Salem in October: Weekend Hysteria

I can’t believe I opened with a stupid pun like that. I can’t get away with puns. I’m not this guy:

This past weekend, huge crowds were already starting to descend on Salem. All those clever families, great big buses full of little old ladies and college jocks of legal drinking age thought they were putting one over on the other tourists by showing up a week early to enjoy the extra walking space.

Well, this is what you got:

It seemed like, much like when you take a shortcut to Itchy and Scratchy land, everyone else gets the same idea. Every store was packed (some with a velvet rope and lines like they fancied themselves the Ministry of Sound), every bench was occupied, every bin was stuffed and almost every inch of street was being trampled. Essex St was positively heaving (watch your pockets) and most of the stores were caught off-guard by the tourist numbers this time of the month. CVS was even out of milk. Bastards.

But the great thing about Salem in October is that you really can visit most days of month to see the same museums, take the same tours and eat the same carnival food you would on the day itself. Granted, the energy and crowds are naturally more…frenzied than the rest of the month, but the city has spaced out enough of the events on its Haunted Happenings Calendar that everyone can have a go.

Weekends, are of course, the busiest. And you have to get up early – little gems like the Witch City Car Show and the Boo-tiful Pets Dog Costume Contest start as early as 10am – and stay out late: even some of the vendors themselves have taken to sleeping next to their carts overnight.

This past weekend was all about the kids. Saturday was Children’s Day. This meant that there were lots of children invading downtown, having their chance at a holiday that usually excludes them completely. The Commons were covered in bouncy castles, bouncy…slides and an adorable, not-quite-to-scale replica train ride of Salem Station.

the costume contest judges - haha, get it? "the". lulz

There was also a costume contest at Derby Square. Despite having a considerable number of categories and three prizes per category, they didn’t go the traditional route of finding a way to give every single kid a prize.

There were some pretty creative costumes including the above (left: Jimi Hendrix; right: The “Up” House without its inhabitant), and a sibling duo who each dressed as Robin (because they were both fighting over it – seriously, who fights over a Robin costume?).

And it wasn’t too early for everyone else to be out in costume, too:

And the chaos is only getting started.


The thing about Salem is that I appreciate a crazy carnival atmosphere with drag queens and dogs in costume and zombie marches etc. but I also find it comforting that the city is safe enough and has a variety of day and night-time events, so a lot of people bring their families to enjoy October here, even newborn babies:

aww...couldn't he just eat you up?


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