Salem’s Halloween Celebrations: A Blessing and a Curse

Amy Zhou and Ella Lehrich

Salem, MA, hosts some of the most renowned Halloween celebrations in the world. The historic Witch Trials have forever left a sense of horror in the city. From museums, haunted magic shows, marketplaces, a horror fest, and ghost hunting, to art shows and historical tours, Salem has just about anything to make Halloween delightful. But not all experiences in Salem are the same. With all the stories that are told, it’s commonly believed that Salem is wonderful for tourists during the Halloween season, but awful for any residents.

Beth Chartier, a resident of Salem for several years, told the Register Forum, “Traffic is especially bad on the weekends, restaurants are full. I learned to plan around the tourist season and go to other places myself during October. I did like to walk around town during the day sometimes though because of all the energy and excitement … but as the evening progresses it’s overwhelming, packed, dark, and the energy is more aggressive.” 

Salem is a wonderful city year-round and really comes alive in October.

Salem hosts about half a million tourists around October, making traveling around the city difficult. During the Halloween season, there is a large spike in tourists interested in experiencing Salem. Chartier explains, “Downtown, later in the evening, mounted police literally herd tourists back towards the train station.” MBTA Assistant General Manager Mike Muller told the Register Forum that, ​​“The new commuter rail schedule offers train service to and from Salem roughly every half hour on weekdays and hourly service on weekends.” The additional train service specifically for Salem during October is to accommodate the influx of tourists heading to Salem.

Salem is considerably busy for all residents and tourists, but some benefits come from the city’s restlessness. Destination Salem is a marketing organization that encourages tourism to Salem. Kate Fox, the organization’s Executive Director, described the significance of Salem’s Haunted Happenings to the Register Forum. Fox explained, “Recognized as the largest celebration of Halloween in the world, Salem Haunted Happenings is a critical piece of Salem’s tourism season. The month of October is responsible for approximately 30% of revenue generated by tourism for the City, including visitor spending and local tax revenue. This revenue supports our business community through the winter months and ensures Salem is a vibrant destination year-round.” The profit earned from the fall celebrations assists businesses and the community afterward. 

Senator Joan Lovely, Massachusetts State Senator of Salem, commented to the Register Forum saying, “Salem is a wonderful city year-round and really comes alive in October. This time of year, we share our rich history and culture with visitors from all over the world. Halloween tourism supports our small and family-owned businesses that are the foundation of our local economy. I am a proud Salemite, and happy to share our special city with visitors. Wishing everyone a safe and happy Halloween!”

This piece also appears in our October 2021 print edition.