Haunted Happenings is a month-long Halloween celebration in the town of Salem, Massachusetts, famous for the witch-trial hysteria of the 1600s. In more recent times, Salem has capitalized on its history to become America's Hometown of Halloween and the authority on all things witch-related. At the beginning of October, the Haunted Happenings season is kicked off with a parade of costumed characters through the streets of the town, attended by thousands of people including adults, costumed children, and news media.
The rain cleared off just in time for the start of the 2014 Haunted Happenings Grand Parade, celebrating its 19th year as the inaugural event to the month-long Halloween celebration in Salem. This year's theme was "fantasy," and costumed marchers included characters from Hocus Pocus, Frozen, Harry Potter, Game of Thrones, Ghostbusters, Star Wars, and many more! Over 4,000 marchers participated in this year's parade, throwing candy, performing live music, dancing, doing acrobatic stunts, cheerleading - there was even a performance by the "East Beverly Lawn Chair All-Stars," who had a choreographed folding chair performance. The parade ended on Salem Common, where a party was held including food, drinks, and a DJ spinning tunes. Thousands of families lined the streets to partake in the festivities, which has become one of the town's favorite holiday traditions.
We decided to make a daytrip out of the event, so costumes in tow, and we piled into Sketch’s car around noontime and headed up to Salem. EllyStar found Flying Saucer Pizza Company, a science fiction-themed pizza place to hit up for lunch. The small restaurant was decorated floor to ceiling with nerdy memorabilia, including Daleks from Doctor Who and a larger than life-size cardboard cutout of Captain Picard as Locutus of The BORG. The menu had lots of unique pizza choices; I got an “Engineer” while EllyStar tried a “Picard”, and Sketch a “Thor.” We also ordered “Space Balls” as an appetizer, which were garlic bread knots covered in real grated Parmesan cheese and oil. Everything was absolutely delicious; it was some of the best pizza we’d ever had! After lunch, we walked over to the Peabody-Essex Museum, which was bigger than expected, and had a whole mishmash of interesting things. They had a large section on nautical history, including a life size replica of “Cleopatra’s Barge” and beautifully crafted ship models made entirely of ivory. We also visited their Asian collections, an exhibit on blown glass, and another on nature with instruments we could play. We finally left around 4pm so we could begin getting ready, and we hadn't seen everything!
Our elaborate Hogwarts Founders costumes drew a lot of attention even amongst the other costumed characters as we made our way to the Salem Waterfront Hotel to line up after changing in the car. We found the leader of the Harry Potter contingent (appropriately dressed as Voldemort) and he lined us up to lead the group. The wind had picked up and was blowing our house banners all over the place as we waited about 2 hours to begin. The parade route was packed with people, though unlike Dragon*Con, the police did little to keep spectators on the sidewalk, and as a result it was a little claustrophobic to march down the narrow streets with people practically on top of us. In some places, the four of us couldn’t fit abreast. However, the kids were very enthusiastic, running out to give Snape, Dumbledore, and Voldemort hugs. I didn’t expect the kids, or even many of the grownups, to know who the four of us were, but we got plenty of teenagers who had grown up as Harry Potter fanatics who got it and were super excited to see Godric, Rowena, Helga, and Salazar. It helped that we yelled out “10 points!” when we saw spectators dressed in the robes of our house. A lot of little girls in princess dresses and little boys dressed as knights along the route bowed to us, and many adults shouted “look at the King and Queen!” referring to Godric and I.
After a time we passed the local news TV cameras and waved, but we were only at about the halfway point! The route was shockingly long, and it seemed like we went through every street in Salem! My shoes were starting to catch on the cobblestones as well; by the end, I was almost relieved when we turned into the town green. After gathering on the green the Harry Potter group walked to a small Salem shop a couple of blocks away that had a large replica of the great hall and the potions classroom behind a door at the back of the store. The owner let us in and we spent about an hour doing a photoshoot there. It was fun but we were very, very hungry by that point and pretty tired, so we headed out around 9:30 to change and get some FOOD. After getting comfy clothes back on at the car, we ran across the street to Salem Beer Works for a yummy dinner before driving home. We didn’t get home until almost midnight, but it had been a fun day!