“Double, Double, Toil and Trouble” was a reality in Salem, Massachusetts in 1692. 19 people were hanged and one pressed to death because they were thought to be witches. While great respect is paid to the victims of the trials, with a poignant memorial that was dedicated by Elie Wiesel in 1992, life does go on.

I spent three magical days wandering the streets of the city with a name synonymous with Halloween. I have to say:  move over sugar plums.  Haunted Happenings has conjured up events that will have its visitors sleeping with visions of ghosts and witches dancing in their heads. Nowhere is Halloween celebrated with such vitality, colour and style.  There are nightly graveyard walks, storytelling, psychic happenings and even a ‘Creepy Cocktail’ cruise.

Envision a commemorative circle of robed witches on Gallows Hill on All Hallows Eve followed by a candlelit Witches Walk. Yes, you can take part for a small donation. Perhaps you’d rather take in the highly popular Nightmare on Hawthorne Blvd, Halloween Ball at The Hawthorne Hotel…So popular, it has a waiting list to get in!

Horror movie buffs will love Count Orlock’s Nightmare Gallery, where you can experience horror up close with personalities from films. Rub shoulders, if you dare, with ‘Jason Voorhees’ from Friday the 13th or ‘Heather’ from Nightmare on Elm Street.

The only structure left in Salem with direct ties to the witch trials of 1692 is The Witch House. A walk through its portals during the day is a sobering trip back in time. It was once owned by Jonathan Corwin, one of the judges who ordered the wretched victims to their deaths. On October nights, the lights are out. Eerie tales are told and performed by actors who lead you through the house by lantern light.

Wander along the streets of Salem and you’ll come upon stores full of spell books, brooms and the latest in fashionable witches hats. Best place for high fashion witch hats? Hex, on Essex Street, is the shop to stop at for the new and old. High fashion hats, known as ‘Broom Riders’ are elegant and a touch naughty, festooned in feathers, with the point on a jaunty angle. Definite eye catchers for any occasion! From ‘dolls and poppets’, ‘potions and pamperings’, and an excellent choice of witches charms, Hex is a must-visit.

You simply cannot visit Salem without conversing with a witch. Magika is where you’ll find Lori Bruno, Sicilian Strega and High Priestess, who will enlighten you to the true meaning of being a ‘witch’ in todays world. Quite different from Hollywood’s witch lore.

Halloween in Salem is an essential treat for anyone who relishes this wonderfully haunting time of year, but if you can’t make it, a good dose of horror through film will set you straight. The Crucible with Daniel Day Lewis was filmed in and around Salem, as was the recent The Lords of Salem. And let’s not forget the ever so enchanting Hocus Pocus, starring Bette Midler.

So gas up your broom.  There’s only one place to be on All Hallows Eve – The Salem Common, surrounded by flickering candles under the stars in the cool night air, enveloped by witches and warlocks invoking the spirits in a circle of light…


Main Image:  Witches’ Altar of the Dead at HEX: Old World Witchery

Where to stay:

The Salem Waterfront Hotel

Emerson Inn by the Sea in nearby Rockport

Or Visit Salem.org

witch house

witch memorial

The Witch House and a Salem Memorial

Photos: Sharman Yarnell