I’m not the only local who’s annoyed that Salem has been turned into Halloween-town every year. In the pursuit of the almighty buck, the city panders to kitsch and drunken revelers.
During October, Salem “turns into Spooky World, which is difficult because everyone walks around the street … like you’re at Disney World,” said longtime resident Michael Szczuka, who owns a dry-cleaning business near the main Halloween retail street. “Our downtown has become an amusement park area - a honky-tonk, really.”
Let’s not forget what makes Salem the “Witch City”, a socio-politico-religious hysteria that resulted in the deaths of 19 innocent people.
While shopkeepers and some residents praise the marketing approach and the city’s increased involvement in managing the event, others say that the growth of Haunted Happenings not only has disrupted their lives, but has left visitors with a skewed view of Salem’s history by burying the real horror of 1692, when 19 people were tried as witches and killed.
“The lack of interest in that and the commercializing of the occult part of it - these women weren’t even witches … it’s absurd,” said Pamela Schmidt, who has lived in Salem for more than 20 years. She said she doesn’t much mind the spectacle but wonders what people are thinking as they leave Salem.
The city officials like to pretend that by bringing in all these people for Halloween—some estimates aid 75,000 last night—they’re giving people a taste of Salem and will come back for all the other non-Halloween stuff. They also like to pretend that it’s a net economic benefit to the city, even though many of the “spooky” businesses that set up for the month are owned by out-of-towners who take their profits with them, and then there’s the cost of massive police presence and cleaning up and the businesses that shut down because of the crowds and you begin to wonder.
And for the surrounding cities and towns like Beverly, Swampscott, Lynn, and Peabody—where we live—you don’t even get that. All you get is massive traffic of people passing through. Last night about 70 percent of the 75,000 people expected in Salem had to pass by our house. Good thing we went out early for a birthday dinner. Whew!
At least next year we won’t have to deal with it any more.