Where was Hocus Pocus filmed?
Salem, Massachusetts; Los Angeles, California
Architectural, American, House, Mansions, Studios, Schools/Colleges
Bungalow, Colonial, School
About Hocus Pocus
Perhaps, you’re looking for a good Halloween movie to watch with family and friends to kick off the spooky holiday. Or, you want to see some scary yet fun witchcraft while curling up on the couch on a weekend night. No matter the case, you can never go wrong with the 1993 film Hocus Pocus. It’s a fantasy comedy horror Disney film directed by Kenny Ortega and written by Mick Garris and Neil Cuthbert.
If you haven’t seen or heard of this great cult classic, you're living under a rock. But if for some reason, you’ve only recently discovered this hidden gem, you’re in for a treat. Besides giving you a sneak peek of some of the notable scenes from the movie (spoiler alert!), this guide will also provide you with a glimpse of the Hocus Pocus filming set and locations.
The plot revolves around three wicked witches, the Sanderson sisters, who were executed in the 17th century for practicing witchcraft. They were accidentally brought back to life 300 years later by a curious youngster and new kid in town, Max, by lighting the magic candle on a Halloween night.
Together with Dani, his sister, and Allison, his fellow classmate and love interest, the group of teenagers and a speaking cat are on a quest to stop the evil witches from obtaining immortality.
The iconic Sanderson sisters are the perfect trio played by Bette Midler (Winifred), Kathy Najimy (Mary), and Sarah Jessica Parker (Sarah). Each of them has a distinctive personality and plays a significant role in making every scene fun and exciting. What great casting! They also have fantastic chemistry, so it’s easy to believe they have been sisters for three centuries.
Hocus Pocus is an easy-to-digest film with a good mix of fantasy, horror, and comedy. Although it has some creepy scenes and eerie moments, you’ll mostly laugh than scream at the silliness of the sisters. It’s a great Halloween film to watch if you aren’t a fan of scary movies.
Hocus Pocus Locations
Most of the Hocus Pocus production was filmed in Salem, Massachusetts, and nearby towns, including Marblehead. There were also scenes shot in Burbank, California, and several locations in Los Angeles.
Since the movie begins around the time of the infamous Salem Witch trials in Salem, Massachusetts, the production used historical places and homes you can still visit today. It includes the Pioneer Village, built in the 1930s, and is the oldest living history museum in America. It sits on three acres of land, containing numerous examples of unique colonial architecture.
The Halloween Ball exterior was filmed at the Salem Town Hall and the interior at The MacArthur near downtown LA. Max’s home was a charming 19th-century house in Salem. His high school was also shot in an elementary school nearby, while Allison’s house was another historic home in the city.
However, it’s essential to note that not all of the Hocus Pocus film scenes were shot in a real-world setting. Some of them were built on stage at Walt Disney Studios in Los Angeles, including the gabled house, the graveyard where Billy Butcherson suddenly pops up, and Max’s room.
There’s no question that Hocus Pocus is one of the favorite classic Halloween movies today. Interestingly, it was not even released during Halloween. Its original release date was July 16, 1993.
Thackery Binx’s past scene in Hocus Pocus
Salem Pioneer Village
The movie begins in 1693 Salem when Thackery Binx realizes that his little sister, Emily, is gone and is lured into the woods. He then urges his friend, Elijah, to alert the elders in the village while he rushes after Emily, who the aging witches have captured to restore their youth and vitality. Unfortunately, he is overcome by the witches.
They successfully suck the life force from Emily, and one of the sisters, Sarah, then declares, “I am beautiful. Boys will love me.” They also cast a spell on Thackery, turning him into a black cat to suffer for eternity.
If you pay attention to the 17th century setting in the movie’s opening scenes, where Thackery searches for his sister, you’ll notice the rustic, colonial background. The clip was actually shot in Salem Pioneer Village, designed to represent Salem in 1630. It is America’s oldest open-air living history museum located in Forest River Park. It features twelve buildings, including a governor’s mansion, dugouts, a blacksmith shop, thatched-roof cottages, and wigwams.
Entering the village is like taking a step into the early 17th-century colonial life. It is open from 12-4 pm on weekends, offering a self-guided tour to visitors. If you don’t have a car, one of the easiest ways to get to the village is by taking a bus. Take bus 17, as it has routes that pass near the town.
Dani crying scene in Hocus Pocus
The Ropes Mansion
Do you remember the scene when Dani cries in front of a massive house after Max tells her to “just collect her candy and get out of his life” while they’re trick-or-treating? They immediately made up after Max apologized to Dani and asked for another chance, as he only acted out after feeling humiliated “in front of half of the guys” at his school. It’s a touching scene between an older brother struggling to fit into a new town and a little sister emphasizing that it’s now their home.
The house turned out to be Allison’s home, a white, grand Colonial house situated at Essex Street in Salem. It is known as the Ropes Mansion, built around 1727. It’s a two-and-a-half-story building with two dining rooms, two living rooms, two bathrooms, three pantries, a kitchen, and fifteen rooms bedrooms. Besides its impressive architectural structure, one of its biggest draws is the colorful garden designed in 1912.
Although no Hocus Focus film scene was filmed inside the mansion, it doesn’t stop the movie fans from visiting and touring the house. It is now part of the Peabody Essex Museum and is open to the public for self-guided tours. It is also recognized as one of the most significant and comprehensively documented historic houses in New England.
Ropes Mansion is accessible by different modes of public transportation. You can get to the mansion by train numbers 450 and 455 and train through the Newburyport/Rockport Line.
Max and Dani reading the spell book scene in Hocus Pocus
Private Home, 4 Ocean Avenue, Salem
Now, let’s move from Allison's home to Max’s and Dani’s house, which was used in multiple scenes in the movie. But in this part, you see them reading the spell book they stole from the evil witches after their resurrection. Once they opened the book, the Sanderson sisters were able to find its location and decided, “We fly!” They grabbed the broomsticks and headed to the Dennison’s residence.
It’s one of the best scenes in Hocus Pocus, where you see an aerial view of the entire house. You can also see Max’s attic bedroom, where the witches left after kidnapping Dani. But the Hocus Pocus House, as people call it, is a private residence, so it’s not open for the public to visit inside.
However, despite being a private home, many movie fans still stop by and take pictures outside the house. It’s probably not a good idea to go knocking. Still, you can take a scenic walk around the neighborhood or admire its beautiful exterior that looks a lot like it did in the movie. You’ll find it in a picturesque area near Pioneer Village, and it can be accessed by car or bus.
High school scene in Hocus Pocus
Phillips Elementary School, Salem
Who will forget the high school scene where Max first heard of the story of the Sanderson sisters in class? Skeptical of the local tales of the witches, he proclaims that Halloween is simply a conspiracy “invented by candy companies.” After the class scene, you’ll see the school's exterior that reads ‘Jacob Bailey High School.’
The school also appears during the witches’ hunt for Max, Dani, and Allison, who lured them to the building. Winifred called it “a prison for children” as she stood in front of the high school.
While the production filmed the interior scenes in a different location, the exterior shot of the school is actually the Phillips Elementary School in Salem. It’s no longer in operation today, as it shut down in 1992, a year before the movie’s release. It now serves as a condo complex that overlooks the famous Salem Common.
The building isn’t open to the public for a visit, but you can always view it from the outside. It is close to Salem Common and only a short walk from Ropes Mansion, so it’s a fantastic spot to see multiple Hocus Focus filming locations.
Daytime cemetery scene in Hocus Pocus
Old Burial Hill, Marblehead
For a movie with high-schoolers as the main characters, it’s not uncommon to find scenes with bullies antagonizing the lead characters. The Hocus Pocus is no exception, though it may not be as bad as most school bully movies.
One of the funny scenes in Hocus Pocus illustrates the stereotypical bullies of the eighties and early nineties. The bullies in the movie are the least intimidating, and there’s no violence involved. But you’ll see Max riding his bike without a pair of shoes, so it’s still entertaining to watch.
This daytime cemetery scene with Max interacting with two not-so-welcoming guys was shot in Old Burial Hill. On the other hand, the nighttime cemetery scenes were filmed on a film set at Walt Disney Studios, including the resurrection scene of Billy Butcherson.
Located in Marblehead, Massachusetts, Old Burial Hill is one of New England’s oldest and most picturesque graveyards. It was established in 1638, featuring numerous well-preserved headstones, with some dating back to the 17th century. It is also home to 600 Revolutionary War-era graves.
If you want to visit this quaint cemetery, expect spectacular views of the sea, the harbor, and the Old Marblehead. Movie fans and history buffs will enjoy their time exploring the graveyard. It is accessible through a stairway at the intersection of Pond and Orne Streets.
I Put a Spell on You scene in Hocus Pocus
Old Town Hall, Salem
One of the iconic and fan-favorite scenes in Hocus Pocus is when the Sanderson sisters crash the Halloween party and hold the entire hall spellbound with their singing. Here you’ll watch the killer performance of I Put A Spell On You by the Sanderson sisters, enchanting the adults to dance until they die. But don’t worry, the townspeople didn’t die due to the curse.
This classic party scene takes place in the heart of the town in a building called the Old Town Hall. It is open to the public and houses the Salem Museum and various events, including parties, an annual fashion show, weddings, fundraisers, and more. It’s just a few steps away from shops and the main streets in the area, so it’s easy to find and highly accessible.
Erected in 1816, the Old Town Hall is a historic building that served as a marketplace and town hall. It is located in Derby Square and is now a stop on the famous Salem Heritage Trail. This walking trail leads to an array of historical attractions in the city.
Movie fan or not, you’ll fall in love with the historical sites and incredible attractions used as film locations in Hocus Focus. You will be transported back to the Salem Witch Trials era as you explore the Pioneer Village and marvel at its ancient atmosphere.
You’ll also see the magnificent Ropes Mansion and walk around the blooming garden with gorgeous flowers and plant life. Then there are private homes and ancient buildings that create the perfect setting for the film and help build the right mood for various scenes.
They say that a movie location can make or break your project. It sets the tone and scene for the movie and can create a significant difference in the quality of a film. By choosing the best Hocus Focus locations, there’s no question that the production has already set itself up for success.