If things that go bump in the night are on your agenda for Halloween this year, you have to check out America’s hometown of all things macabre – Salem, Massachusetts. From your first sighting of the bronze statue of “Samantha Stevens,” the TV witch, to the haunted houses, trolley tours and tarot card readings offered on the streets of this North Shore community in October, you will be bewitched by the city and the season.
Salem uses all of its natural resources, including the Atlantic ocean, to create a celebration on land and sea that will scare the witches’ hats off visitors to the popular Essex County tourist site in the weeks preceding Halloween. You can take an evening cruise aboard the historic “Hannah Glover” and hear tales of haunted lighthouses, legendary sea monsters and pillaging local pirates. On dry land, you can mingle with throngs of costumed revelers and snack on fried dough, sausages, corn on the cob and candy apples while waiting to buy tickets to tours and attractions.
Here are a few of your options:
- The Salem Witch Museum – This popular tourist site offers a one-of-a-kind narrated reenactment of the events leading to the infamous witch trials of 1692. The gift shop is also a great take-in for memorabilia.
- The House of Seven Gables – This historic 1688 mansion, which inspired Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel of the same name, cannot be missed if you’re visiting Salem. It’s the oldest standing wooden mansion in the country and houses a secret staircase and a museum of 17th century artifacts and photos. It also hosts 35-minute evening performances entitled “Spirits of the Gables,” where the characters from Hawthorne’s novel haunt the hallways during the Halloween season.
- Tales & Tombstones Trolley Tour - This hour-long tour includes stop-offs at Gallows Hill where 19 men and women were hanged for witchcraft, local graveyards, and other sites of grisly murders and suspected paranormal events. You’ll hear stories of underground passageways, haunted hotels and restaurants, and ancient curses during this guided tour of Salem after dark.
- “Salem 1692” Lecture at the National Park Service, 7-9 p.m. – Timothy Kendall gives a historical account of his community in the year of the witch hysteria. He is the author of a newly published “2013 Salem Witch Trials Calendar,” which makes a good souvenir of your trip to the city.
- Count Orlock’s Nightmare Gallery and Monster Museum – If you and your family really want to scream, this classic haunted house should do the trick. You also get to meet actor and stunt man Kane Hodder, who played Jason in the “Friday the 13th” movies.
If you want to delve further into the spirit of the season during your trip to Salem, you can receive messages from the other world at séances led by local mediums, have a psychic reading, watch witches weave their spells, or attend the famous masquerade ball at the Hawthorne Hotel. You can even dress up as one of Lady Gaga’s Little Monsters and dance on Salem Common in a group performance of “Born this Way.”
This year’s frightful festival ends with a bang at the Halloween Finale Fireworks display over Salem’s North River starting at 10 p.m. on October 31st. To download a brochure and complete schedule of events, visit www.hauntedhappenings.org.