October 25, 2010

iPhone Apps and Horse's Asses

So far, I have had more than 2000 people on my tours this month with very little problems.

The 10pm tours on the weekends are always the worst because I'll not only having drunk people walking by yelling at the tours, but drunk people ON the tours as well. Some people actually turn the tour into a drinking game and hide booze in their sodas or coffees. After one tour these girls told me they had decided to take a sip anytime I said 'witch', 'ghost', or 'orb' - so you can imagine they were pretty wrecked by the end.

Asking business owners around town I am hearing that everyone's numbers are WAY up this year. The people over at Destination Salem (whose website was never completed this year because they apparently spent too much time on their new iPhone App) are saying, in all so far, the amount of tourists coming into the city has gone up 12%, but I think those numbers are only based on who visits the Visitor's Center, and many tourists never go there so we can assume it's higher.

Some people don't even know why they come to Salem in the first place, they just kind of come here based on herd mentality. I had these two dudes in their 20s come up to me and start asking about the tours because they could tell I was their age and would tell it like it is. One of them looked at me 100% seriously and asked "Is the tour scary?" and I couldn't help but laugh.

I said, "Scary? You are grown men. Unless I pull a knife on you I am not going to actually scare you. The history is messed up and disturbing and that leaves paranormal energy behind." Because I approach the paranormal in such a scientific way, nothing really scares me and I don't see why it should scare anyone else. The truly frightening part is reality. For instance, did you know one test for witchcraft in 1692 involved putting a pipe in a horse's butt and lighting it - and someone was killed based partially on the results of said test? Sounds pretty scary to me.

Another scary thing is all the street hustling ghost tour rip-offs in town this month trying to rope in tourists. One company that has a joke of a haunted attraction and has never done a ghost tour before suddenly hired and got licenses for more than 25 kids based on a Craigslist ad they put out. 25 tour guides for just the month of October, none of which are from Salem and most of which are still completing high school. How can they possibly be qualified or even trained remotely adequately? The haunted attraction this company has is a two-minute walk through two black-lit rooms while teenagers in drug-store Halloween costumes jump out and say "boo!" for eight bucks. I can only imagine how bad the tour is.

This year is the most crowded year since I have been a tour guide. There are literally DOUBLE the amount of tour groups vying for space this year than last year, many with unlicensed guides and many of which trespass WITH the tours. When my boss and I complained about it to an officer he said "We can't do anything unless someone calls," which is a complete contradiction from the letter every tour company in town received this summer from the Salem Police stating that if tours kept trespassing on private property we would all be brought before the city council in order to have our licenses revoked. Well I don't want my license revoked, I follow the rules, and I am going to be punished for these horse's asses that only operate during high tourist season anyways?

Plus, the stories these other groups tell people, and the gullibility of the average person is disturbing. Based on a ridiculous photo in which a tourist claimed to see the shape of a face in some stones, one tour company now stops directly in the path of my tour and encourages each and every person to put their hand on a door to feel for a dead little girl or something. Seeing the looks in the people's eyes as the touch the door is just amazing. They want to believe so much that they are being lemmings.

Truly fascinating. It's things like this that encourage me to study anthropology/sociology.

October 5, 2010

Hoax Adventures and Seasonal Witches

"Who is that? The guy from American Idol?" I hear a young woman on Essex st ask.

Nope. That slick-haired celeb with the camera crew and boom following him while he walks down the street swinging his arms and popping his hips extra casually is Zak Bagans of Ghost Adventures mugging for the camera and stopping for photo ops with his biggest fans - little girls.

Even if I were to accept the flawed science on the show, I truly hate paranormal investigators that taunt and provoke in order to get results. It is not only a cheap and showy way to build excitement and energy, but just plain disrespectful. A paranormal investigator should show the utmost respect for the history of any place and the people that were once there. I bet during their filming in the witch house (see how they painted it black back in the day to trick tourists into thinking it is spooky?) they really play up the old legend about how some of the examinations of suspected witches may have taken place there, which has been mostly proven completely false.

Just a quick Youtube search results in countless amateurs casually debunking their "paranormal" activity. I wont even waste any more time talking about them.

One of the best things about Salem in October is seeing people I have never seen before swoop into town and represent the city as if they are locals. I say 'best' because I know they will be gone in November, but it does get a little annoying. On Saturday afternoon I counted EIGHT different people passing out flyers on a 1/4 mile stretch of Essex st and EVERY SINGLE ONE was a girl dressed like a stereotypical pointy-hatted cartoonish witch. And I may be wrong, but it seemed like at least HALF of those people were employed by the self proclaimed "Howard Stern of witchcraft". Give it a rest! I am so sick of seeing all the litter scattered everywhere ALL being from the same two shops: HEX and OMEN. Aren't these supposed to be the newest coolest shops in town? What's with the saturation campaign? Shouldn't their awesomeness speak for itself? Clearly not.

Honestly, I feel bad for all the seasonal October people. Most of the time they have no idea what they are getting themselves into. This one guy who is an awesome and funny magician who is doing shows for my friend's shop said "I'm used to renaissance fairs, so [Salem drama] is nothing compared to that." Haha, so true. But still, most intelligent enemies make sure you underestimate them! As Sun Tzu said in The Art of War, "...rely not on the likelihood of the enemy's coming, but on our own readiness to receive him..." Then there are the people who my boss yells at for handing out our competitor's flyers in front of her ticket office... Some don't even know what they are handing out. All they know is that ten bucks an hour to bother tourists is a great way to make beer money.

Oh and I have to mention... My 3pm tour goes by Salem City Hall right around closing time and I saw the mayor talking on her cellphone while driving as she pulled out of her parking spot onto Washington st! LMAO They JUST made that illegal in this state so I will give her a break, but my tourists were all dying laughing. It was pretty funny.

[Edit: I realized after I wrote this that it was TEXTING while driving that was made illegal. As far as just regular talking Massachusetts law states "
Drivers can use their cell phone while driving as long as it does not get in the way of the vehicle's operation and one hand is on the wheel at all times." So, I was totally wrong. Sorry Mayor Driscoll! But just so you know I would love you even if you did break the law!]