Have you ever seen the popular Halloween movie “Hocus Pocus” from 1993? This classic Disney film is one that I have seen many times in my youth. Although the action-packed plot is captivating in itself, one thing that always interested me about the movie was the quaint town in which the plot took place. Salem, Massachusetts, most well-known for the witch trials of 1692, is also the location where Hocus Pocus was filmed. Every year in October, the city of Salem puts on a month-long Halloween celebration. From street fairs to trolley tours to concerts, Salem uses its witchy past to transform into a modern-day Halloween town in October.
My mom and sister visited me in Boston this weekend and I wanted to take them on a daytrip to Salem as a part of the weekend activities. We took the commuter rail from Boston which is only a 30-min ride from North Station near downtown. We arrived in the morning, but apparently not early enough. I have visited Salem once before around Halloween and the Salem Witch Museum was on the agenda. However, the line outside of the museum was so long, it turned out that we would literally have to wait hours to get a tour. This time, I did not want to make the same mistake, so as soon as we got off the train, we headed straight to the museum. Dear Reader, the museum had been open for less than 15 mins and there was already a line that was proudly snaking its way around the building. Well, this time we waited and were able to get a spot for the 11am tour.
If you are even vaguely curious about the Salem witch trials of 1692, I would recommend purchasing a $13 ticket for the 45-min tour. The tour goes as follows: visitors enter a large dark room and take a seat on benches in an auditorium. The “show” is a retelling of the 1692 trials through an audio recording and staged vignettes (which included decorated mannequins set in scenes) as visuals in the storytelling. After the audience learns about the history of the trials themselves, everyone is moved into another room to learn about the role of witches in popular culture and the history of witches and Halloween tradition. One thing that I learned that I did not know before the tour is that the culture of witches stem from the pagan Celtic tradition known as “wicca.” Wicca is an ancient spiritual practice centered around nature. Followers of this practice worship a God and Goddess and have holidays that center on the phases of the moon and the equinoxes. The practice of “magic” is indeed part of the wicca tradition and ceremonial cloaks are worn for celebrations.
If you plan to visit the museum, make sure to do it early! After the museum, we wandered around Essex street which was lined with tents and vendors selling trinkets and food. Street performers including jugglers and a capella groups merrily mixed with the excited crowd. On the corner of Essex and Washington, we came to a restaurant called Rockafellas. This place caught my attention because it was rather big (which meant that we would be more likely to get a seat quickly) and because it had a large variety of dishes on the menu. The inside of this bar had a classic New England feel with the added bonus of being decorated for Halloween. And, the food was great!
Unfortunately, we did not have too much time to explore more (we had late-afternoon engagements in Boston), however this trip went so well, my mom is thinking about inviting our cousins up next year to take part in the festivities.
I sometimes joke that October is my favorite “holiday” because I love autumn, Halloween, and fall festivities including pumpkin carving, corn mazes, and hay rides. However, in Salem, it is hardly a stretch to dub October as an unofficial city celebration. Dear Reader, if I cannot convince you through this post, please do consider a trip to Salem during October to experience what really may be the ‘most wonderful time of the year.’