The "Witch School" sign hasn’t gone up on the building yet, but the operators of this largely Internet enterprise have picked out a storefront on Salem’s Essex Street pedestrian mall.
The city’s newest witch business will be sandwiched between The Gathering, a small Christian church, and Rockafellas, a restaurant that is on the site where The First Church in Salem was founded in 1634.
The Witch School is hoping for a warmer welcome than it received from some Christians in its current home in Illinois.
Several Christian churches in Rossville, a town in central Illinois near the Indiana border, held prayer sessions in an effort to drive the pagans out.
"There was one group that anointed the tires on their cars with holy water and drove around town to protect it from the witches coming," said Don Lewis, chancellor of Witch School, International.
The Halloween crowds on the mall were too busy yesterday to notice a new tenant scouting out 221 Essex St., the former home of a printing company.
"We’re not coming here for Halloween," said Ed Hubbard, founder of Witch School. "I need the other 11 months of the year."
This is not a haunted house or Halloween attraction, he said. It is an educational business with more than 200,000 students in countries all over the world.
It offers courses in Wicca, tarot, palmistry, ancient gods, voodoo, meditation and many other subjects. It even has a course called "How to Get Better Press for Pagans."
It has a nightly radio show called "Pagans Tonight" and has a division called "Magick TV" that has posted more than 500 videos on YouTube, according to Hubbard.
Although most students take the courses for free, this is a business that charges for memberships and products and had revenues of about $250,000 last year, the founder and CEO said.
"We’re a for-profit business with shareholders," Hubbard said.
Witch School plans to announce its move on Halloween day but isn’t scheduled to open here until April. It will take that long to move equipment here and renovate the site, creating computer space for its operations and also public worship space.
The school considered moving to San Francisco and Minneapolis, two other locales with large witch communities, but chose Salem after visiting here last spring, Hubbard said.
Hubbard, Lewis and another employee are at Museum Place Mall this week taking part in the psychic fair operated by Festival of the Dead. On Halloween night, Lewis is doing a large seance inside CinemaSalem.
Witch School is leaving Illinois for spiritual and technical reasons. Salem, they feel, will be more welcoming, has lots of witches and psychics, and offers a pool of college students with computer skills.
Along with the cold shoulder in Illinois, the school has had trouble getting good computer service.
"Right now, our Internet company is terrible," Hubbard said.