Living in Salem, Mass., in October is hard enough, what with every weekend packed full of people coming to town to … what? What is it about this town that people expect to find? There are haunted houses, sure. And then there are the Wicca/Witch/spell shops where people buy potions and other magical items (really!). The dabbling in the occult is more than just dabbling. Of course, Salem is much more than witches and Halloween.
At one time it was one of the busiest and most productive seaports in the US, with Boston and New York. The first millionaire in America was Elias Hasket Derby, a famed merchant and shipowner. For decades, Salem was synonymous with the China trade, and much of the economy of the US today was built on the foundation of the economy of Salem in the early 19th century. But I’ve talked at length before about how too much focus in Salem is placed on witchcraft and Halloween.
This year the craziness has been raised a notch by The Witching Hour, an international four-day gathering of Harry Potter fans, who have come to Salem for a combination fan convention/academic symposium/dress up party. Yes, I said academic symposium. How about a session entitled, “Daddy, I want to be a death eater: Character studies based on Nature versus Nurture.” Or another one, chosen at random, “Tainted Love: Death and suffocation in Rowling’s Fantasies.”
It’s not all innocent fannishness, however, as there is definitely dabbling in the occult. For example, one of the presenters is a local Wiccan/witch. One session is entitled, “Word Magic: Elements for Crafting Poems or Spells.” Or how about two sessions, “Wicca and Harry Potter” and “Christianity and Harry Potter”?
It’s all a bit much for me. Salem in October is something I endure and I revel in November when it rolls around. It’s the downside to living in what otherwise is nice place to live.