Two years ago, I started my freshman year of college and attended Salem State University in Salem, Massachusetts. While Salem is more famous for the Salem Witch Trials in the early 1690’s, there is in fact a public university there. While this school wasn’t originally my first choice, I was excited to dive into the culture and history that Salem had to offer since I had never been before. Best of all, the parties in October would be out of this world.
But now that I have lived here for a couple of years, I have adapted to the new lifestyle of living in a new area of Massachusetts. However, if there is one thing I still have to mentally prepare myself for every year, it’s the entire month of October. Despite living in a town that screams all things Halloween and Hocus Pocus, it isn’t always all it’s cracked up to be. In a sense, it’s like living 10 minutes away from Disney World; to everyone else, it’s the most magical and happiest place on earth. But to me, as much as the culture and aesthetics are great, I’m not always wearing the same rose colored glasses everyone else is.
That being said, I wanted to share a few patterns I have noticed over my college career that makes Salem the best (but also the worst) place to be in the spookiest month of the year.
Going Downtown is Like Going Into a War Zone
Have you ever been to a concert where the venue had no seats and it was standing room only? And despite the fact the venue doesn’t go over the capacity limits, there’s still so many people around you that you feel like you’re going to suffocate? Well, that’s what Salem in October is like 24/7. Salem is already a dense city as it is since many of the people here take a bus or walk from one location to another. But once you add Halloween tourists into the mix, it’s nearly impossible to navigate anywhere in the center of town. From the tourists, to the street performers, to the business stalls with witchcraft items, and the walking tour groups, there’s no where to breathe and you feel as if you’re constantly drowning in the worst Tim Burton movie ever.
To any Halloween fanatic, seeing everyone dressed in costumes and all of the decorations spread across the city might be like a dream come true. But, like any other crowded public place, there is some mental preparation that comes with visiting the same section of a city with thousands of other people at the same time. Salem has such an immense amount of history and culture packed into the city and I would recommend everyone and anyone to visit at one point in their life. But if you’re introverted, claustrophobic, agoraphobic, or have social anxiety, it might not be the best time to go in October.
If You Work Here, Free Time is Nonexistent
I see this happen every year to my classmates and friends. Some of them at one point or another get a job as in food service, retail, or hotel management downtown and they end up saying goodbye to their soul every October and sell it to their job. Bar tenders, tour guides, and waitresses are clocking in from 40 to 60 hours a week for the entire month due to the overwhelming amount of tourists coming to town.
Granted, this is great for the economy here, it always does come at a cost. Every person passing you on the street is more than likely sleep deprived and going through the motions with no attachment until November 1st.
But despite the fact everyone might be miserable or dissociating, your bank account will be more than satisfied. But it does require the trade off of giving up all of your free time and energy.
Time Management is Everything
When it comes to making plans, getting to class or work on time, or getting to Chipotle before the lunch rush, you have to plan things much farther in advance and work your ideas around the tourist traffic. Every intersection is backed up, every drive through is clogged, and every store is packed. If it is 2:30 in the afternoon and you were planning to go and meet your friend a few miles away 3 PM, you probably should’ve left 30 minutes ago.
When it comes to October, your time management has to be dialed up to the maximum notch. Everything in your every day lifestyle will now take significantly longer; commuting to work, grocery shopping, shopping for your kids Halloween costumes, everything. Suddenly there is no walking room because they are filled with the world’s biggest witchcraft and horror fans.
The Pandemic Doesn’t Seem to Exist to Tourists
Regardless of the detailed and numerous guidelines the CDC has been putting out every day relating to the COVID-19 pandemic, there is still thousands of tourists traveling from all over to see Salem during the Halloween season. It seems as if tons of families and friends think that they are completely immune to infecting themselves or anyone else if they just wear mask.
While the risk of getting COVID-19 is much lower when everyone is wearing a mask, it doesn’t make the risk go down to zero. This is a picture of what downtown Salem looked like during the first weekend of October this year:
Salem is a fun place to visit this time of the year. But if you’re planning on coming to this whimsical town this Halloween, please reconsider. When everything is said and done, Salem will be here next year for you to enjoy. But for now, holidays and traditions with large gatherings (even if it’s outside) should be a no go. It seems as if most people are now “tired” of living in a pandemic, so they are going on and living life as if it’s no longer a crisis.
Take care of yourself, your family, and others. Stay home this year.
Despite the set backs of living in the middle of a seasonal tourist attraction that attracts thousands of people every year, it is fun at the end of a day to live in a city like Salem. The fact I’m at a walking distance from several historical sites and stores dedicated just to tarot cards and crystals feels like a unique experience I wouldn’t get living anywhere else. This place has given me a newfound appreciation for Halloween and all things supernatural. Even though we’re in the middle of a pandemic, I am very thankful that over the years I have been given a chance to meet a community of people who take their Halloween to the next level.