Connected \\ November 9, 2022
Halloween is over, but the witches are still marching
If you live or work in Salem, you know there’s a second holiday directly after Halloween. Starting November 1 (sometimes just hours after midnight), tourists begin their slow retreat from the city, which inevitably marks the end of another spooky season. Streets are less crowded, reservations to favorite restaurants are easier to find and we don’t have to worry about Michael Myers or nuns on stilts blocking our commute to work. The city quiets down while the remaining stragglers have one last march through the city for their Halloween fill.
Left, Essex Street filled with tourists on Halloween weekend. Photo by @purelysalem. Right, Essex Street the morning of November 1. Ellie Dolan/PEM.
This September, PEM debuted our Witch Trials Walk, a new self-guided audio tour featuring authentic witch trials materials and stories told by curators and local experts. From history lovers to Hocus Pocus fans, there was plenty to see and learn, both inside the museum and around downtown Salem.
PEM Curator Paula Richter discusses witch-themed products and souvenirs that were produced in the 19th century. Photo by Kathy Tarantola/PEM.
Part of the tour goes through our exhibition Salem Stories, which takes you through Salem’s history from A to Z. The section “O is for October” includes a piece of sheet music titled “March of the Salem Witches”. This treasured item from PEM’s Phillips Library collection of early printed sheet music was published in 1896 and composed by local Salem musician John M. Missud. The cover illustration of witches setting out with pointy hats and broomsticks brings to mind pictures of Essex Street during Halloween weekend. If you look even closer, you can spot more familiar details, like a small drawing of Salem Harbor. Missud's march is an incredible example of combining “witch kitsch” and local pride.
George H. Walker & Company, “March of the Salem Witches” sheet music, 1896, Phillips Library. E M678.1 1896 3 +
PEM curator Paula Richter, who speaks about this composition in our audio tour, says Missud was part of a local Salem band. When the time came to put the final details in our Witch Trials Walk, I was approached by our content producer Dinah Cardin about “March of the Salem Witches”. “We can’t highlight a piece of music without playing the music,” Cardin said. As a musician, my mind started spinning and I knew just the person who could masterfully execute this historic melody.
Local musician, Henry Zagarella. Photo by Bernabeo Photography.
My friend and bandmate Henry Zagarella and I have performed together for years, but most recently in our band The Far Out. As far as we know, Zagarella’s original recording, played on an eclectic keyboard in his studio, was the first performance of “March of the Salem Witches” in nearly 100 years. Zagarella described the composition as “A fun, jaunty tune with an air of fright, a fitting melody that makes me visualize a walk through the streets of Salem in October.” Having the composition revived by another local musician carries on the composer’s legacy. Zagarella said, “It feels very special. Carrying on the trend of local musicians performing this Salem composition is an unexpected honor.”
Listen to the song here: