‘Salem is NOT Disney World’: So many tourists this year it’s a safety hazard, and Disney may be to blame

Salem, Massachusetts is a city of just over 43,000 located on the state’s north coast above Boston. Thanks to its history, the town is no stranger to tourists, especially during the Halloween season. But this year, residents and shopkeepers say they’ve never seen so many tourists – and the legions of “hocus-pocusers” are making it difficult for residents to carry out their daily routines.

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In the 1690s, over 200 people in the city of Salem were accused of practicing witchcraft, and many were executed because of these accusations.

The town’s sordid history is what put Salem on the map, so to speak, and nowadays, Salem’s story of the witch trials is driving the town’s tourism. Thus, the inhabitants of the small town are accustomed to an annual influx of visitors in October.

The town seems to embrace its dark history as a way to boost its economy each fall as nearly a million tourists visit Salem and take part in a month-long festival that includes live music, haunted mansions, ghost tours candlelight, parades, etc. .

Salem Haunted Happenings Fun for Kids and Families

Credit: Salem Haunted Happenings

Since 1982, the small coastal town has hosted an event dubbed “the biggest Halloween party in the world!” Additionally, Salem landmarks that also serve as points of interest include the so-called ‘Witch House’, the former home of a trial judge in the 1690s, and there are even ‘Witch City Walking Tours”.

Disney fans can even go on a spooky Hocus Pocus-thematic tour, inspired by the 1993 Disney film of the same name and, more recently, the second episode, Hocus Pocus 2. According to Viator websitethe tour invites visitors to:

“Be spellbound in Salem on a walking tour of actual filming locations featured in the hit 1993 Disney film ‘Hocus Pocus’ starring Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker and Kathy Najimy. Fans will recognize places like Pioneer Village and the Dennison House, plus lots of local tidbits about Salem’s infamous witch trials, maritime history, and other interesting trivia along the way.

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But so far, the 2022 Halloween season has been quite different for residents of the small Massachusetts town, as some Salem residents and business owners say they’ve never seen so many tourists in their town, not even last October.

Alexis Lambert owns a gift shop in downtown Salem, and she says two of the Saturdays this month have been busier than she remembers ever seeing in her shop.

“It got to the point where I had to go take a minute in the back because it was so crowded,” Lambert said.

Halloween revelers wanting to visit Salem: Be patient, plan ahead, say Witch City officials

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Kate Fox, executive director of Destination Salem, says crowds of tourists can be good for some businesses, but can hurt other businesses when residents who regularly use their services can’t get there.

“We used to run campaigns to tell residents, ‘Come downtown, it’s safe during the week,’ and that’s almost not true anymore,” she said.

According boston.com, the quiet coastal town with a population of around 43,350 has seen over 100,000 tourists daily. The resulting traffic has made life very difficult for residents who live and work in Salem, as access to shops and restaurants has been blocked and parking spaces have disappeared.

“Salem is a small town. There is backup on the motorways for miles,” said a local pub owner. “That’s the biggest problem for many Salem residents because they can’t go anywhere. They can’t even go out for groceries or emergencies or anything like that because trying to get in is a nightmare.

Visiting Salem in October?  Prepare for crowds

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Salem residents are said to be frustrated by the high influx of tourists this year, and while it’s hard to pinpoint why this year has seen so many visitors to the small historic town, some say it has to do with the exit of by Disney Hocus Pocus 2which introduced a new generation of fans to the Sanderson Sisters and their story, and rekindled the excitement of the 1993 film among current fans.

And perhaps resident Kyley Dolan said it best when trying to describe Salem residents’ growing frustration and concern about the crowds in their town.

“Salem is not Disney World,” she said. “Salem is a small town with historic infrastructure. The streets are small; the buildings are small. Salem does not have the space to accommodate an additional 80,000 people each day.

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