October 2nd, 2014
Salem, Massachusetts

Event Stats:
Location: Downtown Salem
Event Year: Nineteenth
Attendance: ~ 15,000
Theme: "Fantasy"
Sketch's Costumes Worn:
Godric Gryffindor, Harry Potter
Shiva's Costumes Worn:
Rowena Ravenclaw, Harry Potter
Event Photos:

Photo Credits:
Doug Wilder, Christa Newman Photography, Social Palates Photography, Sketch

Salem Haunted Happenings is a month-long Halloween celebration held in the town of Salem, Massachusetts since 1982. Though 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. Since 1995, the Haunted Happenings season has been kicked off with the Grand Parade, consisting of 3,000-4,000 performers and costumed characters marching through the streets of the town. Roughly 10,000-15,000 people turn out to watch the parade wind through the streets of Salem, ending with a party on the town common complete with food, drinks, and a DJ spinning tunes.

Sketch and Shiva's Event Breakdown:
Sketch's family lives on the North Shore so we had been to some of the Haunted Happenings events in the past, but we had never attended or participated in the Grand Parade until Ellystar suggested we join in this year with our Hogwarts Founders costumes from Harry Potter. We agreed that sounded like fun - the October evening weather would be perfect for marching in our warm costumes - and she arranged for us to participate with the leader of the Harry Potter contingent. The theme of this year's parade was "Fantasy," and a large and diverse Harry Potter group fit in perfectly with that concept.

We knew parking would be impossible near parade time, so we drove into Salem just before lunchtime and met up with Ellystar and Scarlet for lunch at the 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 to kill a few hours exploring the exhibits before getting dressed in our costumes. The museum was bigger than expected, and had a whole mishmash of interesting things, including a large section on nautical history with 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!

It had been a drizzly morning, but the rain cleared off just in time for us to line up. 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. We checked out the other floats and costumes, which included characters from Hocus Pocus, Frozen, Harry Potter, Game of Thrones, Ghostbusters, Star Wars, and many more! Over 4,000 marchers were participating 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 route was packed with thousands of families, though unlike Dragon*Con, the police did little to keep spectators on the sidewalk. 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 many spectators 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!”

After what seemed like a lengthy march, we passed the local news TV cameras and waved, thinking we were near the end point but we were only halfway! The route was shockingly long; it seemed like we went through every street in Salem! Shiva's shoes were starting to catch on the cobblestones and driver her nuts, and holding our heavy banners while fighting the wind was getting exhausting. By the end, we were almost relieved when we finally turned onto the town green and could rest, at least for a few minutes. 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 exhausted, so we bowed out around 9:30PM before the rest of the group.

After getting changed into comfy clothes back 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 was a fun day! Now that we know what to expect, we might try joining in again in the future.