Between February 1692 and May 1693, more than 200 people were accused of witchcraft in Salem, Massachusetts, and 19 of those people were executed. Like most sites of terrible events, Salem has become a tourist trap, and in October (its busiest month, naturally), the town erupts into a sort of haunted Disney World. I traveled to Salem the week before Halloween with two friends to see what all the fuss is about, look for real witches, flirt with zombies, and take photographs of it all.
Walking down the street in Salem on the Saturday before Haloween was nearly impossible due to the amount of people in costume. While talking on the phone with a friend back in New York, I describe Salem as “Like walking in Times Square except everyone is a drunk witch.” According to a local witch named Vlad, last Halloween night drew over 150,000 people to the small town's normally quiet streets.
We went to the "Chambers of Terror", which, according to owners Skip and Derek, is the scariest haunted house in Salem. It was very spooky, and they let me take photographs. At night we visited the Zombie Prom, a really big Halloween event held at Victoria Station, a local restaurant and bar. The prom was complete with a band, cheesy prom pictures, and even a zombie prom king and queen. The manager of the restaurant, Daryl, told us that the tourism in Salem has exploded in the last ten years, partially due to the town finally embracing its haunted heritage. Daryl said that Zombie Prom would probably draw a crowd of at least 650 people. Daryl even shared some stories and facts about his time as a security guard at the infamous Danvers State Hospital, the mental institution known for it’s inhumane experiments and tests on patients, now torn down and turned into a condo complex.
Overall, visiting Salem during Halloween season was an awesome and spooky experience if you like commercialized versions of terrible and tragic historical events (I do). I made a ton of friends but I don't remember most of their names. Maybe I'll go back next year and try to find them.
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