Halloween 2012 in Salem, MA

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Ahoy! It’s that time of year again. I honestly don’t know where the time has gone.

Most of you know that we live in beautiful Salem, Massachusetts. Salem is also known as Witch City, after the infamous witch trials of 1692.

It’s also home to what’s arguably the biggest Halloween party on the planet. We’re pleased to present our yearly photo extravaganza! (Check out past years here.)

A stormy holiday

So, this year, Halloween fell in the middle of the week, and in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.

We feel very blessed that our little coastal city didn’t take much damage. The wind blew like mad and the waves were crashing, but for the most part, the damage was minimal.

We hopped in the car on Sunday to take a peek at the water over in Marblehead as the storm was blowing in.

Here’s the view from the Salem wharf, down the street from our house, later on that day. (If you look really closely, you can see a small boat knocking up against the jetty.)

Our thoughts and prayers go out to everyone affected by the storm!

We helped our good friend Lori Bruno organize a collection of goods and supplies for those in need through her new shop on Salem’s Pickering Wharf, Magika. If you’re in our local area, here’s the donation info. If you’re not, someone devised this clever way of getting stuff (including gift cards) directly to people via Amazon.com.

Lori Bruno at Magika on Pickering Wharf

That’s Lori. Great lady, and hands down, the best psychic in town. We wish her the best of luck with her new shop!

By Halloween day, the skies were clear and the sea was quiet again, and something like 40,000 people rolled into town to shake off some stress and get their spooky on. Normally, we get ~100,000+ visitors.

Halloween in Salem by Day

As you might imagine, Salem is a really interesting place to live.

In October, interesting is definitely an understatement. For the whole month, the entire city swings into festival mode, with special events and costumed revelers scampering around practically every day. Think Mardi Gras, all month long.

When you live here, you start to strategize things you’d never imagine. For example, going to the grocery store becomes a late-night adventure in order to avoid the crowds. You’d never think of moving your car on a weekend because you’d lose your spot. That kind of thing.

This year, especially in the wake of the storm, people were out—and out early.

On Halloween day, almost everyone dresses up, including a lot of us locals. There are plenty of photo opps around town, from the pirate museum…

…to these guys who were propped up on one of the side streets off Derby Street. They were so big, I’m sure you understand that I couldn’t resist stopping to mug for a few pics.

The smoke machine was a little nuts…

Count Orlok’s Nightmare Gallery is just across the way. By nighttime, there was a line down the street outside.

Derby was bustling with people, from folks getting in the spirit…

…to folks just trying to get around town.

Almost all the shops and restaurants get in on the action. We met a very nice penguin over at Murphy’s.

 We took a stroll through Old Burying Point Cemetary, which was packed with bodies. (Mwahahahahaha….)

We ran into one of our very favorite undead peeps, who was kind enough to stop and snarl a little for us. (Very convincing, Ron!)

 I was also pleased as punch to meet Jake, from Adventure Time. (Oh. My. Glob. Right?)

From the cemetery, we headed up Front Street onto Essex, one of the main drags for Halloween action.

Essex had a good selection of vendors doing everything from henna tattoos and airbrush, face painting to custom, Hollywood-style vampire fangs.

This is the Essex Street pedestrian mall.

Every year, there’s always at least one really good Michael Meyers from the movie Halloween. We found him early in the day this season.

(You can see him thinking about it…)

Understandably, we snapped a few pics, then let him go on his way. He was clearly busy.

There were a bunch of other folks out with great (sometimes really elaborate) costumes.

We met a dapper young horse…

…and ran into a deadmau5 duo.

There were balancing mimes…

…a sleazy demon…

…and droves of pointy-hatted witches as far as the eye could see.

 We also saw the clown sax player. He’s out every year, serenading the crowd.

Speaking of mice, these two critters were nice enough to pose for us.

We strolled through the park and took a peek at the pumpkins on our way home…

…and even got our daily dose of zen on the way. (In Salem at Halloween, you take the peace and quiet where you can get it!)

Halloween by Night in Salem, MA

There was a gorgeous full moon out on Halloween night. (You couldn’t script it better, right?) That’s the moon over Salem harbor. You can kind of make out the masts of The Friendship.

As we headed out to take pictures at night, one of our first stops was by The Bunghole, one of Salem’s few package stores. (Little known fact: The Bunghole used to be a funeral parlor many years ago. Its basement actually served as a sort of speakeasy during Prohibition. What a place to drink, right?)

The crowds at night are truly something to see. The city is absolutely electric.

Salem Police calls in reinforcements from all the neighboring towns to help with crowd control for the evening.

And there was definitely a crowd…

I ran into a very nice unicorn.

The carnival on Derby was lit up and packed with people. (The carnival always reminds me of the opening scenes of The Lost Boys. I’m a dork, I know.)

The music was pounding and there was a full-on dance party on Derby Street.

The wall that those dancers are standing on is actually (I think) one of the retaining walls for Old Burying Point cemetery.

The scene in the street was really striking, with the moon and the carnival in the background.

We left the crowd on Derby behind and headed up to Essex Street.

It was hard to get a picture of this punk rock beast (he refused to sit still!), but I tried. He was so super happy.

The cops actually put up a mobile command center at the intersection of Essex and Washington. (Insert Star Wars AT-AT joke here.)

Rockafella’s was bustling, as usual.

We ran into a great zombie Captain America.

Essex Street was so packed that foot traffic was moving at a shuffle.

TONS to see on Essex.

Remember these guys from Beetlejuice?

There was this guy, just hanging out in the doorway.

And these two.

I couldn’t get a non-blurry picture of this happy little panda because he was dancing his tail off.

Speaking of Beetlejuice. (That’s twice now, I know…I’m not saying it a third time.)

There was also a murderous Alice in Wonderland with a super demonic-looking white rabbit.

Creepiest Costumes of the Night

This guy got the Creepiest Shot of the Night award in my book. He was just lurking over there, all alone, kind of swaying, in the dark. (I took a pic and ran…)

There was this guy with his jack-in-the-box (check out the guy over his left shoulder).

And then, there was this business, here. I think this gets runner up for Creepiest Costume of the Night.

Creepy Frank from Donnie Darko was also, well, really creepy.

And this dude, who made a very convincing vampire.

We also spotted this, up in a window a little further down Essex Street.

Wrapping up the night

We ran into almost a sled-dog-team’s worth of Husky pups as we made our way out of the heart of the party.

These two were doing a full dance number from Footloose, with the Ghostbusters looking on, threatening to spray them.

We were tempted to stop over at the Salem Common, which definitely had its own party going on, but decided to skip it.

The Witches’ Brew Cafe was nice and cozy, as usual. This is a great spot for locals.

Dave Eng (the best florist in town), had his big annual display up.

We finished up the night over at a friend’s house, who was having a small private party and bonfire. The company was great. The bonfire was gorgeous. We feel very blessed to live in such an amazing, fun, and magical place.

That wraps up this year’s Halloween tour of Salem, MA. Hope you enjoyed it! Until next year, happy haunting! And as for us, back to recipes, recipes, recipes as we get into the holidays.

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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. I was in Salem once when I was little. I remember almost nothing of it - so I think it's about time I make it back there! Perhaps next Halloween... Looks like a super cool town.
  2. And this is why we go to Salem every year. Your pictures are awesome. Hubby and I saw about 95% of what you took pictures of. Thank you for the fun reminders though it was only a few weeks ago. GO SALEM MA!!!!!
  3. Great camera work! Very few of the pix I took came out, due to lighting and the constant movement of everything. Of course, I was also pleased to see I made your album (I'm the Ghostbuster wearing black).