A 2010 Halloween Tour of Salem’s Essex Street

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Happy Halloween! Well, happy Halloween week, I should say.

Most of you guys know that we live in beautiful Salem, MA.

Now, Salem is also known as Witch City. And—in October—the Halloween Capital of the World. (When you live here, you celebrate Halloween all month long, whether you like it or not.)

Since we’re in peak holiday season, this week’s posts will be devoted to the Haunted Happenings in our fair city. I’m so excited to show you guys a little bit about where we live.

The leaves are turning and the air is crisp at night. We just turned the heat on and I’ve started to dig out our sweaters.

The trees are spectacular this year.

Let’s take a stroll, shall we?

We have a lot of love for our friends here in town, many of whom run small shops and businesses. For this post, I’m going to skip most of the museum-y type places, and instead show you guys a little bit about what it’s like to walk around town during October.

Let’s start with an afternoon stroll up Essex Street, the historic cobblestoned central artery of the city.

(This is by no means an exhaustive tour of Salem. Stay tuned for more this week.)

Our first stop on Essex is our favorite comic shop, Harrison’s. They have a boggling selection of comics, manga, toys, and collectibles. If you’re looking for something rare, chances are they have it—or can help you track it down.

The Gulu-Gulu Cafe is across the street. Gulu is a great place to sit, get a little work done, yap with friends, and have a cocktail (or three).

They have outdoor seating. (And, like most restaurants with outdoor space in Salem, they’re very dog friendly. They even have their Boston Terrier’s faces painted on the windows.)

Cafe Polonia just opened near Gulu, right next door to the Upper Crust (great pizza!). They do homemade Polish, Hungarian, German, and Czech food. We can’t wait to stop in for some goulash.

At the corner of Essex and Washington, you’ll find a statue of a very famous witch—a television witch, that is. You guys all remember Samantha from Bewitched, right?

Rockfellas is across the street on the corner, at the start of the pedestrian walk. 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.

It’s really centrally located, and is a great place for people watching.

All along Essex Street, seasonal vendor tents have been popping up like mushrooms, selling everything from witch hats to t-shirts to those Peruvian wool animal hats.

Mud Puddle Toys just opened on the Rockafella’s block. They have a ton of neat stuff for your favorite little goblins and ghouls.

Next up is the Old Town Hall in Salem’s Derby Square. It served as the seat of Salem’s government from 1816 to about 1836. Here it is with tourists (you can see how big some of the groups are that come through town)…

…and without.

Derby Square Books is on the corner, and is packed from floor to ceiling with used hardcovers and paperbacks.

The Magic Parlor is right next door. They sell tons of goodies for both amateur and professional magicians.

You can even get fitted with a set of Hollywood-quality, custom vampire fangs right outside the shop.

(Blah, blah, blah!)

Pamplemousse, kitchen store extraordinaire, is a few doors down. It’s another one of our favorite shops in the city.

I love Pamplemousse because they not only have a ton of really unique gifts for foodies, but they also have a great selection of practical stuff. I can always count on them when I run out of cheesecloth or need another whisk.

Pamplemousse is hosting a Night of the Living Dead party on October 30th. Tickets are on sale now. Call (978) 745-2900 for more information.

They also have a ridiculously good assortment of wine, craft beer, and mead (some seasonal, most not).

Red’s Sandwich Shop is around the corner. Hands down, this is THE place to go for breakfast in town. (Legend has it that very few people can eat more than one of their gigantic pancakes…)

The Broom Closet, right next to Pamplemousse, is another one of our favorites—and another great place to get a tarot card reading.

Essex Street is also the place to sign up for a guided night tour lit only by lamplight. That’s Kevin, with the Ghost Tour. He’s one of the best tour guides around.

There’s all sorts of sights on Essex, including the odd coffin or two…

The Peabody Essex Museum is at the end of the Essex Street pedestrian mall.

It has a really neat exhibit right now. The Emperor’s Private Paradise, never before seen by the public, showcases the contents of an Emperor’s private retreat deep within the Forbidden City. The exhibit runs through January 9, 2011. We can’t wait to go!

After the Peabody Essex, there’s another short strip of stores and exhibits, including 13 Ghosts, Salem’s only 3-D haunted house.

New England Magic is right next door. If you pop in, you’ll likely be greeted by Pumpkin, one of the nicest dogs in Salem.

The architecture along Essex is nothing to sneeze at, either. The buildings are just beautiful.

If you come to visit on a particularly nice day, you may be lucky enough to meet this very nice older gentleman, the unofficial mayor of Essex Street.

Crow Haven Corner is next door. It’s one of our favorite buildings in the city. Crow Haven is over 30 years old, and was the very first witch shop opened in Salem.

Phew! That’s a big chunk of Essex Street! If you keep walking, you’ll pass The Old Spot pub (a great place for a pint), the historic Hawthorne Hotel, and eventually wind up on Salem Common.

There are a ton of carnival-style vendors set up on the Common for the month, so if you’re in the mood for fried dough or cotton candy, you won’t be disappointed.

Visiting Salem, MA

If you’re planning on visiting, check out Salem Haunted Happenings or The Salem Insider for more info about events, etc.

Stay tuned for more from Salem this week. Until then, happy haunting!

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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 works as an advertising copywriter in Boston. She lives in Salem, Massachusetts with her husband and two small, fluffy wolves.


  1. thanks for posting I just finished reading the "Physick Book of Deliverance Dane" This gave me some perspective on the Salem of today. thanks for sharing
  2. Wonderful ! Your photo tour catches the spirit of all we love about Salem...And we love coming there most every year ! My Moms Birtday is 10/31 - can't think of a better place to celebrate !
  3. I am starting to get teary eyed reading this. Thank you so much for posting - it has been almost 10 years since I have been to Salem. I used to love just going to the dock and chillin' out there when I needed time to think. I really do need to come up and visit :) (and check out that foodie store!)
  4. A great selection of photos. One caveat: I had a really ugly experience at Rita's Fried Dough last Saturday. The $5.00 "fried" dough was soggy, nasty, as if it had been sitting around. Definitely not freshly fried to order, and the operators were offensive and customer unfriendly. I would discourage patronizing them. There are too many good places around the streets to get good food including REAL fried dough. rtzxNext week after things quiet down I will be writing a complaint to Mayor Kim about Rita's and her staff.
  5. I love Salem! How lucky you are to live there. I try to go out there once or twice a year as I have in-laws in New Hampshire. I also really enjoy Penelope's, the pet boutique! P.S. If you stop by my blog, you will see a picture of Pamplemousse right at the top!
  6. Wow. What a fantastic post. Loved looking at the pictures. It's on my Halloween "bucket list" to visit Salem in October or on a Halloweekend. Thanks for making me feel like I was there until I can finally get there!
  7. Rarely do I comment on such blogs ... but you did a nice job here. A better little "tour" than you usually get. Only one tiny request: Don't forget though...we have a marvelous new greengrocer, Milk and Honey. (http://milkandhoneysalem.com/products.html) Give them a plug, they're new and they're fabulous--and needed, needed, needed. Important addition for both residents and visitors to our city, which after all, is a LIVED-IN city, with people here working and supporting these businesses YEAR ROUND.