December 5, 2011

A Wicked Solstice Season in Salem

 She was resisting.

It snowed in time for Halloween this year, but December has been nice and mild so far - which is great considering how much there is to do.

Sure, I could keep busy online by joining the War on Christmas, I considered writing an article on the topic, maybe covering the holiday's pagan origins or just documenting conservative hubris, but so many others have already done so so eloquently. Also, I've been fairly busy getting into the holiday spirit - Salem Witch style.

Happy Horrordays!

This year's Krampus art show and holiday-ish party at the Fool's Mansion was pretty awesome. If you have never heard of the amazingly horrible and wonderfully terrifying myths surrounding Krampus consider the following excerpt from Wiki:

"  Krampus is a mythical creature recognized in Alpine countries.[1] According to legend, Krampus accompanies St. Nicholas during the Christmas season, warning and punishing bad children, in contrast to St. Nicholas, who gives gifts to good children. When the Krampus finds a particularly naughty child, it stuffs the child in its sack and carries the frightened thing away to its lair, presumably to devour for its Christmas dinner.
In the Alpine regions, Krampus is represented by a beast like creature, generally demonic in appearance. Traditionally young men dress up as the Krampus in Austria, southern Bavaria and South Tyrol during the first week of December, particularly on the evening of 5 December, and roam the streets frightening children with rusty chains and bells.  "

The event was basically a goth Christmas/Solstice party art show with Dj Zombi starting off the night playing ambient tracks and spooky winter orchestral stuff before leading into the more dancable music. The art itself varied greatly. Some of the more expensive art was also available in card form. This is the card my mother will be receiving this year:

Basically Krampus is the bad to Santa's good cop.

We also visited Ye Old Pepper Candy Co., the oldest candy company in America, for their open house where they had the back open so you could watch how they make their candy.This place earns my respect by using a lot of the same old-fashioned gadgets that have been used to make candy for hundreds of years. I had no idea how complicated the device to make ribbon candy was. I found a video of another old fashioned candy company using the same equipment here. The good part starts at :45. Some people think it's kind of boring, but I always loved when Mr. Roger's brought us to the crayon factory growing up. Guess it's a geek thing.

I also tried to class it up a bit by bringing my wife to the Christmas event tours at The House of Seven Gables. Instead of their usual tours they have one which leads you through the different rooms in the house which are made into living stages with actors that do excerpts from famous holiday literature. Besides the fake British accents making me want to strangle myself with tinsel, it was pretty cool. Among others, they had scenes from Little Women, an excerpt from the Diary of Ann Frank (which was totally bittersweet), a dude desperately trying to do a Welsh accent for A Child's Christmas in Wales, as well as the standards like a scene from A Christmas Carol and the standard recitation of Twas the Night Before Christmas.

No, not NightMARE, that came later...

That's right, this weekend at Cinema Salem they had late night showings of The Nightmare Before Christmas complete with a shadow cast provided by the Teseracte Players of Boston. Saying there is room for improvement is by no means a criticism. These guys did a fantastic job, I just know they know they could do so much more. Jack Skelington moved his arms around a lot like he was in RUN D.M.C. or something and it was totally distracting, but decent. The cyclops mummy and The Clown with the Tear-away Face were crowd favorites when it came to costumes. The little girl playing Zero was adorable, and the dude playing the mayor had the jerky robotic movements down and the most hilarious look on his face for the duration of the performance, it was perfect. 

... So that's it. Things die down after October's Haunted Happenings, but after December's Holiday Happenings  are over the city becomes very very boring. Let's hope something interesting happens before spring!

November 17, 2011

Rob Zombie in Salem November 2011! [*spoiler alert*]

[the movie's first SPOILER right here!]

Now that October is over you'd think the excitement in Salem would be over, but then on Monday a friend at a local ice cream shop asked me "Oh, do you know who Rob Zombie is?". Apparently she had no idea who he was but said either he or some of his crew had just been in there browsing. I searched all over online and asked around and no one else knew anything, but then Rob posted this on his Facebook page around 8pm:

The Lords had descended on Salem Towne.

Later on I noticed this tweet from the mayor of the city:


So, at this point random people started telling me all the random places they were running into his film crews, all over the city... From the beautiful Greenlawn Cemetery in North Salem, to Essex st., rumors of Pioneer Village in South Salem - he even was filming down The Point!

On Essex st. (picture via the Official Salem Facebook Page)

Now, honestly, I wasn't planning on running around town trying to find him with a Sharpie like a ton of other people were, I understand he is here to work. I left work early to look at an apartment and just happened to stumble upon the crew on Essex st. filming a scene! I just had to watch. Even though it was somewhat boring and to the crew just business as usual I found the entire situation just fascinating. The beautiful cameras and equipment, the way they used umbrellas and special tents to keep the rain off things, the way the crew all worked so well together - I ended up watching for hours and hours.

In the scene on Essex st. (the one I saw, there are others) Bruce Davidson, whom you may remember best from playing the father in the TV series version of Harry and the Hendersons, dressed in casual business attire carrying a leather messenger style briefcase walked down Essex st towards the camera, noticed a newsstand, saw the headline, grabbed a copy of the made-up paper "The Salem Breeze", stared at the paper for a moment and then walked off looking like it was something that made sense to him, surprised or shocked, or otherwise somehow affected him. It certainly made no sense to me, I got up really close and saw the headline "Local Host Lobster Joe Found Dead".

Anyone who is a fan of Rob Zombie or Salem Witch Wiles on Facebook will remember when Mr. Zombie posted the casting picture of Christopher Knight, aka Peter Brady, with a caption including a part that said "Chris plays Keith Williams aka Lobster Joe the host of Lobster Joe's Fishy Fun Show a staple of local Salem television."

So you heard it here first folks, Peter Brady dies in Lords of Salem.

Now at this point, considering how many locals normally walk down Essex st. in November and that they had been there long enough for word to get out online, a significant sized group had formed and lots of people were loudly mentioning how they wanted an autograph in the hopes he would overhear them. Come on guys, he's trying to work. Bother him when he's not working or on break between scenes. I payed close attention and noticed one guy who was making announcements to the crew say "Allright, pack it up. Charter's next and Sheri's on her way." I was the only non-crew person that heard him, no one else was paying attention.

I immediately knew he was referring to the Old Burying Point Cemetery, also known as Charter St. Cemetery.
Here's the lightning-struck oak where lots of local witches leave offerings. (picture courtesy one of my awesome tourists/friends!)
This is the cemetery I do my historic tours in. It's the oldest in the city, second oldest in the country, the one with the lightning struck oak tree, the Witch Trials Memorial, The Hanging Judge John Hathorne is buried here - hell, I got married in this cemetery! I decided to not tell anyone but one friend what I had heard and we snuck away from the crowd as the crew began packing up and the noticeably impatient people started getting closer and closer to all running up and asking for autographs in a frenzy. I knew if they knew Sheri Moon Zombie was going to be at the cemetery they would all stampede down there. Honestly, though, I was surprised people stayed out of the way and were as well behaved as they were, New England people can be pushy!

Down at Old Burying Point it started to rain a bit more moderately and they set up all the cameras. They filmed a scene of Sheri slowly walking through the cemetery in deep thought, taking a moment to stop and stare at a few stones before exiting into the area of The Witch Trials Memorial. Because there were hardly any locals in the way at this location I could stand very close. I could see the view through the camera, essentially what the shots will look like, and they were just beautiful.

I had figured her outfit would be able to tell me a lot about her character and hopefully make a few plot points more obvious but it further confused me. She was not dressed stereotypically goth or witchy at all. Firstly, she was wearing wide-leg flare-type jeans that dragged on the ground just enough to get the bottoms all wet from rain. She was wearing a faux-suede looking jacket with faux-fur trim and had an extremely realistic looking wig of luscious gorgeous amazing blonde dreadlocks. (My friend took pictures, I will edit this blog and add them in the moment he uploads them![edit 1/9/12: still waiting!])

Anyways, in the next shot she entered the Memorial and paused there for a few moments reading the quotes by the victims chiseled into the stones and they got a great close up of her from another angle. Then they filmed her walking around the corner and took a very long drawn-out shot of her slowly walking into the distance - it looked great. Very moody.

Based on the way she was acting I think it's safe to assume that her character feels a deep connection to the victims of the hysteria, what could that mean? A lot of things. Maybe she is a descendant of one of the victims, maybe she is a modern witch, who knows...

[edit: Oh, duh. Yeah, her character's name is Heidi Hawthorne so it's pretty safe to assume that makes her a descendant of the character Rev. John Hawthorne. He is taking some creative liberty here: the judge was John Hathorne and one of his descendants, famous author Nathaniel Hawthorne, actually added the 'w' in order to distance himself from the ignorant ancestor. The Reverend at the time was Samuel Parris.]

I was able to chat with a few random members of the crew at certain points and more than one of them made it a point to mentioned that this wasn't as bloody or gory, or as one of them put it "it's not as stabby", as his previous films and that it would be "more psychological". Based on the long shots and deep camera angles I am sensing something. I could be wrong, but I think this is Rob's attempt to be taken seriously by all the fans and critics that think all he can do is shock and gore. Personally, I have always seen how artistic his films are regardless, but I am getting a strong feeling that this is going to be a huge movie and really impress people.

This morning Rob posted this on his Facebook page with a goodbye message to the city saying today was his last day shooting.

Is that Samantha Stevens from Bewitched or William Defoe from Boondock Saints?

Last I heard they were going to put in a full day of filming today and then head back to LA. Let me be one of many people to say thank you to Rob and the crew for filming in Salem and not just doing this all in LA. Salem is a perfect spot for filming, so much to see. Being a native of Massachusetts I think he has more respect than others would, and we respect him back.

Related articles:

Rob Zombie's Latest Visit to Salem for Location Scouting (With new Pics!)

Clues in Leaked "Lords of Salem" Photos with a Better Synopsis

God Hates the Lords of Salem - Rob Zombie Sightings in Salem, MA

October 12, 2011

Lost in a Maize Maze & What Happened at the Salem Zombie Walk?

(Photo credit: Lucid Light)

This year's Zombie Walk was supposed to meet at Collins Cove Park at 3pm and start marching at 5pm, but many people were disappointed to show up closer to five and find they had missed the group leaving. The march itself less resembled a horde of zombies and was more like many disorganized wandering bands snaking through and around the downtown area pretty aimlessly.

I finished my 3pm tour, threw on some make up, splattered some blood on myself, and joined in as the groups were passing Crow Haven Corner on Essex st. My zombie ballerina wife and I had a great time, but the disorganization confused me. I asked a group of fellow zombies "Where is the leader?" to which I recieved shrugs, "You know, the guy with the top hat and megaphone? The guy who organizes the walk?" No one had seen him.

Checking online later it seemed a lot of people were angry about their perceived failures of the walk, but then I discovered what had happened -  the leader had been arrested! Was this an anti-zombie conspiracy? How did this happen? We all know the city thought the walk was weird at first, but over the years has warmed up to it, with local business getting involved, and the Zombie Walk even being listed in this years tourist guide.

Speaking to the man himself I learned that the city had, for an unknown reason, revoked his permit(s) and only notified him via email. He doesn't really check his email too often so he had no idea. Because he had not cancelled the walk it seems the police wanted to check him out and when they ran his name they found he had a random unrelated bench warrant for something stupid like not paying court fines in time or something. They showed up to his work an hour before the walk and arrested him there. Thing is, the warrant was from 2007 and he has been processed since then so it makes no sense it would just come up now. The people at the police station made sure not to post his bail until after the walk had ended, so regardless of what they say, it's clear they simply didn't want him to be there. I don't think we are ever going to find out what exactly the motivations of the police were here.

Either way, the event was an overall success and gets bigger every year. Even if the police target the leader, we will still continue do it. It's good for the city and good clean (albeit bloody) fun. Every year I see families, babies, and kids having a good time -

and that's what Salem is all about. (photo: Peppered Productions)

[EDIT 10/13/11 12.30pm: It appears the city is also trying to ban the Zombie Walk by making it a crimnal offense. A meeting is scheduled for tonight at 6:30 at city Hall. Will update when I find out what happens.
EDIT 10/16/11: False alarm.]

Quick news roundup -

--Rocky Horror at Cinema Salem sold out last week so they added another midnight showing this Friday. See you there.

--I forget to mention earlier that two of my favorite street performers, illusionists, and local personalities, Vlad the vampire and Dan the bard of Theatre of the Night found a venue for their magic show this year! Good for tourists and locals alike, it's a family friendly magic show that is still dark, twisted, and evil. One of the few things in Salem where you get EXACTLY what you pay for. Go give them all your money because they are hilarious.

Here's a random video I found with them in it.

--If you missed last week's Haunted Happenings grand parade you can watch it online thanks to Salem Access Television even if you aren't from Salem. It's a pretty budget operation, but still fun. My favorite part is about three and a half minutes in when they cut to the man on the street and keep talking not knowing their microphones are still on, haha.

--The biggest Salem related story around right now is definitely the one about the family that got stuck in the Salem Village corn maze at Connors Farm in Danvers.

 Their incredibly apt slogan is "GET LOST!"

About half an hour after closing time a frightened family who was out with their three week old baby for the first time called 911 which responded with a K9 unit in order to find them within the 7-acre maze - ended up they were about 25 feet from the exit and it took the cops less than five minutes to find them. A part of me feels bad for them, but most of me finds this hilarious - kudos to the maze creators for actually making it difficult enough to get people lost! This story will get bigger as it has already been covered by LA Times, NPR, USA Today, and The New York Post, but has also been picked up by CNN, Jay Leno, and Good Morning America.

[edit: Associated Press video here: LOL

--Count Orlok's Nightmare Gallery reports having a great turnout to meet Jason of Friday the 13th VII-X and stuntman extraordinaire Kane Hodder. Here's a picture of him murdering gallery owner James.

Nice knowing you, pal.

Bill Johnson, Leatherface in Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, is there this weekend and rumor has it that James found an antique puzzle box and will use it to summon Hellraiser's Pinhead the Cenobite himself, Doug Bradley, from the depths of hell for next weekend's celebrity appearance.

October 6, 2011

The Witch Trials Did Not Happen in Danvers

              With so many awesome things going on this month it's hard to keep track. Just this week we have things like today's Haunted Happenings Opening Day Parade, tomorrow's midnight showing of Rocky Horror at Cinema Salem, free movies on Salem Common at 8pm Saturdays (Oct 8-Monsters, Inc., Oct 15 Casper, Oct 22 Hocus Pocus, Oct 29 Beetlejuice), and this weekend is the first street fair of the month, so vendors and street performers will be out in droves. 

Oh, and this Saturday is the annual Salem Zombie Walk so be sure and grab some corn syrup and red food coloring.

 I like the part with the zombies.

In Lords of Salem news, Rob Zombie is posting pictures of people on his Facebook (which at the moment is the best way to keep updated about the movie) as they get cast and the last one was for Dee Wallace. The interesting things is part is of what he wrote for the caption:

"With less than 2 weeks until the start of filming the cast members are coming on board quickly. The latest addition to THE LORDS OF SALEM is our good friend DEE WALLACE. Dee plays the role of Sonny, a self-help guru."

Now two things can be surmised from this quote: firstly, that her character to will die a horrible death, as anyone described as a "self-help guru" inevitably will (and should) in a  horror movie [update: She's actually one of the witches!], but the part that really got me excited was him mentioning filming will be beginning just before the last week in October. Are we still safe to assume they will be taking shots of the crowds and filming certain scenes that might be dependent on crowds right downtown in the midst of the October excitement? It's way cheaper than paying extras! And a lot of people don't know, the way that filming permits work in Salem is that you only need to obtain one if you intend to block off streets. That means they can show up any day with no warning at all!

Boo! Imagine turning around and seeing this?

So Salem has been all over the national and international news, blogs, little local news segments around the country - everyone is getting into the spirit, but the only problem is how many journalists and bloggers are quick to add a little snarky jab about how the witch trials didn't even happen in Salem, but the next town over in Danvers. 

This has always been a pet peeve of mine - when people hear a small amount of information and run around regurgitating it as if they are an authority. So let me take a moment to explain to anyone that doesn't know: the Salem Witch Trials happened in (surprise surprise) Salem! 

What is now Salem was then called Salem Towne which was the downtown area surrounded by smaller farming communities. The small girls who made the initial accusations were from a part of Salem then known as Salem Village which is now modern Danvers starting in January. Arrests and examinations started in March (The first three victims arrested Feb 29th). Essentially, these "examinations" were insane verbally abusive arraignments where the victim was faced with the charge and given a chance to enter a plea, but not really because they would just yell at the person more and the little girls would bug out. They were not trials.

Things were getting out of hand as more and more people were being accused and arrested. The governor issued a commission for a Court of Oyer and Terminer and they chose a courthouse in what is now downtown Salem in the center of Washington st to house these, the actual trials - which started in JUNE with the trial of Bridget Bishop, first to be hanged on Gallow's Hill (also located in Salem btw) . All of the more than 150 people found guilty of witchcraft were tried in what is now modern day downtown Salem. There is even a plaque there that no one ever notices.

In addition, the site of the Witch Dungeon, where the victims were brought from other prisons and jails in order to be tortured and outside of which Giles Corey was pressed to death is in Salem.

Yes, many notable figures from the trials were from Danvers, but if you look into it you will see that there were also victims from Boxford, Andover, Ipswich, even as far as Welles Maine. On top of that, if you do the math you will find that more victims were from Salem Towne than Salem Village so if it was a contest hooray we win..., more people died from here. ...Yippie. Not really something to be proud of, but I am just sick of people spreading misinformation around.

September 29, 2011

October 2011: How to not be a Stupid Tourist in Salem

             After living and working in Salem for as many Octobers as I have you start to notice the patterns and cycles of tourist behavior much like a primatologist notices the patterns of apes eating insects off each other and picking at their butts. In this entry I hope to create a handy guide for any tourist visiting this month not hoping to look stupid or have a horrible time.

B. What to Visit
 1. Witch Museums
 2. Other Tourist Museums
 3. Classy Stuff
 4. Etc
C. Spooky Stuff
D. Where to Eat
E. Modern Witchcraft
F. Random Tips

Salem Witch Wiles' Guide to Not Being A Stupid Tourist  

A. FAQs - Most Frequently Asked Questions
   1. Where is the House of Seven Gables?
   2. Where is the Witch Museum?
   3. Where is a bathroom?
   4. Where can I get a trolley ticket?
   5. Where is ____?

Answer: GET A FUCKING MAP. Seriously, they are free and all over the damn city. There are three or four different maps from a few different companies and they all compete and make all their revenue off advertising. Sit your ass down and look at the map, read the stupid guides with all the info and figure out what you're doing BEFORE you start aimlessly wandering around like a drunk guy in a Goofy hat in Disneyland.

B. What to Visit Whatever the hell you want! Seriously, you can't make your own decisions with the internet and all the free brochures everyone showers you with the moment you get into town? OK, fine. I will sum up for you, but keep in mind there is more:  

1. Witch Museums -

   The similar names of these museums are not only confusing to tourists, locals usually just choose one favorite and never even check the others out. Before we get into how these attractions are different let me sum up their similarities: They all seem to have broken animatronics that haven't worked in a long time, they all cost around the same amount and last around the same amount of time, and I have heard equally great and horrible reviews for each. Also, each one of these museums is about the hysteria of 1692, almost forgot to mention that.

The Salem Witch Museum - Stand and learn while scenes light up around you.
The Witch History Museum - Walk through the scenes as some educational stuff happens.
Witch Dungeon MuseumTrial scene followed by a walk through some scenes.  

2. Other Tourist Museums -

There are other things to learn about in town besides 1692. Here is our list of other tourist museums. Reviews vary drastically.

Count Orlok's Nightmare Gallery - One of the few places in town I never feel uneasy recommending, even though it's not about Salem at all! It's a museum about the history of horror cinema, everything from Wolfman and The Creature from the Black Lagoon, to Freddy and Jason. It's an educational history museum for huge horror film nerds. Celebrity appearances this year by Doug Bradley (Pinhead), Kane Hodder (Jason), and Bill Johnson (Leatherface)! Careful though, during high traffic busy times like weekends in October this becomes a haunted attraction.
The Pirate Museum - Walk through scenes talking about Salem's pirate history, *SPOILER (lulz)* dude jumps out at you at the end.
The Wax Museum/Witch Village - The Wax Museum is one large room with scenes of Salem's history around it. If you don't read all the plaques and take your time you might think it's too short/small. The Witch Village is a guided tour half about Salem and half about witchcraft. BOTH of these attractions may or may not suddenly become dry ice filled strobe lit haunted houses during high-traffic times.
The Witch House - The name of this place has always bugged me. It's a way of tricking tourists into going there. They even painted it black to make it more "witchy". See, it is the only home still standing with direct ties to the hysteria trials - it's the house of Jonathan Corwin, who joined the Court of Oyer and Terminer to replace Nathaniel Saltonstall, who resigned after the first execution. So really, he was just a replacement, not even a first choice for the court. This museum isn't about 1692 at all, but more about the home itself, architecture, furnishings, and the history of the Corwin family. It has historic validity, it should just be called The Corwin House. The rumors about some of the examinations of victims of 1692 happening here are just bogus.
The World of Witches Museum - Haunted attraction that has been renovated into an educational tour about witchcraft.

3. Classy Stuff -
 The PEM - class and style.

A few of the things that the average tourist wont have time for in October.

Salem Maritime National Historic Site - Check out the replica of The Friendship ship, museum, Custom House, etc.
Peabody Essex Museum - Super classy and cultural. If it isn't October or you have some extra time, dedicate a bunch of hours or a whole day to this place.
The House of Seven Gables - Historic house museum on which Nathaniel Hawthorne's book was based. Also, the author's birthplace has been moved here.
Salem Willows Park - A nice little ocean-side park with arcades, cotton candy, and a carousel.
There are lots of other guided tours through historic homes and such, but most of them are pretty similar.

4. Etc.

Things I can't quite classify.

The Witch Trials Memorial - The only place you can pay respect to all the innocent people killed in 1692. Remember, we all have so much fun in Salem because a bunch of people were tortured and killed unjustly - how's that for a guilt trip? Take a little bit of time to reflect at the memorial and pay your respects.

The Bewitched Statue - A cheese-tastic homage to tourism in Salem.

C. Spooky Stuff
I found this picture of an actual Salem tourist entering one of our most horrific haunted attractions!

First things first, this is not Disney World. This is not even Spooky World. Things in Salem tend to be on a much smaller budget than standard haunted attractions you'll find in other places. I am not going to rate these because there are just so many variables involved in any individual experience, but I will say that The Boston Phoenix best described it by saying one "resembles a ransacked party store" . All last about the same amount of time and cost around the same amount of money. As of today there are exactly 4 haunted attractions in Salem (not including the few that become haunted mentioned above):
The Witch Mansion
The Nightmare Factory
13 Ghosts (The shortest)
Frankenstien's Laboratory (The longest)

D. Where to Eat
 VLT - BLT with vegan tempeh bacon at Coven.

With over 60 places to eat in Salem, it's pretty much impossible for me to review everything or make any recommendations, just a few things:

--If you are vegetarian you can check out my blog entry all about the best veggie places in Salem.

--Salem has just about every different type of food you can imagine - pubs, Chinese, pizza, cafes, classy expensive places, cheap family fare, a brewery, Thai, Indian, Caribbean, Polish and everything else - don't waste your money getting nasty sausages and junk from street vendors.

--There are ice cream shops all over town. If you can't find one just keep walking until you do.

--If you go to Dunkin Donuts I will fucking slap you. Sure, many New-Englanders have bad taste and prefer them over anything else, but there are some of us who would rather recommend one of our many many local cafes for your caffeine fix.

E. Modern Witchcraft

These are places that witches visiting Salem will want to see. Mostly just shops, and there are lots more.

Crow Haven Corner - The oldest witch shop in the country, first opened up by Laurie Cabot.
The Salem Witch Walk Ever wonder why, if everyone in 1692 was an innocent victim and not a real witch, there are so many witches in Salem today? This tour explains what real witchcraft is while discussing the hysteria from a modern witch's perspective and starts with a participatory ritual at Crow Haven Corner. And I don't just love the tour because it helps clear things up for witches and Salemites alike, I'm also the tour guide!
Hex, Omen, & Festival of the Dead events - Halloween ringmaster Christian Day's October Circus
Laurie Cabot's Shop - Just changed names from "The Cat, the Crow, and the Crown" to "The Official Witch Shoppe". Don't get your hopes up and expect Laurie to be just chilling in her shop talking to tourists. She has better things to do.
Bewitched in Salem - Talk about eclectic, this witch shop has so many random things it's not even a witch shop anymore - it's an everything shop. From their website "A 4 inch ivory Jesus and a 4 foot steel Baphomet can share the same space.  We do not discriminate."
Site of Laurie Cabot's first shop! - What the hell is a Crotchet, much less an entire box of them? 100 Derby st is where Laurie Cabot opened the very first (and extremely short-lived) witchcraft shop in America before she gave it a second try and succeeded with Crow Haven Corner. Nowadays it's an awkward looking red house with a sign that makes no sense and many tourists assume is some kind of dirty joke they just don't get..

Line waiting to go into Laurie's current shop before it's recent name change.

F.  Random tips

1. Dress appropriately - If you are wearing an expensive costume in Salem on Halloween night don't be upset if it gets stepped on, squashed, or otherwise soiled. That's right, I said soiled. All kinds of things are possible.
2. Be prepared to wait in line - Everywhere you go. Your whole trip. It sucks, I know, but just get used to it and get over it. The picture above is of people waiting in line just to get into Laurie Cabot's shop. The crowds can get a little dense, too, so be careful not to lose your friends.
3. Don't be fooled by signs - Apparently the laws about being able to say you are the "Official", "highest rated", "most popular", or "scariest" are pretty lax, because everything in town claims to be "the best".
4. Be weary of advice on the street - Unless it is someone dressed as a park ranger from the visitor center, someone from the official city tourist info booth (picture at top of page), or you just get lucky, odds are the person offering you friendly advice on what attraction to visit is being paid to do so by said attraction. Also, if you are stupid enough to keep taking flyers, DON'T LITTER!
5. And THE MOST IMPORTANT TIP for not being a stupid tourist is don't worry about being a stupid tourist! Relax, don't schedule every little thing, and don't be upset if things don't work out how you expect them to! With so much insanity all over the city all month you are bound to get caught up in something - make sure it's not drama!

September 7, 2011

Rob Zombie's Latest Visit to Salem for Location Scouting (With new Pics!)

 [11/21/11: Most recent article here.]

No update on Rob Zombie's visit to Salem yesterday on his blog yet, but he did stop to take lots of pictures and sign lots of autographs for fans, his Twitter says it was just more scouting and nothing too serious yet. If you don't know what I'm talking about you can read about it in these two previous entries.

Just now, though, he released some pictures so I'm sure his blog will be updated soon. Here's your first exclusive look at these pictures which I recognize as being taken in Salem's beautiful Greenlawn Cemetery , which is a mile or less north of downtown.

Since February, every blogger and news publication writing about this movie keeps recycling the same few bits of information over and over. Firstly, the synopsis, secondly the pictures (both from Wayne Toth's SFX studio and the location scouting), and the quote from Rob "Lords of Salem’ is probably the bleakest of all my films." There's a simple explanation for this: that's all the information we have so far.

On top of this is the constant changing of announced shooting times. Is this just a ploy to confuse fans? First we heard spring, then after his tour ended, now he is saying October. Will he really be shooting in Salem during October, with thousands of crazy tourists running around?

For now all we have to hold us over are these pictures and the ones from yesterday of him with some locals and baristas at the Gulu Gulu cafe where he ordered a vegan sandwich, and in Count Orloks Nightmare Gallery with the owner, James, who is such a huge horror film fan he has an awesome tourist attraction about the history of horror film [That's him in the main picture above, look how HAPPY he is!]. A lot of other people saw him on Essex st. He is said to have signed some autographs for some of the guys at a haunted house in the mall, The Nightmare Factory ... In fact, I just realized something - he visited all the places with the highest Tripadvisor ratings! I guess that makes sense, but that's still pretty funny. All the more reason to harass my tourists and make them all write good reviews for my tour! lol Also, the leader of The Salem Zombie Walk was able to give Rob a card and officially invite him to this year's FOURTH annual event. He will be in town, so maybe he'll show up!

If you are still thirsty for more info on this film go straight to the source, Rob Zombie's own film blog's entries have all the teaser pictures. Luckily he started numbering his posts about this project so it's easier to sort through them.

First Location Scout

First Image

Second Location Scout

First Special Effects Update

Second Special Effects Update

Third Special Effects Update

Next update - any moment now I'm sure. Will let you know.

August 22, 2011

What's Been Banished and What is Sacred Space - Changing businesses in Downtown Salem

[Quick side note: Here's the new poster Rob Zombie released the other day for his upcoming movie Lords of Salem. Word is shooting has been pushed back ONCE AGAIN (from September to October this time). Personally, I think it was his plan to shoot in October all along and he has just been teasing fans. For more info check these two blog entries.]

Many people make the mistake of thinking Salem is a tourist town, but with the many faces the city wears we have infinite varieties of businesses.

One of the things I have always found fascinating is the ever-changing storefronts on Essex st, and the failure and success of local businesses. So what's new in Salem this year? What businesses have gone to the gallows? Here are a few of the ones I consider noteworthy.

Asahi is gone - The only truly authentic Japanese restaurant downtown closed suddenly and with no warning whatsoever. I went there for lunch one day and there was simply a sign on the door thanking loyal customers for years of service. I assume it was a simple lack of profit and the winter slow-season that did it. If you want soba or udon you'll have to DRIVE (or walk 30 minutes) to Okea all the way the hell in south Salem near the University. It's pretty depressing.

Spellbound still clings to life - Many people thought this staple of ghost tours was gone after the owner decided to close her museum of oddities and ghostly parlor show, but you can still find the booth selling tickets for their nightly walking tour on Essex st. Lot's of rumors about what actually went on here, but I can't verify anything. Some people were saying the owner had some health problems. I'm glad to hear she is ok.

The Lyceum goes hipster - I'm sorry, I just can't stop going on about how lame the new name for this restaurant is. This historic building located at 43 Church st was once a lyceum so when it became a restaurant, calling it "The Lyceum" seemed like a great way to pay homage to it's roots, but now that it's under new management (or someone said the owner just got someone else to revamp/run it for them or something, who cares) they decided it was time to get with the times and change the name to something more cryptic and bohemian sounding, like 43 church. How creative. Also, locals are lolling at their menu prices: $30-40 entrees and $45 steaks - yeah, good luck with that guys!

...and speaking of hipsters - Some new entrepreneurs in town somehow managed to open THREE separate shops downtown this year after only living in town for two years. They are hoping to draw more year-round local shoppers than tourists with their two gift shops Roost and The Beehive on Front st, and their bath and body shop, Scrub up on Essex. So what kinds of things do they have? Let me put it this way, my wife loves dragging me to these shops. The Beehive is a good place to buy gag gifts for your goofy uncle and Roost is where you get something a bit more classy for your mom.

Mary retires :( - If you've been to Bangkok Paradise more than a few times you were probably on a first name basis with the owner, Mary. And if you are a local musician you probably already knew it's pretty easy to convince her to let just about any musical act play there as long as you assure her there will be people buying drinks. That flexibility (and, let's be honest, highly visible location) is part of what has made this restaurant so popular and well-known. From what I understand, the business still exists and will be re-opening with little-to-no change, but will they still be a venue? I haven't been able to find that out yet.

New haunt is just like the old ones - Honestly, I don't care if 8 bucks for a five minute walk through a strobe and black lit haunted house is a total rip-off. I have always loved cheesy horrors regardless of how unscary they turn out. [Edit: CENSORED 10/16/13] Salem needs some new creative blood in haunted attraction design. Industry standard in Salem is to churn out cookie-cutter garbage, when the reality of the industry as a whole is that creativity always beats the status quo.

Life and Death passes away - Everything must die, but the only real goth shop in town was murdered in it's prime. The owner, Nichole, had a unique vision: part gift shop, part small venue, and with the most morbid nightly walking tour in town... An homage to the subculture and a favorite of any all-black-wearing tourist, while also being just barely family friendly enough to appeal to a wide demographic. What went wrong? It's not entirely clear, but I have a feeling that we can all blame raising rent from the greedy people that own the East India Mall where the shop was located. Stupid yuppies picking on the goth girl just like back in high school. As of now there is really only one place for freaks in Salem, Fool's Mansion, but it's mostly expensive clothing, not a gift shop at all - and certainly out of the average goth kid's price range. I recommend their Vlad Tepes t-shirts.

Bulk hippie feed at Salem's FIRST green grocer! - If you're like me, and think that weird crunchy granola hippie food is the best shit in the entire world then you are also going to FLIP OUT over how fantastic Milk and Honey is. Besides the fact that it's named after two animal byproducts, it's the only place in Salem with a wide variety of vegetarian and vegan groceries. Sick of paying Whole Foods (aka Whole Paycheck) prices for happy food? Then go here! I just can't say enough about how necessary this place was. I told the owner that if she ever had financial difficulties I would work there for free and I meant it. It's a beautiful oasis of tempeh and couscous. I want to paint rainbows and dreadlock my hair just thinking about it.

Finally, weird t-shirts for tourists - If you love Salem so much that you can also make fun of it then take your sense of humor to The Back Room. Located, literally, in the back room of a women's clothing shop, this new company has the funniest Salem shirts/hoodies I have seen in a decade. Some designs include a Mickey Mouse with a skull for a head that says "Salem, Disneyland of the dead" and the Starbucks logo made into a Salem witch. This shop is somehow affiliated with the local screen printing company Gorilla, which buys designs from artists, so I have been very curious to know if all these fun new designs are the work of one awesome individual or a collection of ideas from different artists.

So what will stand the test of time? Just as the first settlers and pioneers in town faced an arduous winter, Salem is well-known for failed businesses that start of full of promise only starve to death during the winter slow-season. Destination Salem has been desperately trying to promote Salem as a place to come to all year long and not just for touristy stuff, but will it work? If we build it will they come?

August 15, 2011

Cat Fight with a Dash of Pepper

Instead of sharing witchy fashion tips and talking about their dogs it would seem that, for two particular Salem witches with shops on Essex st., having a lot in common just isn't enough. I am going to go ahead and try to trivialize the situation by referring to what occurred as a "cat fight" even though I wasn't there - and also because I really don't want to imagine these two people fighting, it just hurts my brain and makes me terribly terribly depressed.

Once again, another situation that I am too close to and probably shouldn't comment on. A particular fact is bothering me though - two people fighting is one thing, but when a young man steps in and maces a woman in the face you are approaching white trash territory. I mean, we all have arms and are capable of breaking up a fight without weapons. During the Essex st fair their are vendors, children, families, and dogs everywhere - there is no need to be flinging pepper spray around on a crowded st during tax-free weekend. It's irresponsible.

The police are sick of crap like this. They find it goofy and really try to pay as little attention as possible. I mean, in this case violence was alleged, weapons were used, and charges were pressed - yet there were no arrests? The police just don't want to deal with what they consider petty drama. They try to do their jobs but I can imagine them taking reports and just sighing and rolling their eyes the entire time.

Anyways, most people in town are hoping to avoid bad press and hoping this story doesn't get blown into something it wasn't. I am one of those people. I'm only posting this entry for posterity and not going to spam for hits. I am going to chalk the situation up to stressed-out business owners venting anger on each other instead of the people who really deserve it - TOURISTS.

[All information in this entry is stolen from: ]

July 21, 2011

Christian Day's Day of Reckoning

So many good headline ideas for this one. Here's just a few more:

Salem Witch on Trial

Warlock Accused of Cursing!

Psychic Didn't Foresee Troubles

Angry Townspeople Rally Against Witch

Facebook Flamewar Witch-Wars Lead to IRL Problems

There are endless possibilities.

Basically, a few local shop owners and psychics, who are any combination of annoyed/angered/jealous of Christian's hyper-competitive attitude and constant media attention banded together with the intention of taking him down. Whether they actually felt threatened or are doing this for business reasons is up for debate. Once again, this is a story where I know people on both sides and would rather not make judgements.

Christian, like most people, shares too much of his thoughts and feelings on Facebook and sometimes gets into fights and flamewars ( Some of these alleged victims, it seems, considered the insults and arguments as threats. Christian is quoted in the paper saying, "There were arguments on Facebook," he said. "I don't believe they rose to the level of threats."

Really, there is not too much to say about this story that The Salem News didn't already NOT cover. You see, the hearing itself was closed of to the media/public so unless the people present start blabbing, we will never know the nature of the actual "threats".

Either way, the Licensing Board decided to basically put him on a probationary period of one year where if he fucks up they'll revoke his fortune telling license for six months.

I have a feeling that his enemies are going to be following him around with tape recorders and taking screencaps of everything he says online in the hopes of getting rid of him. The people that hate him really hate him, it's pretty ridiculous. Like, a lot of people in the pagan community just roll their eyes at some of the stuff Christian says and does, but there are also people who are legitimately bent on taking him down. That's just weird.

To me, the most shocking thing about this whole situation is how two police detectives, a special investigator, the licensing board, the shop owners and psychics involved, and the media are all paying so much attention to people bitching at each other on Facebook. If these were all poor people involved no one would even pay attention.

In general I make it a point to defend people with "celebrity" status when they make mistakes that average people make. When someone is famous an allegation becomes a fact in the public's eye immediately. Something about society makes people want to destroy successful people.

Christian is actually describing himself as "humbled" by this experience. Hopefully a little humility is all that's needed in order to put this serious stuff behind him and get back to his usual ridiculious antics because they are way more fun to write about and this story is just lame.

July 18, 2011

On Metaphysical Reality and the Reality of Reality TV in Salem

"Love your blog, Tom! You've got all the good gossip!"

Oops. I thought I was kind of like doing the news? I like to take advantage of my unique perspective of the goings on in Salem in order to inform others. I don't mean to gossip.

And today I have a few different things to get into.

Firstly, in a move that has got some Salem witches clutching their crystal balls the City Council decided to temporarily suspend the issuance of licenses to new psychics! The Salem News quoted the councilor-at-large as saying "This is a loophole here, and we want to be able to tighten it up." She also wouldn't say which business was taking advantage of this loophole, but I know who they are!

Here I need to quickly bring up the point and make it very clear to outsiders or those who don't know the full story, that this entire issue is pure business on all sides and has nothing to do with keeping Salem psychics authentic (lol, I know, I know...). I have to make the point that some people would consider taking advantage of a loophole an intelligent business decision. In this case it's not necessarily something I would personally do, but I am not going to judge these people for their choices.

See, the way it works, a shop has to be more than half (51% to be precise) "metaphysical" in nature in order to be allowed to get a psychic license. This is to make sure that every single shop downtown doesn't hire fly-by-night psychics for tourist season (although some still get away with it). So when one local business didn't make the 51% mark their lawyer noticed this trick: you can just start a second company that is located in the same shop. See, it's not based on how much merchandise you have, it's based on sales, so if there are two cash registers each dedicated to it's own company you can do psychic readings from your newly created company which is truly absolutely metaphysical considering metaphysics is the study of the nature of reality and it's questionable whether or not the company actually exists.

And, following that line of thought for a moment, how the holy quantum hell does the city define "metaphysical"? Does this mean if I had an art store that sold Man Ray and Picasso pieces I could have fortune tellers? The study of metaphysics is, in a way, the study of the study of things (and often times the study of the study of the study of...[etc. ad infinitum]... things)., so it's not necessarily spirituality, it is philosophical and surreal. In an existentialist's nightmare this term could technically include every single business that exists. In fact, it could specifically apply to non-existent businesses.

I think I just blew my mind.

The other big news in town is the hype surrounding the upcoming reality show The Young Witches of Salem. And when I say hype I mean it... LOT'S of local organizations are involved, The World of Witches Museum, Magick TV, The Temple of Tituba,, and even The First Chancellor and First Elder of the Corellian tradition of witchcraft located right here in Salem!

Are you excited?! Is the hype making you desperate to see the reality behind being a young witch living in Salem working in the tourist industry??? Is the finger holding down your shift button twitching with anticipation leaving a few exclamation points as ones??

Well before you get too excited check out this hilarious commercial that I file under "snarks itself".


Let me break it down for you: Witch School, the World of Witches Museum, Magick TV, ALL of the above mentioned organizations are actually creations of two dudes. And not just any two dudes, but two whom are infamous throughout the national pagan community for their get rich quick schemes. Don't get me wrong, these guys have both been super nice to me and their intentions always seem sincere, but their insistence that every single new project they have is going to revolutionize witchcraft and that they are at the forefront of the most modern technological advances in marketing is getting a little old. Everyone knows they lucked out by getting and the name is 90% of what sells it. It's their cash cow and they are bored with the milk and want to make gourmet cheese with it. But really, if the site was so successful it wouldn't look like something Richard Langly, Melvin Frohike and John Fitzgerald Byers created using HTML in 1994. With all the business pitches and press releases all the time, I am starting to see why some people compare them to two specific cartoon characters.

June 6, 2011

Salem is so Hip that The Fonz *and* the cast of Glee all Chill Here

Essex street has been busy, I've been doing lots of witchcraft tours and life has been interesting. Around here there are lots of strange things. For instance, when it's early in the morning and you go to your local cafe what do you see out the window? This is what I see:

Only in Salem.

Gleeks, (or as I like to call them glorons, glidiots, or gleetards) in Salem, MA are all breaking their exclamation mark buttons posting about Chris Colfer and Ashley Fink from the popular tv show Glee visiting town. Apparently they were just chilling being tourists and I'm sure ended up having to run away and hide after people started realizing it was them. For some reason celebrities always get mobbed in Salem. Remember what happened to poor Shaq when he came here? Haha... So they are in town because they have a show at The Garden or something. I don't really care.

In much cooler news, there were reports that The Fonz( was in town the other day hanging out!! He, Selma Hayek and Kevin James have been filming around Boston and Quincy for a movie coming out in 2012 that sounds really boring called Here Comes the Boom( There was also a Craigslist posting for extras a few weeks ago that said they were going to be needing people for the crowd in a scene where there is some sort of riot.

And one other thing I just have to mention. If you haven't seen it yet here is the horrible picture of the strange multi-breasted Baphomet type creature which is the latest behind the scenes photo released by Rob Zombie of some of the icky special effects we will be seeing in Lords of Salem. Warning: that link is not safe for work, people might look over your shoulder and think you are looking at some weeeeird stuff.

May 23, 2011

Next Big Thing for Salem: An Online Video Game about Puritans? [Update: BETA Signups Have Started!]

[Update 3/23/12: After being put off a few times BETA signups are finally open! Sign up here: ]

A small game developing company named Seatribe is developing a game for Paradox Interactive which seems to be full of revolutionary ideas and has a lot of gamers buzzing.

Their new browser-based MMO Salem is to be set in a fantastical and mythical version of the harsh wilderness of colonial New England that the early settlers faced, the biggest difference being that in this case the magic and witchcraft is real and not just the product of ignorant fanatical religious fundamentalism.

The look of the game is right on the line between morbid and cutesy. The developer has stated his stylistic influences specifically include artists such as Herman Melville, H.P. Lovecraft, Tim Burton, and Edgar Allan Poe. This is most apparent in the design of the characters:

Aw, what a cute little zealot.

The one thing I am not a huge fan of, but many people are, is the fact that Salem is going to rely heavily on crafting. In other words, building, hunting, farming, cooking, pottery, blacksmithing, etc. - this is going to be the core of the game. According to developers there will be "no quests", so this gets some people worrying, does that mean that this is going to just be another one of those Farmville type games?

This is where the revolutionary part comes in. First, Salem will offer fully terraformable persistent and changing environments, which means when you change something it stays that way - forever. Secondly, the death system is full PVP (player vs player) and features perma-death - so once you die, you are dead forever. A good chunk of the hard work and wealth you've accumulated is gone for good, too, excepting a small amount passed on to your "heir" which is how you can continue to progress.

As to how they are going to balance out these two aspects of the game, which seem extreme and in opposition to each other is beyond me. No successful game to date has been crafting dependent and had open PVP with perma-death, it just seems too easy to exploit.

As this is an MMO time progresses at a normal pace whether you are playing or not, but day and night are being handled in a unique way that gives homage to the Puritan's actual historic beliefs. You see, the Puritans literally believed that darkness was evil. That which they could not understand or comprehend was therefore evil by default. Much in the same way, the virtual Puritans in Salem will be surrounded in darkness at the beginning of the game, but as they progress and gain more Civilization Points they will begin to be able to see and understand the forests, and the world around them.

So, where does witchcraft work it's way into the game? This is The Witch City of course.

Details seem sketchy so far, but it seems players will be able to choose one of two magical paths, one of which being witchcraft. I am assuming that the use of light or dark magic is what will divide the population into two opposing factions, because I couldn't imagine Puritans and witches working together towards a common goal, even if in just a video game.

Also, by the looks of the pictures the Puritans might be the evil ones. Just look at this little bastard:

Release date is set for Q4, which in non-video game person language means the fourth quarter of this year. Oh yes, and one last important thing. IT'S FREE. [Update 3/23/12: After being put off a few times BETA signups are finally open! Sign up here: ]

May 16, 2011

Clues in Leaked "Lords of Salem" Photos with a Better Synopsis, and a Bit on Celebrity Witches in Salem

 [11/21/11: Most recent article here.]

Rob Zombie's Lords of Salem is taking shape as he slowly leaks more and more information. In the past month we have learned via his film blog ( that shooting for the movie is now going to be "after the summer" instead of throughout this spring as was earlier reported. He has also posted some pictures taken by Wayne Toth in his fx studio. If you look reeeally close you can see they might give away a bit more than it first seems. This picture in particular is very interesting to me.

Back of Head

First, in the background you can see a chair covered in spikes that we can deduce is probably one of the torture devices used in the film, also you can see a second spiked iron mask on the counter which could be either a stage in the fx development of the one we've already seen or maybe a second one, which might imply that the masks are a theme we will see throughout the movie. BUT most strange about this picture is the back of the neck on the piece we see the artist working on... Are those some sort of tentacles?? What the holy hell is going on here?

Calamari Anyone?
Calamari anyone?

Let us assume that this is a beginning process in creating locks of hair or something until we know for sure what it is.

Also, I am curious to know what is hanging on the walls in the background of this one.

body parts?
Something significant or just the usual random body parts you'd find in Mr. Toth's studio?

Well luckily Mr. Zombie has released a fleshed-out synopsis and, although it doesn't say anything about Davey Jones emerging from his locker to make an appearance, it does show us how cheesy the plot is going to be:

" Heidi, a blonde rock chick, DJs at a local radio station, and together with the two Hermans (Whitey and Munster) forms part of the "Big H Radio Team".

A mysterious wooden box containing a vinyl record arrives for Heidi, "a gift from the Lords". She assumes it's a rock band on a mission to spread their word. As Heidi and Whitey play the Lords' record, it starts to play backwards, and Heidi experiences a flashback to a past trauma.

Later Whitey plays the Lords' record, dubbing them the Lords of Salem, and to his surprise, the record plays normally and is a massive hit with listeners.

The arrival of another wooden box from the Lords presents the Big H Team with free tickets, posters and records to host a gig in Salem. Soon Heidi and her cohorts find that the gig is far from the rock spectacle they're expecting: the original Lords of Salem are returning, and they're out for BLOOD. "
(from IMGlobal)

Sounds pretty typical. I have a feeling that this film is going to rely less on the story and more on disturbing and gory special effects and imagery, which is not a bad thing when you think about it. I mean, without seeing House of 1000 Corpses the synopsis sounds like garbage, and that turned out fantastic.

In more personal news, I thought not working for Spellbound Tours anymore would be very depressing, but really the only thing I miss about the company is the owner, my old boss Mollie, who had become a friend of mine throughout the years, but in reality switching to a new company is working out great for me.

The tour I am doing now, The Salem Witch Walk, is fantastic. I get to help tourists understand what real witchcraft is, and it's not one of those crappy fifteen minute tours through a renovated haunted house like some other sites in town, but an entire 90 minute walk around downtown. I basically have time to get into just about everything Salem/witch related, from the simple stuff like pagan holidays and associations to the hysteria of 1692, to quantum theory's relation to spellworking, commercialization and capitalization of witchcraft in Salem, and the complicated debate about the roll of cursing and hexing within the confines of the balance found in nature and in the context of the craft.

Haha, well the way I explain it makes it sound complicated but it's not.

Some people have voiced concern over my taking a position working for/with such fiery local celebrity witches as Christian Day and Lorelei after always being outspoken about my feelings towards "selling out" and such. I find that the people who say this type of thing are most often the people who actually know the LEAST about witchcraft, tourism, and what it even means to sell out.

With all the hype many people forget that these wily witches are just normal people, including such hugely famous people like Laurie Cabot (who clearly needs a website revamp). Of course working in a tourist town where your religion is a commodity is walking a fine line, but with all the cute and cheesy stuff that they do, for every time they do something that makes some pagans cringe, they also open up hearts and minds to the craft every single day. Like, LOTS of people. Every. Single. Day.

They also value our differences and encourage me to express myself and make the tour my own because they care about the business being successful and know I am great at what I do. They trust that I wont make them look bad even if we do differ in opinions on certain subjects because it's pretty clear I go out of my way to be politically correct - and on the tours it's the same. I give people an objective view devoid of personal opinion peppered with my usual satirical humanism and anti-nihilist quips. If someone has a problem with something, I offer the other side of the argument. People really appreciate when I play devil's advocate on the tours, because it makes it clear that I am not trying to make them think what I think, but help them understand for themselves.