Get us in your inbox

People dressed in costumes at the annual Haunted Happenings event held during the month of October in celebration of the town's history of witch trials and Halloween.
Photograph: Shutterstock

Salem is overflowing with spooky season tourists

The city asks visitors not to drive downtown, and residents are charging for parking

Erika Mailman
Written by
Erika Mailman

October is go time for Salem, Massachusetts. Due to its now famous witchcraft hysteria in 1692, Spooky Season is the town’s main tourist season. Visitors come to experience the Salem Witch Museum, shop for themed merch, and visit haunted houses like the House of Seven Gables. The annual ‘festivities’ are called the Haunted Happenings, and this year marks the event’s 40th anniversary. Half a million people come to Salem each October to be part of parades, walking tours, parties, a 5k race and a separate Devil’s Chase road race (if only those women could’ve run faster in 1692) and more —and that kind of congestion is reaching.... hysteria levels.

After the city literally asked people not to come in 2022, the city of Salem is bracing for post-pandemic overtourism with planned road closures for the month, urging visitors not to drive into downtown because of heavy traffic. Instead, visitors are asked to either come by ferry (that sounds more fun, honestly) or commuter rail or, if they must drive, to park in one of three free satellite lots and take a free shuttle into the heart of the action. Residents are catching on to a profitable opportunity, taking to social media to offer up their own driveways for parking, asking $60 a day and booking in advance. People who don’t heed the warnings and park where cars are banned (especially for the October 6 Grand Opening Parade) face the possibility of their car being towed.

Need another reason to skip Salem this year? It's not really where the witch trouble started. That was the nearby town of Danvers, then part of Salem Village, where two tweens started having ‘fits’ in the household of Reverend Samuel Parris. That homesite is now an archaeological site.

And while Salem gets all the noise and visitors, witchcraft trials were held throughout New England in Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine – every current state except Rhode Island, where Colonial lawmakers created death penalty laws for witchcraft but never had to use them.

You're probably wondering if you can stay in a haunted hotel someday? Yassssss.

Or grab a pint and a sandwich while ignoring hungry ghosts? Uh huh

Let's face it, you just need to wear eyeliner and all black and plunk down on a grave at one of these prettiest cemeteries —and call it a night. 

More on Halloween

    You may also like
    You may also like