October means one thing for those of us who live and work in Salem. Tourists, in great dark clouds of street-clogging humanity, descend on the Witch City in search of the spooky, spirited and spine-tingling. Recognized around the world for both its extraordinary history, and one of the best places to celebrate Halloween, local and international visitors converge each fall, building toward a crescendo on the big day. We are essentially the New Orleans of the North, only with “Haunted Happenings” as our Mardi Gras.
Steve the Vampire haunts Essex Street. Photography by John Andrews/Creative Collective.
According to Kate Fox, executive director for Destination Salem, “So far, visitation to Salem is up 20% over last year, which means our annual visitation is looking to top 1.5 million people!” Of that million and change, more than half visit during the month of October. It can get a little batty around here—both literally and figuratively.
Gentlemen Bats, come dressed in their finest. Photography by John Andrews/Creative Collective.
Speaking of that curious nocturnal critter, you can find bats in an unlikely place right now. They have come from the Forbidden City to Salem and are hanging around and fluttering through every gallery of PEM’s Empresses of China’s Forbidden City.
© 2018 Peabody Essex Museum.
Western cultures have long associated the bat with bad omens. Bats fly into our Halloween season, as Sylvia Plath wrote, “web-winged and furious.” They are often depicted as sinnister, hair-attacking rats with wings and dwell in abandoned asylums, haunted houses, cold caverns and the tangled trees of creepy cemeteries. In more historical contexts, their identity is tied to their natural habitat. Dark caves are often recognized as portals to the underworld, allowing passage for the devil, demons and gods of death. However in China, bats hold immensely high status in their cultural and artistic heritage and are considered to be the epitome of luck!