Salem + October = Crazy

In my mind, this guy is walking to
Fatboy Slim's Weapon of Choice.
October 26, 2010 – Saturday was an extremely Halloween day for us, and it was mostly thanks to the town of Salem, MA.

The day basically started at 1:00 pm, but not because of any underhanded deals between me and my alarm clock. I had a New England Grimpendium appearance scheduled at Cornerstone Bookshop in Salem at that time, and because of the kind of town that Salem is and because of the time of year it was, every hour before that 1:00 pm appointment was spent just trying to get into Salem.

In fact, traffic was so bad, I had to eventually Chinese Fire Drill with my wife and walk the remaining few blocks to the bookstore, while she parked the car. Even though we had a reserved spot in town thanks to some friends of ours, my wife still missed just about all of the Grimpendium presentation in driving the few blocks to go park. So I guess there’s a silver lining to all that traffic for her.

As to the appearance itself, I’m an accomplished slurrer, stutterer, and forgettor of commonly used words, so if that was what people came to see, the event was a complete success. And afterward, I got to meet some cool people, which is always the best part about those events.

Once that was over, we met up with those parking-space friends of ours who happen to live right there in downtown Salem, in a 1700s-era building right near the waterfront. We hung out at their place for a bit watching international tourists take pictures of their exterior Halloween decorations. I guess other countries don’t have six-foot-long furry spiders to affix to their walls nor full-size animatronic Jason Voorhees to set in their windows. Soon, though. First universal democracy. Then Halloween. And Voorhees is most certainly the plural of Voorhees.

Actually, the real reason we were spending some of our Salem time at the calm island of their place instead of neck-deep in the sea storm of pointy hats surrounding us outside was our friends’ Spooky Town Halloween village. I mentioned this series of collectibles in the first part of the Halloween Has Gone Commercial post, along with my fascination from afar. Well, our friends are some of those people without whom Spooky Town wouldn’t be able to continue putting out new pieces. Their collection is pretty glorious and made me wish I was half an inch tall. I’ve included a bunch of pictures of it at the end of this post.

Then, we walked Salem. I’ve written about visiting Salem and my conflicted attitude toward it before on O.T.I.S. However, every year, I think it grows on me more. It might also have to do with the fact that every year I show up later and later in the Halloween season. I feel like an aspiring Polar Bear Club member, each year venturing further and further into the terrifying water. Eventually I’m just going to have to jump in, visiting right on Halloween, and suffer the resulting hypothermia…or whatever the analogous term is for when a town like Salem penetrates one to the bone.

Right in line with that personal trend, I don’t think I’ve ever been to Salem this late in October. According to my friend, what looked to me like a maximum crowd capacity is going to grow by about 75% come H-Day weekend. Even if his math was off by 74% that’s still skull-boggling. As it was, the place looked like every insane asylum in the state had been inverted.

The Essex Street Pedestrian Mall is the epicenter of all the ‘weenery. Shops, street venders, and costumed performers all line the strip, while nearby a carnival, various museums, and the famous Old Burying Point all expand the party throughout downtown Salem. In addition to that, half the pedestrians were already in their Halloween costumes, many of which were pretty extravagant. These latter folks posed for pictures anytime anybody threw a camera lens at their faces. 

My favorite of these moments was when an Asian tourist, in severely broken English, asked a man in full Pirates of the Caribbean Davy Jones accoutrement if he’d pose with her for a picture. He answered in the affirmative, in an accent that even through the facial tentacles seemed extremely Nordic. I think the secret to life is somewhere in that scene.

Finally, we were Salem’d up to the cauldron brim and left out the backside of town to avoid further traffic entanglements. Later that night we topped it all off with a trip to a few haunted houses...a general topic that I’m lusting to write many, many paragraphs about, but which I am probably not going to get to this year. After all, there are only five more days to Halloween...Silver Shamrock.



Nice write up! We were in Salem that same weekend, and yes traffic was awful! Such a stressful drive trying to find parking. Although we were there Friday, and that was the perfect day, kids still in school and people working, made it so less crowded. A big difference compared to Saturday, you could walk around and not be shoulder to shoulder with people. Also there were no lines to get into a store. And more bathrooms were available to the public. I go to Salem every year in October I always have a great time wandering around and enjoying the atmosphere. There are still a few things I haven't done, like one of the haunted boat cruises, it was just too cold to be on a boat on Friday. That's one of the great things about Salem there is so much to do other then the main wax museums. You can only hear the same story so many times before it becomes tiring. If you ever get the chance the Hawthorne Hotel is a wonderful place to stay, off season of course, I don't even want to know what a room costs in October. Salem has always been one of my favorite places to visit, so much history, beautiful homes, a creepy grave yard, the people are pleasent, spooky things to do all year long not just in October.

I would have liked to catch your appearance, but Salem on a late October Saturday? Way too crowded for me. And I caught some of that traffic trying to leave Danvers - I think I would have had to leave on Friday to get there on time.

We love Salem and are thinking of moving there soon since my daughter has relocated there. We love your writing, you make everything so vivid, and your site is very good.

I'm from Salem, and I'm actually glad to see the city light up in October. (It used to be depressing back in the 80s.) Although I no longer live there, I still visit from time to time (my mom still lives in Witchcraft Heights). I've also written about the Halloween experience on my blog called Don't Even Go There ( This isn't a shameless plug, though, as I've been reading your posts on OTIS for quite some time. Keep up the good work!
-Mark Bloom, Asheville, NC

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