located in Pioneer Village, a living museum dedicated to Salem life in 1630. It’s tucked away in an oceanfront park, just outside the town’s center.

Max Dennison’s House

Max’s house at 8 Ocean Avenue in Salem.
Photo by Bob Linsdell.

Just down the street from Thackery’s homestead is Max’s waterfront home, which made for a dramatic airborne getaway by the Sanderson Sisters as dawn approached and Allison had an epiphany about the magic of the Black Flame Candle.

The house is a Second Empire Victorian, and features exterior Italianate woodwork, a steep mansard roof, and a cupola topped with a weathervane. It clashes a bit with the largely colonial and Federal architecture we see throughout the movie, but perhaps its outsider status is a clever architectural nod to Max feeling like a misfit in his new Massachusetts home. We’re probably reading too much into this.

We also can’t help but notice the disparity in size between the exterior of the house (it looks like it can’t be over 2,000 square feet) and its interiors.

While Max’s room is the ideal ’90s-kid retreat (he gets the cupola in his room!), we’re pretty sure his room would have taken up the vast majority of the second floor of that house, which we know had to have at least two more bedroom: one for his parents and one for Dani, his younger sister.

Allison’s House

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Allison’s house is a classic clapboard Federal home. The exterior shots were filmed at the Ropes Mansion, which was built around 1724. The interior is a set.

While the only interior shot we see is the two-story foyer—and hints of the living and dining rooms radiating off the center hall—we’ve gotta say that we have a 24-year-old bone to pick with the set designers of Allison’s house.

The woodwork inside is quite heavy and more indicative of 19th-century Queen Anne architecture than the lighter, delicate Federal woodwork that probably would have been in Allison’s house.

The Ropes Mansion was significantly altered over the course of the 19th century, though, so maybe that explains why the designers took some creative license with the sets for the interior? Or perhaps the designers didn’t think that somebody would be picking apart the architectural qualities of Allison’s foyer nearly a quarter century after the fact.

As for the Sanderson sisters’ house? That, unfortunately, was a set. Because rest assured: If that house were real, we’d be visiting it every Halloween.