Celebrating Halloween 2008 in Salem, Mass. (a.k.a. Witch City)

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With Halloween right around the corner, Salem, Massachusetts is THE place around Boston to get your spooky on. We spent last night up there, eating and drinking well into the early morning hours with a handful of close friends.

Welcome to Salem, Mass., a.k.a. Witch City

Salem is old. You can feel it the minute your feet hit the cobblestones. I can’t think of a place that better embodies the spirit and history of New England for me.

Salem is the location of the infamous Salem witch trials of 1692. Nowadays, it’s a mecca for tourists who are curious to get a dose of seasonal spirit every October. And the town doesn’t disappoint.

(If you want a good perspective on what it’s like to live through the Halloween season from a few hip, informed, and very patient locals, check out The Salem Insider.)

Salem Haunted Happenings chronicles the month’s schedule of special events—from a pumpkin-carving festival and children’s costume brunch to a haunted Oktoberfest and a bona fide carnival complete with rides.

A little bit of history in Salem, Mass.

Aside from October-specific events, you can also hit up attractions that are open year round, including The Salem Witch Museum, The New England Pirate Museum, The Witch Dungeon Museum, and the The Salem Wax Museum.

You can tour the Turner-Ingersoll Mansion, a.k.a. The House of Seven Gables, which inspired Nathaniel Hawthorne to write his famous novel. You can also stroll through Hawthorne’s nearby birthplace.

Snapshots from our evening walk through Salem

Our friends live smack in the middle of town, so we definitely got a good dose of local culture as we walked to their house—and then were able to hide out and have a quiet night and a fabulous meal.

Here are some of the things we saw on the way. Some of these shots aren’t fantastic since it was already dark when we got up there, but they should give you a good idea of what the October scene is like.

This is the Salem Witch House, original home to judge Jonathan Corwin, one of the folks called on to investigate accusations of witchcraft.

That’s Rockfellas on the corner. This bar/restaurant is located in what was at different times a department store, an old bank, and one of the first churches in the country.

This is Saint Peter’s Episcopal Church.

 

The Old Town Hall is in Salem’s Derby Square, and served as the seat of Salem’s government from 1816 to 1836 or so.

The Benjamin Pickman house is right up the street.

Guided historical walking tours with droves of tourists are everywhere you look.

There are a bunch of notable attractions along Essex Street, the cobblestoned main drag. The Spellbound Museum runs tours and exhibits “supernatural curios and oddities.”

You can get the real scoop on Lizzie Borden, who was arrested and tried for the 1892 axe murder of her father and stepmother, at this 3,000-foot exhibit.

You can also stop in at Witch City Ink, an upscale tattoo shop owned by Natan Alexander.

Natan is a really nice guy and a good friend of The Hungry Mouse—not to mention the main influence behind the re-legalization of tattooing in Massachusetts. The shop is gorgeous and filled with antiques that Natan has collected in his travels around the world. The artists and work there are arguably among the best in the Boston area.

The scene down Essex Street is one part street fair and one part carnival, with tents, vendors, and folks dressed up in costume.

You’ll also spot a lot of capes and top hats this time of year.

People aren’t the only ones you’ll see dressed up.

Get to the food, will ya?
Now that you know where we went, what did we eat?

Before we left, The Angry Chef whipped up a giant batch of his signature Lemon Pepper Chicken.

These garlicky chicken fingers are soaked in a fresh lemon-pepper marinade, then breaded and fried in a shallow bath of good olive oil until golden.

I’ll post the recipe and instructions up this week. This is one of my all-time favorite ways to prepare chicken. (Errr, I mean, have chicken prepared for me.)

Our dear friends put together a mouthwatering dinner, complete with homemade lasagna, meatballs, and fresh garlic bread.

Another friend brought a luscious and amazing salad with shrimp, avocado, coconut milk, and fennel. (If I can persuade her to give up the recipe, I’ll share it with you.)

There were shaved Parmesan and yummy asparagus. The wine was excellent and the cocktails were stiff and icy.

After dinner, there were cigars and more drinks. Oh, and candy. Lots and lots of candy.

We spent the rest of the night catching up and lolling about being happy and full by the fire.

 

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Jessie Cross is a cookbook author and creator of The Hungry Mouse, a monster online food blog w/500+ recipes. When she's not shopping for cheese or baking pies, Jessie serves as an Associate Creative Director at PARTNERS+simons, a boutique ad agency in Boston. She lives in Salem, Massachusetts with her husband and two small, fluffy wolves.

22 COMMENTS

  1. Thanks, guys!

    Hugging the Coast–The lasagna was sooo good. 😀 I’ll pass along your compliments to my friend.

    Megan–Thanks! And thank you for the award, honey!

    Timeless Gourmet–Thank you! Yeah, Salem can be a total blast. One thing I forgot to mention, though. The traffic. The traffic is terrible, and parking isn’t much better. If you do head up there, take the train if you can.

    +Jessie

  2. sounds like the perfect evening 🙂

    I think I’d better stop with the hot buttered rums this evening though… I swore the one picture said “antique pornography” instead of photography. Oy… mind in the gutter!

    heh.

    The chicken look amazing the photos are wonderful… thanks for sharing Jessie!

  3. I’ve been wanting to take a trip to Salem for a while now. Thanks for the cool glimpse of what to expect. A great place to go this time of the year. Sounds like you had a great getaway, the food looks wonderful!

  4. Oh I miss Salem. My wife and I lived there for a year. What a great town…and as you say especially around Halloween. I’ve been working up the effort to try a pumpkin pie in the 80 degree heat of Houston…

  5. Hey jessie, the chicken looks amazing! I really enjoyed the virtual tour around salem, that salem witch house sounds fun (well spooky) and eerily fitting for halloween.

    I like spooking myself 😀

  6. I’m jealous. I’ve always wanted to go to Salem. My SIL lived in Boston last year, and went during October and loved it. Now my three little boys all have spooky Salem shirts. My question: What in God’s name do they sell in the Lizzie Borden Gift Shop? Pens shaped like an axe? Seriously. Oh, and i’m looking forward to the chicken recipes. I’m always looking for new ways to prepare chicken breasts. Thanks for the photo tour!

  7. Thanks, guys!

    Jo–Oh, I’m sure there’s a shop up there where you can get some of that, as well. I’ll post the chicken recipe up soon!

    Heather–It’s a total blast. You should go!

    Reeni–Thanks! I wanted to take more pictures, but we were running late, and fighting our way through the throng with a giant pan of chicken…

    Pink Peppercorn–OH, you should totally come visit! This is best time of year in New England…

    Alexander–Aww, good luck with the pie!!

    Kang–Hehe, there are a ton more spooky sites. If we get up there again this week, I’ll take some more pics.

    Zena–Hehehehehe…When we go back, I’m going to go into the gift shop and find out for you.

    RecipeGirl–Definitely take the time to stop up there if you can. Give a shout when you do. We’ll give you some recommendations on where to eat. 😀

    Foong–Yeah, it’s a lot of fun. Thanks, hon!

    +Jessie

  8. an old girlfriend of mine’s brother owned a house in salem. it was so old his house key was one of those old skeleton keys. that’s what i remember about salem. so old, and cool. there was some restaurant i liked there way back in the day…pig and whistle maybe?…something like that. think it was near the water.

  9. thank you so much for this site…taking a trip there the wkend before halloween and it was so nice to see pics can’t wait to go!!! always wanted to go and now that my kids are older (youngest is twin 9yr olds) i figure that it would be very festive to do and we can pick and choose but i do have kids that get scared easily so i hope it doesn’t bring a lot of night mares…lol thanks again for the information u posted very appreciated!!!

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