Salem After the Storm: The Benefits of Going Two Weeks After Halloween
Anyone from Massachusetts knows the cardinal rule of October: stay out of Salem. It’s understood locally that the witch-trial town is spooky enough to draw thousands of people every year to its witch museums, creepy shops, and decaying cemeteries. However, if you want to save yourself a headache, it is imperative that you resist the urge to go to this Halloween town during its peak season, because rest assured you are one in approximately ten million (I’m assuming this is an accurate calculation based on my poor decision to visit a week before Halloween). The streets are swarmed. It’s scary having to claw your way through the crowded Essex Street, avoiding elbows of performers and trying to take pictures of people’s costumes without being roped into paying. Even the scary, haunted shops, the whole reason you go there in the first place, have lines out the door to avoid people savagely knocking “potions” onto the floor in the mad rush to the cash register.
Salem at any time before Halloween’s witching hour, in short, is a complete mess that I cannot recommend.
After Halloween- now that’s a completely different ballgame. This year, as an official Bostonian for the first time, I made the smart choice. I went to Salem two weeks after Halloween. It seems that when the last drop of Halloween is squeezed out of everyone’s bodies, so does the life out of Salem. Where there was a crowded street that cars could only dream of passing through, now are long cobblestone paths you can see the entirety of. Going to the bathroom wasn’t a never-ending quest that ended in a disappointingly long line, it was asking an employee in a café to direct me to a restroom.
My second time in Salem, I did all the things that I missed out on. I went leisurely through Artemisia Botanicals, an apothecary I couldn’t even get into last time. The shop is earthy and calm; shelves line the walls with twisted roots as smoke curves around you from incense. I got a cup of steaming hot chocolate from Gulu-Gulus café, located right on Essex Street on the main strip of Salem, and actually got to sit down at a table! Crow Haven Corner, a cute shop with haunted books, potions, and herbs, was entirely empty, leaving me to read passages in peace, no pushy family in sight. I sat on the benches outside of the big witch statue and listened to the crows- a whole bench to myself!
There are a ton of thrift shops in Salem too! They aren’t as well known as the witch museums or psychic shops, but they’re totally worth a visit. The best was without a doubt, Jerry’s Department Store. All the way down at the very edge of Essex Street, away from the big-name shops that draw in the hoards, Jerry’s was tacky and wonderful with rolling pathways housing everything from t-shirts to typewriters.
Though much easier to maneuver, it was a little weird experiencing Salem after Halloween since it’s a bit of a ghost town when compared to the hot mess that it once was. When you go to Salem literally any other time of the year, it’s like a regular, old New England town. A little chilly, a little old-timey.
When I told my roommates this they responded with, “Well, yeah.” Apparently the madness that accompanies Halloween-time Salem is an unspoken fact that native New Englanders don’t think to share with their naïve, out-of-state friends.
This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t go to Salem around Halloween, because you should! At least once in your life you should brave the crowds and go to all the shops when they’re at their spookiest, or see a witch cursing people on the street. It’s a staple of living up here, but I’d definitely only do it once. Just remember, heed my warnings and try not to get trampled.