I visited Salem and toured a haunted Airbnb, got a psychic reading, and met a practicing witch. It was perfect for getting into the Halloween spirit — see what it was like.

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The writer posing with witch street performer.
  • Ann Matica visited Salem, Massachusetts, to see what the tourism industry is like in October. 
  • She went window shopping, explored a “haunted” house, and got her tarot cards read by a psychic. 
  • While the crowds of people were a lot, she said Salem did help get her into the spirit of Halloween.
Every year in October, thousands of tourists flock to Salem, Massachusetts, to revel in the one of the largest Halloween celebrations in the world. Visitors can enjoy parades, historic attractions, psychic readings, and local vendor fairs.

A crowded Salem street.
Tourism is a major source of income for Salem and its businesses. For years, annual tourism spending in Salem has hovered around $100 million.

The courtyard in front of the witch city mall.

Source: The Salem News

I decided to visit Salem to see the “Haunted Happenings” extravaganza for myself and figure out what draws so many tourists to the New England city every fall.

Welcome to Salem haunted happenings
After driving around for 20 minutes to find parking, my first stop was the Witch City Mall. The building is located smack in the middle of prime tourist real estate, with thousands of people swarming the surrounding city streets.

Witch city mall
The mall was filled with places to eat, businesses to shop at, and psychic readings to sign up for.

Witch city mall entrance.
After the mall, I popped into the local apothecary, called Artemisia Botanicals. The owner, Teri Kalgren, first opened the shop in 1997.

Artemisia Botanicals front entrance

You can read more about local businesses in Salem here

Kalgren said that over the past 25 years of business, the biggest change she’s seen in Salem’s tourism is people becoming more open and interested in the city’s witches and witchcraft.

A wall of herbs.
While walking about, I stumbled upon multiple groups on walking tours around the city.

A Salem tour guide.

Read more about what it’s like to work as a tour guide in Salem here

A long line was cued up for the trolley car tours around Salem.

Tour bus.
There were also quite a few signs advertising haunted attractions for visitors to walk through.

Haunted house sign.
The tours take visitors to historically significant locations that have to do with the Salem Witch Trails. During the trials, which happened between 1692 and 1693, people were accused of practising witchcraft and sometimes were executed because of it.

Salem witch museum.
The Salem Witch Museum is a popular tourist attraction and an educational resource for those wishing to learn more about the trials.

Salem witch museum.
A statue that pays tribute to the founder of Salem, Roger Conant, is located near the museum.

Witch statue.
In the fall, the Salem Commons are transformed into a place for local vendors to set up tents and sell their wares.

Outdoor eating area.
Witch hats and garb were some of the most popular items being sold.

Witch hat seller tent.
There were also artists selling their paintings and drawings to passersby. Twin brothers Ryan and Matt Murray said they set up their tent on the Commons every weekend while also running a brick-and-mortar tattoo shop in town.

Tattoo art tent.
While walking around Salem, I realized that long lines are commonplace at many storefronts in downtown.

A line in Salem.
People lined up for a variety of food options, including fluffy pink cotton candy …

Cotton candy stall.
… fried dough …

Fried dough stall.
… and hot dogs with all the toppings.

Hot dog stand.
Many homes in downtown Salem had “private residence” signs to keep tourists from trespassing.

Private residence sign.
However, many locals seemed to still want to participate in the festivities.

Pumpkin yard decor.
Houses were outfitted with spooky decorations for people walking by.

Pirate skeletons.
Almost everywhere I went, a Skeleton decoration wasn’t far away.

A skeleton sitting in chair.
They were even propped up in store windows …

Skeleton in a window.
… and climbing up porches.

Skeleton climbing up a wall.
Once I had wandered around the neighborhood, I made a stop at the Henry Derby House, located just a few minutes from downtown Salem.

The writer standing in front of the Henry Derby House.

See inside the Henry Derby House here.

The house was built in 1838 by Henry Derby, who worked as a tailor in town. It’s now owned by Phil Marchand, who runs it as an Airbnb.

A plaque on the Henry Derby House.

Read how Phil Marchand runs a haunted Airbnb here.

Marchand said the house is specifically popular during October due rumors that it is haunted by ghosts.

The red bedroom.

Read more about the haunted reputation of the Henry Derby House here.

I didn’t want to stay too long to find out if there was indeed a ghost haunting the house, so I headed back downtown to explore the “Haunted Happenings Marketplace.”

Haunted happenings banner.
Along the blocked off street were many street performers. Tourists gathered in groups around them to goggle and toss cash in their tip jars.

Street performer juggling.
A drag queen sang a song for a large audience while collecting tips.

Drag queen in Salem.
While exploring the downtown, I saw many visitors dressed up in costumes — along with their dogs!

Dog dressed as a ram.
This fluffy white dog dressed as a pumpkin seemed to be enjoying Salem more than its owner.

Dog in a pumpkin costume.
Everywhere I looked, there were people wearing witch hats. Some were pink …

Pink witch hats.
… while others were completely black …

Girl wearing a witch hat.
… some visitors wore small ones …

Small witch hats.
… and others opted for large ones.

Black witch hats.
Before leaving Salem, I was determined to have my tarot cards read by a psychic. I signed up for a 15-minute slot, but had to wait 45 minutes before it was my turn.

Tarot card readings sign.
Bailey Merlin, who has been reading tarot cards professionally for three years, gave me insight on my career, love life, and health.

The writer getting her tarot cards read by a psychic reader.
On my way back to the car, I stopped to look at the many street performers dressed as scary Halloween characters.

Frankenstein street performer.
People lined up to take photos with the characters for free, although tips were gladly accepted.

Witch street performer.
The Salem Slashers were particularly popular for a photo op.

Salem slashers street performers.
I stopped to take one before leaving.

The writer posing with a street performer.
While I could have done without the large crowds and tourist traps, I did enjoy meeting the local vendors and having my tarot cards read.

Crowds in Salem.
Overall, Salem truly was what I had imagined and more — and it got me in the fall spirit just in time for Halloween.

Salem flag.
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