‘Think Twice': Salem Issues Travel Warning Ahead of Halloween Festivities

The owner of The Magic Parlor said his shop is usually "totally insane" in October, but this year, the very crowds his and other businesses need to survive are scary themselves

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You can’t come to Salem without talking about Halloween, but as Massachusetts' governor asked people to celebrate it responsibly this year, amid the coronavirus pandemic, the city went further.

What is arguably the Halloween capital of the world, which is swarmed by throngs of people every October, told potential visitors Tuesday that, if they don’t have already have reservations, they should consider coming next year instead. 

"Given the upcoming long holiday weekend and expected warm weather, it is important that travelers plan ahead and think twice about a visit to Salem this month if they do not already have lodging, reservations, and/or tickets in place," the city said in an advisory Tuesday.

Many "Haunted Happenings" events have already been canceled, the city noted, and there are limits on how many people can enter stores and venues. 

Nevertheless, many people made the trek to Salem in the first week of October. 

"Even though we are not marketing for people to come here today, we were actually surprised so many people are traveling during a pandemic," Mayor Kim Driscoll said.

The city of Salem, Massachusetts has implemented coronavirus restrictions for Halloween this year including advanced tickets and reservations, social distancing for street performers, mask requirements and reduced parking. An approximate level of crowds is available online at salem.com/crowds based on vehicle counts and people at commuter rail stations. Many official events have already been canceled.

Even though the city qualifies under Massachusetts' guidelines for moving to Phase 3, Step 2 of the reopening plan, it's holding off. Driscoll said she’s not doing anything until October is over.

For those planning on coming to the Witch City, masks are mandatory, and people staying at the city's hotels must fill out its travel form. Salem also launched a new online crowd monitoring tool they hope daytrippers will check out beforehand. 

Rob Fitz, the owner of the shop The Magic Parlor, said his shop is usually "totally insane" in October, but this year, the very crowds his and other businesses need to survive are scary themselves. 

"October is the biggest month all year it basically covers us for the rest of the year," he said. 

Fitz never imagined he'd be selling protective masks along with Halloween ones, but he said he'll do what it takes to survive. 

"You gotta find that perfect spot where you can be safe and have business," he said.

The Massachusetts governor also strongly suggested that people avoid indoor Halloween gatherings this year.

Gov. Charlie Baker, speaking Tuesday in Salem with Driscoll, said there’s no statewide mandate on how communities should handle the holiday, and for a good reason: "That would have turned into thousands of indoor Halloween parties."

That would have been even worse for public safety, he said.

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