Salem is one New England’s best-known haunted hotspots, infamous for their witch trials held in the 1690s. This mass hysteria led to more than 200 accusations, 20 executions, and as many as 13 people who died in prison. But enough of that—while some Salemites prefer to keep their distance from the horrific events, plenty of residents still enthusiastically embrace the Witch City spirit to host more than 250,000 visitors every October, starting with a Grand Parade and culminating in the Witches’ Halloween Ball. Here are some highlights for this month’s Haunted Happenings in Salem. —Lindsey Paradis, John Paradiso
Haunted Happenings Grand Parade
Salem’s annual Haunted Happenings Grand Parade kicks off the town’s Halloween season, attracting residents and far-flung visitors alike for this spectacle of color, lights, and music, heavily represented by local students and business owners. It’s a great start to a month of fun and frightful events.
Free, Thursday, October 6, 6:30 p.m, starts at Shetland Park on Congress St., Salem, 978-744-3663, hauntedhappenings.org.
Psychic Fair and Witchcraft Expo
It’s said that your hand can tell your future, all you need is someone to read it. At Salem’s annual Psychic Fair, have your future told, connect with past lives, and communicate with lost love ones. Just meet with one of the fair’s many licensed psychics—or even a practicing witch. Looking for more of a home remedy? Shop the fair’s enchanted alley, where you can buy an assortment of crystals, spell kits, enchanted candles, wands, voodoo dolls, and divination tools, along with many other mystical items.
Free, October 1-31, Museum Place Mall, 176 Essex St., Salem, festivalofthedead.com.
Bewitched After Dark Walking Tours
The “Bewitched Historical Tour” reveals all sorts of information about Salem: the city’s colonial history, the facts surrounding the witch trials, notable hauntings, and modern witchcraft. The tour will debunk some of the myths that have spread about the witch trials, but you will hear some ghost stories related to the trials and life in 1692.
$20, see site for dates and times. Tours depart from Pedestrian Walkway, 180 Essex St., Salem, 978-498-4061, bewitchedafterdark.com.
Haunted Happenings Carnival
Operating October 14 through Halloween, Salem’s Haunted Happenings Carnival offers rides, games, and other classic midway offerings. So, what’s so spooky about that? Well, have you ever seen Harry Potter riding a Ferris wheel with a zombie? Or Cinderella sharing fried dough with Dracula? This carnival is crawling with all types of creatures and characters—so don’t miss out on the fun.
October 14-November 1, Mondays-Fridays 3 p.m., Saturdays-Sundays 1 p.m., Derby St., Salem, 978-744-3663, hauntedhappenings.org.
Salem Sound Cruises
Mahi Mahi Cruises offers multiple Salem Sound cruises specifically tailored to fall and the Halloween season. If you’re looking to sightsee, hop aboard the Lighthouse & Foliage Cruise. This narrated tour will feature five historic lighthouses and heads all the way out to the Misery Islands. Plus, you can witness the changing of the seasons, as you take in the bright fall foliage. If you’re looking for something a little more bewitching, try the Haunted Harbor Cruise. This 75-minute tour includes face painting, fortune telling, frightening photo opportunities, and a storyteller who will enchant with tales of pirates, haunted islands, and monsters. Finally, the Halloween Boo!s Cruise offers more of a party atmosphere, with a DJ, dancing, and costume contests. All cruises offer a full bar with specialty drinks such as Grandma’s Spiked Hot Apple Cider and food such as soup and grub off the grill.
$25, seasonal cruises offered October 1-31 (see site for full schedule), Pickering Wharf, 23 Congress St., Salem, 888-959-2324, mahicruises.com.
Chambers of Terror
The Chambers of Terror follows the standard walkthrough haunted house format, with demons, ghouls, ghosts, and “one very evil clown” lurking around every corner. Be prepared for a fright—but a short one, as the walkthrough on average lasts only seven to eight minutes.
$12 regular admission, open daily through November 1, 59 Wharf St., Salem, 978-741-0002, chambersofterror.net.
Count Orlok’s Nightmare Gallery
It’s Salem’s only monster museum. Here, you won’t find monsters jumping out from behind every wall—Count Orlok’s is a “cinematic wax museum” with more than 60 life-sized creatures from your favorite horror and sci-fi movies and TV shows.
$7 regular admission ($5 for children), open daily through November 27, 285 Derby St., Salem, 978-740-0500, nightmaregallery.com.
Haunted Dinner Theatre Presents Ghostbusted!
It’s a whodunit, comedy night at the Hawthorne featuring ghouls and paranormal activity. Cedric Smythe III, the owner of a local establishment, is calling on the Ghostbashers to uncover the murderer of the previous owner, whose ghost haunts the halls. Join the Ghostbashers in their task by playing summoned ghosts, telling your own ghastly stories and giving away some clues. Also, enjoy the all-you-can-eat buffet (just not like slimer)!
$60, select Fridays and Saturdays, 7 p.m, Hawthorne Hotel, 18 Washington Square W., Salem, 978-744-4080, or Finz Restaurant, 76 Wharf St., Salem, 978-744-8485, haunteddinnertheater.com.
“Cry Innocent: The People vs. Bridget Bishop”
Bridget Bishop was Salem’s first convicted witch, her sentence later leading to mass hysteria, hearings, and executions. Ask yourself: Would you convict her? You’ll be the jury in this recreation of Bishop’s 1692 witch trial. Hear historical testimonies, cross-examine witnesses, and decide for yourself if Bridget Bishop truly is a witch. The choice might be harder than you thought.
$12, October 1-31, Old Town Hall, 32 Derby Sq., Salem, cryinnocentsalem.com.
Salem Witches’ Halloween Ball
Ever wonder how a witch celebrates Halloween? This Halloween, find out by joining the spellcasters at Salem’s annual Witches’ Ball. Join the Dragon Ritual Drummers in a drum circle paying homage to the holiday, as well as a magic circle led by Salem witches. Pick your potion at the ball’s cash bar, and look into your future with a psychic reading. If you’re not one for hocus pocus, DJ Addam—goth-club DJ extraordinaire—will be spinning all night. This year’s theme is “Over the Rainbow”—and there’s a costume contest, with prizes for the outfits that best portrays characters from the magical world of Oz.
$150, Friday, October 28, 7:30 p.m., Hawthorne Hotel, 18 Washington Square W., Salem, 978-744-4080, festivalofthedead.com.
2016 Hawthorne Hotel Halloween Party: Seven Deadly Sins
This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Hawthorne’s annual Halloween bashes. To celebrate, they’re hosting “A Night to Dismember,” an evening that fêtes classic horror. Head to this 90-year-old hotel on October 29, and you’ll find three floors of food, live music, psychics, and a killer costume party. Bring your best outfit—winners will be awarded cash prizes.
$90 for general admission, Saturday, October 29, 2016, 7 p.m, Hawthorne Hotel, 18 Washington Square W., Salem, 978-744-4080, hawthornehotel.com.
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