Anyone who lives not in Los Angeles, New York City, or Vancouver is probably familiar with the uncanny experience of watching an American TV show or movie ostensibly set in your home state or city, but filmed somewhere that is quite obviously not your home state or city. As someone who has lived most of their life in New England, I’ve seen many a film that “takes place” in the region, but that gets some basic stuff hilariously wrong due to the limitations of filming location (I’m looking at you, Gilmore Girls). But what about beloved Halloween classic Hocus Pocus? The 1993 film follows young Max Dennision, who has just moved to Salem, Massachusetts from his home in L.A. Does Hocus Pocus get MA right?
Which Hocus Pocus Scenes Were Actually Filmed in Salem?
Out of Hocus Pocus‘ four-month shoot, only two weeks were spent filming in Massachusetts with the cast’s principal actors. Which most of the movie was filmed in sunny Burbank, California, the Kenny Ortega-helmed production made pretty good use of the time spent in Salem and Marblehead, filming daytime scenes in the historic New England town known for the 17th century witch trials, during which hundreds of people were executed on the suspicion of witchcraft. Because of this horrific historic event, much of Salem’s colonial history has been preserved and/or recreated (to varying degrees of historic accuracy), which means there are some real-life locations used during Hocus Pocus filming that you can still visit today…
Thackery Binx’s Colonial Past
While most of Hocus Pocus is set in the 90s, the film opens in 17th century Salem, showing what Thackery Binx was up to before he got cursed to live as an immortal cat. The film used Pioneer Village to tap into the historical setting. Pioneer Village was built in the 1930s, and is the country’s oldest living history museum. The three-acre museum includes examples of colonial architecture—including dugouts, wigwams, and thatched roof cottages—and has a gardens and a blacksmith shop used to give visitors a peek into early 17-century colonial life in the region.
Hocus Pocus used real locations to film scenes of Max, Dani, and and Allison out and about in modern-day Salem. One of the most recognizable is when Max is accosted by teen bullies Ice and Jay while in the cemetery. This scene wasn’t filmed in Salem, but in nearby Marblehead, at Old Burial Hill, which is one of New England’s oldest graveyards. Other outdoor scenes were filmed at Salem Common.
Massachusetts-based daytime scenes like this one go a long way in selling Hocus Pocus as a Massachusetts-set film to New England viewers.
Let’s Talk Hocus Pocus Filming Location Exteriors
While many MA-based exteriors were used in Hocus Pocus, most if not all of the interior-set scenes were filmed on sound stages in Burbank, which means if it is a scene set somewhere indoors, then it was almost certainly filmed in California. However, the exteriors for Max and Allison’s school, Allison’s house, and Max and Dani’s iconic home were all filmed in Salem, which means that Max and Dani’s home is “real” in the sense that the exterior is a real-life private (which means you can’t visit) home on Ocean Avenue in Salem.
Tis the season to watch Hocus Pocus! The film is currently available to watch on Freeform as part of the channel’s “31 Nights of Halloween” programming, and is also available to stream on Disney+.