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.

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