The Salem Witch Trials took place in the 1690s when over 200 people were accused of practicing witchcraft—and 20 were executed.
But rather than hide from their dark past, Salem decided to embrace it. Every October for the last 40 years, the small coastal city throws what the tourism board breathlessly calls “the largest celebration of Halloween in the world!”
Close to a million tourists descend on Salem for a month-long festival that includes a witch’s brew of candlelight ghost tours, haunted mansions, museums, parades, shopping, live music, and wicked good food.
I love salem during Halloween pic.twitter.com/UYiQSJEHDy
— Mack’s World (@Macks_World781) October 20, 2022
But this year, some residents and merchants are calling the Halloween festivities a spooktacular mess.
According to Boston.com, the quaint city with a population of 43,350 people has been inundated with an unprecedented 100,000 tourists a day, clogging up traffic, blocking access to stores and restaurants, taking up parking spots, and making life exceedingly difficult for the people who live and work there.
“Salem is a small town. There’s a backup on the highways for miles,” one local told pub owner told Boston.com. “That’s the biggest issue that a lot of residents in Salem have, because they can’t get anywhere. They can’t even go out for groceries or emergencies or anything like that because trying to get back in is a nightmare.”
Business is booming for some shops and restaurants that cater to tourists, which is welcome news after the pandemic. But other merchants complain that their regular customers can’t access their businesses in October. Even for businesses that are thriving, a staffing shortage has made it challenging to handle the massive crowds.
The overall frustration of Salem locals was captured by Kyley Dolan, 33, who told Boston.com: “Salem is not Disney World. Salem is a small city with historic infrastructure. The streets are small; the buildings are small. Salem doesn’t have the space to accommodate 80,000 extra people every day.”
Mixed response on Twitter
After the Boston.com article was published, people took to the Twitterverse to weigh in.
Some were sympathetic to the plight of the locals.
Every town hates tourism. Money’s nice, but it wrecks everything else, from the environment, services and hospitals, disease and crime, food security, everything.
Others not so much.
My answer to Salem – who (let’s be clear) asked for it – is the song of the ghost owl: boo hoo.