October in Salem Beyond Halloweentown

by Ron Martin

I have been traveling to Salem annually since 2001. What keeps bringing me back is not only my love of Halloween and American history, but the general ambiance created by Salem’s attractions, restaurants and unique shopping experiences.

As a lover of Halloween, there is literally nowhere else I would rather be in the month of October. Between snapping photos with my favorite street performers, shopping for Halloween goodies that you literally cannot get anywhere else and the incessant Halloween spookiness permeating in Salem’s air, it’s a Halloween lover’s paradise.

I’d be remiss, however, if I portrayed Salem just as Halloweentown. It was the city’s rich history that originally seduced me into its grasp. You never quite know what history is lying just around every corner in a city where you feel like anything can happen. Around one corner will be a site important to the infamous Salem Witch Trials, around another lays something that inspired one of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s great works and yet, just down the street are beautiful Federal style homes, each with a colorful and detailed history.

There are yet more layers to Salem that are unearthed with each passing trip. New restaurants, shops and experiences mingle with the go-to staples that I visit every time. Upon arrival each year, my first activity is just walking the town and seeing what’s new – there’s always something new. That initial walk is not only to take the town in, but to become acclimated to that air filled with the chill of old history, creativity and a touch of magic. I am never disappointed.

Salem has a way of scratching every itch I may have. Halloween, American history, world class food, classic literature, a thirst for knowledge, TV and movie history, an interest in the paranormal and perhaps the most important, creative inspiration. When I walk down the streets of Salem it’s as if I am simultaneously transporting myself to a rich, historic past amongst an atmosphere of celebration, fun and adventure. It truly is an atmosphere where anything can happen.

And absolutely anything can happen! This is the only city I have ever been in where I’ve watched Jason Voorhees drag a bodybag through the streets and no one blinks an eye. This is the type of city where you can discover a small restaurant bar like Longboards hidden on the wharf and luck into the fact that they have the best clam chowder in town. What other city can you visit a world class horror movie museum like Count Orlok’s Nightmare Gallery and walk into a re-enactment of the arrest of one of the victims of the Salem Witch Trials with Cry Innocent upon exiting? How many cities have a shop like the Magic Parlor that you can buy trick gum and card tricks in one room and a book on the religion of witchcraft and the necessities that go with it in the next or live performances like Gallows Hill Museum/Theatre? How many cities allow you the opportunity to take a photo with the Addams Family, a tour through the Witch Dungeon Museum that represents the actual location of a major historic event and play video games at Bit Bar while imbibing adult beverages in a legitimately haunted historic jail? There’s only one. Salem.

I love the attractions in Salem. I love the shops. I love the restaurants. I love the history. However, my absolute favorite thing to do is just to sit down at dusk with a hot cup of chaider (a mix of hot apple cider and chai tea) from Jaho, warming me from the inside as a cool autumn breeze blows throughout the streets from the harbor and watch people. You’ll see families enjoying the October atmosphere. You’ll see couples having a romantic walk down a historic and beautiful street. You’ll see curiosity seekers drawn to Salem by it’s mysterious past and unpredictable present. It’s moments like that that brighten your soul. It’s moments like that, that make my near 1,000 mile journey to Salem completely worth it.

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Ron Martin lives, plays, and works in Bloomington, IN but drives a thousand miles to get his Salem fix. He also writes for and owns ihatestuff.net, home of his podcast, The Salem 1692 Podcast. He also still plays the original Tecmo Bowl for the original Nintendo Entertainment System.