Eye-Catching Costumes, Smaller Crowds in Salem for Halloween Amid Pandemic

Businesses were expected to close at 8 p.m. and city streets blocked off to traffic with police standing by

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From psycho clowns to friendly bears, alien abductions to pint-size DJ’s, Halloween revelers were dressed to kill in Salem, Massachusetts — even on a night when they were asked to stay away.

Known for drawing enormous crowds on Halloween, Salem discouraged visitors from bringing their celebrations to the city this year amid the coronavirus pandemic, but that didn't stop all masked creatures of the night from spending Oct. 31 in Witch City.

“It’s very magical,” said Sylvia Rosa of New York. “I’m a witch myself, so hey, this is the best place to celebrate.”

The city implemented measures throughout the month in an effort to minimize crowds, which in a normal year call swell to tens of thousands. Local businesses were required to close by 8 p.m. and attractions had advance ticket sales. Fewer commuter rail trains had stops in Salem and city parking lots shut down early. Authorities said they would ticket and tow illegally parked vehicles.

These warnings, combined with chilly temperatures, seemed to keep the usual large crowds at bay. Just before 6 p.m. Saturday, Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll spoke positively of the turnout in a post on Twitter, writing "We are definitely seeing lighter crowds than a typical Halloween+so far, the weekend has been very manageable."

Those that attended still managed to find fun despite the limits in place.

“I just went to see a psychic and he said I was going to have a really good rest of the year,” said Nancy Hiltz of Nova Scotia.

City officials are implementing new measures in hopes of deterring crowds from visiting the Halloween capital.

"It's Salem, Massachusetts. You see the costumes around, they're beautiful, amazing, inspiring, and look at the community around, even with COVID going around, it's amazing," said Craig Marciano, a skeleton-donning visitor from Woburn.

Even with this extra encouragement for visitors to avoid the normal hubub downtown, Salem still drew in costume-wearers from afar.

"Honestly, this was a very last-minute trip, we had almost no planning, and we just decided, let's go," said Kristen Bowman, a visitor from Mount Jackson, Virginia.

Altered hours for alcohol sales and restricted parking and reservations are just some of the changes to Salem this year.

"We've actually had this planned for about a year," said Andrea Ingan, who is visiting from Indiana. "You know, it's Salem. It's the witch trials, we love history, we love the kookiness of it."

As they do every year, fines for various offenses are tripled during the holiday weekend. The city also discouraged large Halloween parties and telling families to trick-or-treat at their own risk.

"It feels like a Christmas Halloween, which is odd," said visitor Desi Robinson. "We've had such a difficult year, I thought it would be really great to be some place where people are being festive and safe."

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