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In October Shops Cast a Spell on Visitors to Salem, Massachusetts

Spooky, fun and steeped in history, Salem is a must see for locals and tourists alike, especially in the month of October. Haunted Happenings is a full schedule of Halloween themed events from October 1 to 31. In addition to the myriad of attractions and museums open year round, many special events are held, such as a carnival with rides and games on Derby St., celebrity guests at Count Orlok's Nightmare Gallery and eerie storytelling at the Witch House. The Salem Trolley does a special witch and ghost tour ending with a live show at the Witches Cottage. The haunted ambience extends to Salem Harbor with pirate stories aboard a cruise from Pickering Wharf in downtown Salem. Also during October, the History Alive! theater group will perform Cry Innocent, a re-enactment of the trial of Bridget Bishop, who was accused of witchcraft in 1692. Tickets are required for this show which is (More)

Salem Witch Trials Memorial, Salem, Ma.

performed at the Old Town Hall in downtown Salem.


The interesting and unique shops of Salem are also in full form during October. Year round these stores provide a variety of products and services uniquely Salem, like psychic, tarrot and palm readings, crystal balls, pentacles, herbs, candles and incense. During October, visitors crowd into these shops. Besides the occult themed stores, Salem's shops offer a great variety of crafts, gifts, souvenirs, clothing, jewelry, perfume, candy, home decor and kitchen items..


On the Essex St. Pedestrian Mall in the center of downtown Salem, you'll encounter a festive Autumn feel with live music, free dream interpretation and free hot chocolate on select days, compliments of The Gathering and Isaak's of Salem Winery. Teens and tweens love the shadowy macabre atmosphere that hangs over the town. Tourists crowd the streets on fair weather weekends. The Peabody Essex Museum is here also, featuring engaging art exhibits representing New England, Native American and Asian culture.


When it's time for a respite, there are plenty of eateries to choose from. Sandwich shops, cafes, pizza shops, international cuisine and elegant dining can be found in downtown Salem and the harbor district. Ice cream can be had at Ben & Jerry's on Washington St. and Captain Dusty's near the waterfront. Rita's on Essex St. has Italian ice, frozen custard and fat-free soft serve.


Satisfy your sweet tooth at Ye Olde Pepper Candy, the first candy company in America, famous for their Black Jacks (sticks of molasses), Gibralters (lemon or peppermint candies) and handmade chocolates. Turtle Alley Chocolate now on Essex St. has freshly made chocolate and nut confections plus much more. Maria's Sweet Somethings has candy and ice cream. A short drive from downtown, Salem Willows Park has an arcade, carousel and several concession stands open weather permitting, including E.W. Hobbs claiming the first ice cream cone in America and the best popcorn in New England. There are a park, beaches and a fishing pier there as well.


Across from Salem's downtown public parking garage (Brown/New Liberty St.) which is attached to the Museum Place Mall, the National Park Service Regional Visitor Center provides maps and brochures. Park rangers will answer your questions about the many historical and entertainment venues in the town. A free 27 minute film about the history of the Essex National Heritage Area is shown throughout the day. Public restrooms and a gift shop can also be found here. The Museum Place Mall has a small group of shops, including Polonus European Deli, the Bagel Place, Hex, Omen and the Nightmare Factory Haunted House. Certain shops will validate your parking for a discount once you make a purchase. There are restaurants, restrooms and access to the attached parking garage in this mall.


Walking tours highlight the Salem Witch Trials Memorial and The Burying Point graveyard on Charter St. downtown. The memorial honors the memory of the 20 people executed for being witches during the Salem Witch trials in 1692. The Official Salem Visitor & Travel Guide and Salem Best Maps show the self-guided walking tour marked with a red line throughout the town streets. Pick up one of these publications around town, or at the visitor center and follow the marked path through town. If you would rather ride, the Salem Trolley offers 1 hour guided tours to 13 historic points around Salem and same day on-off shuttle service for you to continue visiting these sites on your own.


Before you go, searching online can help you get discounts on combination tickets to attractions and museums if you can commit. Otherwise discounts can also be gotten at the attractions if you purchase tickets to other partner attractions. For example, the Witch Dungeon Museum, Witch History Museum and New England Pirate Museum offer a $5.00 ($8.00 in 2014) per person savings on a combination ticket. Likewise, the Salem pass available on Columbus Day, Halloween, Friday's, Saturday's and Sunday's in October is $23.00 per person ($20.00 for children and seniors) for admission to the Salem Wax Museum, the Salem Witch Village, Frankenstein's Laboratory and the Within the Witching Hour tour next to the Witch Trial Memorial. (For 2014, a similar pass called the Wicked Pass for $20.00 includes the Salem Wax Museum, Haunted Witch Village, Frankenstein's Castle and Witching Hour Spellcasting. Other passes available, check details. ) The Mr. Hyde's Haunted House and Count Orlok's Nightmare Gallery (display of monster characters from frightening movies) offer a discount for visiting both.


At the Salem Harbor end of Derby St., you can take a tour of the mansion that inspired Nathaniel Hawthorne's The House of the Seven Gables. Also, his birthplace has been relocated to this site. There is a new hand-on kids maritime exploration center called Kids' Cove in the Counting House on the property. There are waterfront gardens and a Museum Store. In October, two theatrical events are held: Legacy of the Hanging Judge (Salem witch trials) and Spirits of the Gables (based on the Hawthorne's The House of the Seven Gables), both ticketed shows on select dates.


First time visitors will have to pick and choose from all these Salem venues because there is too much to see and do in one day. Plenty of inns, B&B's and hotels offer accommodations if you would like to extend your stay. The Hawthorne Hotel and the Salem Waterfront Hotel & Marina are conveniently located next to downtown and waterfront shops and attractions. Boston Best Cruises runs the Salem Ferry from Boston to Salem on select dates with a narrated tour (usually weekends and holidays, including Halloween.)


On Halloween, visitors to Salem don their costumes and haunt this colonial city. Derby St. is closed off from 5-10 p.m. There is an outdoor concert and many special events throughout town. At 10 p.m. at the Washington St./Bridge St. MBTA station, Haunted Happenings draws to a close with a fireworks display.


Whether you are drawn to the history of the 1692 tragic witch hunts, the maritime history and colonial architecture, the unique shops or the Halloween rituals of the present day, Salem has so much to offer. Wander the streets of old Salem and let your imagination bring you back in time. Learn what the past can tell us about our present day. And enjoy the beautiful Fall colors and crisp air of this special New England season.


-M.A. Barrett (October, 2011)



Salem's Haunted Happenings, Salem, Ma.
Peabody Essex Museum, Essex St., Salem, Ma.
Derby St. Carnival during Haunted Happenings, Salem, Ma.
Annual Psychic Fair & Witchcraft Expo, Essex St., Salem, Ma.
Salem Witch Museum, Salem, Ma.
Essex St. Pedestrian Mall, Salem, Ma.
Omen Psychic Parlor, Salem, Ma.