Salem's spookiest tourist traps

With Halloween fast approaching, we haunt as many spooky, scary attractions as possible
By GREG COOK  |  October 21, 2011

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Frankenstein's Laboratory

When America's original Mean Girls started accusing all their Salem neighbors of being witches in 1692, who knew that the city would remember the community hysteria that sent 20 innocent folks to their deaths with the awesomest Halloween shindig anywhere?

>> Find out more about Boston's haunted happenings at thephoenix.com/halloween <<

It took two centuries for Salem to get over its embarrassment, but around 1890 a Salem jeweler started selling souvenir Salem witch spoons (and may also have helped blight America with the collectable spoon craze) helping rebrand Salem as Witch City. Now, witches decorate everything from the local newspaper to police cars. And over the past three decades, real Wiccans have settled here.

Salem has become to Halloween what Punxsutawney is to Groundhog Day and the North Pole is to Christmas. Every day is a bit of Halloween in Salem, but October is Salem's month. The witch museums and haunted houses go into overdrive for 31 days of Haunted Happenings. On October 7, at 6:30 pm, townies come out for the Grand Parade, featuring costumed politicians, schoolchildren, and representatives of the city's frightful businesses. Every day you can find costume shops, psychic parlors, witchcraft emporiums, séances, auras, "Witch's Hide Leather" tarot readings, "custom designer vampire fangs," and advertisements for a salon that will fashion your fingertips into "vampyre nails." Then, on October 31, the place is overrun by thousands of costumed revelers.

What follows is a guide to Salem's marvelously cheesy, schlocky, B-movie institutions. If you're looking for history, be warned, as local historian Jim McAllister answered when a city councilor proposed in August that Salem guides be tested for their knowledge, "People don't care if it's true. They want to be scared."

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