When the moon rises high above the darkened city, a costumed cavalcade will march forth, flooding the streets in a masqueraded parade of goblins, fairies, creatures and spooks. The same challenge hangs on each breath as you answer the deafening knock on your door; Trick, or Treat? All Hallows Eve is upon us, and the ghouls are out to play. Join us, as we explore the witchy wonder and spellbinding heritage of Halloween in Salem, Massachusetts.
The tradition of Halloween may well be synonymous with candy, costumes, trickery and merrymaking in today’s world, but its origins are little known amongst those that partake in the celebrations. Halloween is a holiday celebrated annually on the 31st of October, and dates back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, when people would don terrifying costumes and light bonfires to ward off evil spirits.
Intended as a celebration for the ending of the harvest year, and marking the arrival of the cold, dark wintertime, the Celts celebrated Samhain on the night of the 31st of October, a day before the beginning of the new year. Winter brought with it associations of death and loss, as has been demonstrated by the poets and scholars of yore. The Celtic people believed that on this night- the night before the new year- the boundary between the world of the living and that of the dead became blurred. It was believed that on this night, the ghosts of the dead and departed walked the earth amongst men, destroying crop fields and inciting havoc.
A night of the mystic and occult, it was also believed that this thinning of the veil between our world and the one beyond was the ideal time for the Druids, or Celtic Priests, to converse with otherworldly spirits, and gain insight on the future of their clans. The Druids would build massive bonfires, where people would gather and burn crops, and sacrifice animals to the Celtic deities while donning costumes made of animal heads and skins. They would gather around the burning pyre, and tell fortunes of what is to come.
In the eighth century, Pope Gregory the third declared November the 1st as a time to honor all saints. This tradition of All Saints day evolved over time, incorporating elements and traditions of Samhain. The evening before became known as All Hallows Eve, eventually taking on the form of what we know today as Halloween: a day of carving jack-o-lanterns, donning costumes and indulging in treats and festivities.
Notorious for being the site of the Salem Witch Trials of 1692, the 400-year-old New England town of Salem Massachusetts is the ideal spot for lovers of Halloween and the macabre. Proud of their historical legacy, the “Witch City” Is not one to shy away from the more shadowed elements of their heritage. The annual month-long October festival, Haunted Happenings, stands testament to this, and is the perfect occasion for one to experience the town’s spooky spirit to its highest degree. Here’s a list of spooks and scares that await you within Salem’s festival of horrors!
1. The Salem Witch Museum
In the mood for a history lesson worthy of spine-tingling chills? The Salem Witch Museum is the most visited museum in all of Salem, and offers an in-depth window into the Trials of 1692, complete with unsettling voice-overs and thematic wax-sculptures.
2. Imprisoned! 1692
Relive the terror of the Old Witch Gaol at one of Salem’s most haunted sites; the actual dungeon in which those accused of witchcraft and spell-work were held and tortured. This walking tour takes you down the annals of history, to witness the cruelty of man and the hype and hysteria of the times.
3. Count Orlok’s Nightmare Gallery
A mecca for fans of horror cinema and creature-features, this cinematic museum features over 60 life-size wax figures of your favourite horror paragons, including Freddy Krueger, Frankenstein and Chucky, the murderous doll. Crafted by professional Hollywood special effects artistes, this attraction is not one to be missed.
4. The Creative Collective Merchant Market
The heart and soul of Salem’s Halloween attractions, the Essex Street Pedestrian Mall hosts an annual celebration of costumed street-performances, bar crawls, haunted attractions and even psychics and fortune-tellers. Stock up on Halloween goodies the likes of ceremonial artisanal soy candles and gothic jewelry while in full costume, and get into the true spirit of Halloween.
5. Spellbound Tours
Led by paranormal investigator Dr. Vitka, this haunted tour of the world’s Halloween Capital offers a historically accurate representation of Salem’s dark past. On the itinerary for the tour are visits to the filming locations of the iconic Halloween flick, Hocus Pocus, haunted site tours, modern-day vampire stories and a history lesson of the lesser-known elements of the infamous Witch Trials.
How are you celebrating Halloween? Let us know!