Nine Spooky Ways to Celebrate Halloween in Salem, Massachusetts

Hocus Pocus tours, scary trolley rides, and virtual fests.

The Witch House
The Witch House. Salem, Massachusetts | Georgios Antonatos/Shutterstock
The Witch House. Salem, Massachusetts | Georgios Antonatos/Shutterstock

Halloween in Salem, Massachusetts, looks a lot different this year. But the vibrant folklore surrounding its history and those falsely accused of witchcraft never gets old. Despite the absence of tried-and-true favorites like parades and street performers, Salem still has plenty to offer this month, both in-person and online, like a remote costume contest, a new exhibit about the Salem Witch Trials, a Tales and Tombstones Trolley, virtual house tours, and self-guided walks.

But whatever you do, safety first. The city of Salem has updated its safety protocols from now through Halloween. Read this updated message for information on additional business, alcohol and parking restrictions, along with a full listing of the city’s previous safety measures. Please wear a mask (it’s mandated), stay socially distant, and use plenty of hand sanitizer. Here are nine ways to safely celebrate Salem’s legacy.

East India Square
East India Square | Wangkun Jia/Shutterstock

Peruse the Peabody Essex Museum’s Salem Witch Trials exhibit

For the first time in nearly 30 years, the museum is displaying rare, original documents from the trials, among them, a 1494 copy of the infamous Malleus Maleficarum, a guidebook for witch-hunters also known as The Hammer of Witches. If you can’t make it in person this year, you can view these documents online. 

Dress up to the eyes for this virtual costume contest

Go all out in the comfort of your own home and win some green during this virtual Halloween At Home costume contest. The winner gets $500 and other prizes are provided by Netflix’s Hubie Halloween and the Salem Horror Festival 2020. The submissions window closes October 22 and the contest goes live October 24, with the winner announced at noon on Halloween.

Salem Trolley
Salem Trolley | Wangkun Jia/Shutterstock

Ride the Salem Trolley, if you dare

The Salem Trolley is the best way to take in as much of the Witch City as possible. Get a glimpse of the Salem Witch Museum, Old Burying Point Cemetery, House of the Seven Gables, Witch Dungeon Museum, and more. At night, it’s transformed into the Tales & Tombstones Trolley, which revisits long-ago murders and will basically scare your socks off. The trolley ride is COVID-friendly, but expect longer wait times.

Old Burying Point Cemetery
Old Burying Point Cemetery | CiEll/Shutterstock

Unravel myths about the trial

The Salem Witch Trials were rooted in hysteria. More than 200 people were accused of practicing witchcraft, and 25 died, all because several young women pointed the finger at others. The Myths and Misconceptions daytime walking tour debunks still-lingering common beliefs about that dark time. The one-hour tour stops at the Witch Trials Memorial and the 17th-century jail that held accused witches. Private tours only. 

Town Hall
Salem Town Hall | CiEll/Shutterstock

Visit all the film locations from Hocus Pocus

The Hocus Pocus sequel has the green light. Why not revisit its on-location sites sprinkled throughout Salem? There’s Pioneer Village (“Salem Village”), Phipps Elementary School (Max & Allison’s school), Ropes Mansion (“Allison’s House”), or Old Town Hall—the site of the Halloween party. Visit this list to pick your poison. 

The House of the Seven Gables
The House of the Seven Gables | Dominionart/Shutterstock

Uncover secrets from The House of the Seven Gables

This storied site is one of the oldest timber-framed homes in North America, and inspired Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel of the same name. Over its lifetime, it’s grown from a two-room, two-story house into a 17-room, Georgian-style mansion measuring more than 8,000 square feet. Only the grounds and gardens are open for timed visits. Go online for advance tickets.

The Rebecca Nurse Homestead
The Rebecca Nurse Homestead | The Rebecca Nurse Homestead

Remember the dead at the Rebecca Nurse Homestead

Every innocent person who was prosecuted or killed in the Witch Trials is a tragedy, but Rebecca Nurse’s story was a particularly egregious case. One of the oldest women to be accused of witchcraft at 71, Nurse had many defenders, but she was still hanged. Oral tradition dictates that her body was buried at this homestead. Tours are limited and subject to change.

Scare yourself silly at the online Salem Horror Festival

This virtual film festival reunites stars from Gremlins 2: The New Batch and The Howling, including Zach Galligan, Dee Wallace and Robert Picardo. View retrospectives of those horror movies along with Friday the 13th VI: Jason Lives, Stephen King’s It, A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master, Cecil B. Demented. Panels include talks by directors John Dante and John Waters.

Salem Main Streets
Howl-o-Ween Pet Parade | Salem Main Streets

Be there in spirit with copious virtual events

Salem Haunted Happenings has organized plenty of online tours, among them, the Salem Witch Museum, Peabody Essex Museum, and The House of the Seven Gables so that you really don’t have to miss a thing. Festive house tours, an online marketplace, and a global Howl-O-Ween parade and costume contest for dogs can put you front and center without any scary side effects.

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Emily Reily is a freelance writer who once saw the witchcraft high priestess Laurie Cabot inside a Salem CVS. Send all supernatural messages to @radiobites.