July 16, 2010

Street Hustlers and Drug Dealing on Essex St.?

I love Salem and there are a lot of great tourist attractions, businesses, and pagan shops, but, as you can see from my last post, sometimes people can get on my nerves.

I often complain about the new tour company in town and their shenanigans, but recently they have really begun to bother me to the point where I can't take it anymore. Something has to be done. They have crossed the line to the point where I am actually afraid for my safety. All because of business competition.

See, the tour company I work for has been the only ghost tour in town made up of actual paranormal investigators for about a decade now. We don't just tell stories about Salem's history you can get in any museum or talk about myths and legends, we get to the root of the causes of the paranormal activity by discussing not only the history and legends but the science of ghost hunting itself as well as our personal experiences.

So, this new tour company opened up in town a couple years ago and started doing historic tours, but slowly over time has become a doppelganger of our tour.

First they decided they were going to start calling themselves a 'ghost tour' and changed the name of the company to "THE Salem Night Tour" and started putting up signs everywhere that just say SALEM GHOST TOURS. They used to meet their tour groups down the street from us, but now they have purposely moved directly across the street from where me meet! Now, a lot of tourists get confused by this because a company should have an actual NAME. It would be like going to Vegas and opening up a casino on the strip next to Caesar's Palace and naming it "THE Las Vegas Casino" and putting up signs everywhere that just say "GAMBLING HERE!". That casino is going to confuse a lot of people into going in and they are taking advantage of tourists not knowing the area.

Worst thing is that they have their website promoted through Google with "BEST" as a keyword, so any idiot that types "What's the best tour in Salem?" or "Salem's best tour" is going to get their site. They also took the domain Salemghosttours.com (and this other company in town followed suit by snagging ghosttoursOFsalem.com) Smart business move or underhandedly taking advantage of the non-tech-savvy? My opinion is implied. Anyways...

After a while they even started claiming to be paranormal investigators. Well, I guess it's true... they have the equipment that the guy buys in bulk online (the dude's selling $15 EMF meters for $40 and calling them "Ghost Meters") that anyone needs to do an investigation, but anyone can get that stuff. Sure they are actual paranormal investigators - AMATEURS.

They tell tourists that pictures of dust are paranormal activity, and that the reflections of lights in windowpanes are the faces of the dead. They tell a few stories that are legends as if they are fact, and they do their entire tours in a fake English accent. They dress as historical figures, but SUCK at staying in character. So many tourists take more than one tour in town and complain to us about how bad these guys are.

All of this I might be able to ignore if it weren't for the personal attacks. When I heard what this guy was saying about me it made me want to run to the police station right then and there and file a report for defamation of character...

The guy that runs the place, who we call FToS, is a hustler that gets in tourists faces and is way too pushy with his hard-sell tactics and solicitation.

A friend of mine worked for him last year and just last week I was talking to him and he said "Wait, you didn't used to work for FToS?", which confused me a lot because I have been a tour guide in Salem for six years and this guy only for two.

"Of course not. That guy's running a tourist trap," I said.

"Well," my friend said as a look of confusion and concern came over his face, "He told me that you used to work for him and he fired you for selling drugs."

WHAT!!! Not only have I only had TWO face-to-face conversations with the guy so yeah I never worked for him, but selling drugs?? How DARE he come out of no where with such a baseless accusation. Maybe it's just because I have a beard and long hair (see photo LOL) he thinks he can spread a nasty rumor like that about me? I asked my friend where he heard it from, thinking the information might have been mixed up, but he insisted he heard it straight from FToS himself!

This really bothers me because I care about my reputation in this city - I love it here and I love everything about it. This trash-talking hustler's fly-by-night business will be gone within the next few years and I will remain. I have to live with whatever rumors he spreads long after he is gone.

[Photo courtesy of Clinton D. Williams; It's me, Tom the Tour Guide, with my afro wielding friend Adam when we played drug dealers/doers as part of the cast of the hippy rock musical 'HAIR!' put on by Salem Theatre Company in June. It was SO much fun.]