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Salem Massachusetts Halloween 2020 – Will It Happen?

Recently on the site I posted a video/article called, “Should You Visit Salem Massachusetts?” That got me thinking about Halloween in the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic. So I made it my mission to try and answer the question, “Are we going to have Salem Massachusetts Halloween 2020?” Here’s what I found.


September 2020 Update

Instead of recording another video to update everyone, I thought the best way to handle it would be to simply update the on-site space with Salem Massachusetts Halloween 2020 information as it rolls out. Here’s what has developed since the recording of the video above.

On May 18th, Massachusetts started a four phase reopening procedure that is still currently underway. The restrictions in play impact the sorts of things you’d expect: group gathering sizes, indoor occupancy limits, proper sanitation procedures, mask policies, etc.

Unfortunately, the city of Salem is in a bit of a hard situation with such restrictions in place. Usually, the Haunted Happenings celebration brings a massive number of visitors to Salem’s streets where they are jam-packed into the small city center to enjoy concerts, vendors, food, and spooky fun. As you’d imagine, the very idea that a mass of people might descend on what has been one of the hardest-to-manage COVID regions in the US is enough to make the Massachusetts and Salem government clamp down hard. Here’s what to expect.


What to Expect from Salem Massachusetts Halloween 2020

  • Salem Halloween 2020 Events

    • As of now, many of the regularly-scheduled events in the Haunted Happenings celebration are canceled. A full list of cancellations can be found here, but some of the larger ones are: the Haunted Happenings Grand Parade, the Kids’ Costume Parade, the Biz Baz Street Fair, Creative Collective Merchant Marketplace vendors, all Outdoor food vendors, the Great Salem Pumpkin Walk, and several others.
  • Salem Shops

    • Most of Salem’s shops remain open. A few have unfortunately gone out of business entirely due to the pandemic. But, generally, you can expect most of the stores to be open with alterations. All stores will have occupancy limits enforced, so expect some wait times. Some will have outdoor browsing options. Salem’s psychics and tarot readers will also be operational, but no word yet on how they’ll maintain social distancing during the readings.
    • Luckily the city of Salem has set up an online portal for you to frequent all of the shops and vendors who either won’t be open this year or can’t attend the celebration for other reasons. You can check that out here.




Salem Waterfront Hotel and Suites

  • Halloween 2020 Parking in Salem

    • Parking in the downtown area will be severely reduced to accommodate the now needed outdoor space for Salem’s vendors, restaurants, attractions, buskers, and more. While the garages will be a safe bet, street parking should be considered mostly off limits. If you can safely take public transportation and sidestep the need for parking entirely, the city of Salem definitely encourages it.
  • Public Transportation

    • Public transportation will be open, excluding the ferry from Boston to Salem. The city of Salem is encouraging visitors to use public transportation whenever possible.
  • Salem’s Mask Policy & Other COVID Restrictions

    • You are required to wear a mask in downtown Salem at all times, except when dining. A Halloween mask that covers your mouth and nose entirely would be just fine. Expect social distancing (6 feet) and indoor occupancy limits to be enforced. Obviously, if you’re feeling sick, don’t go to Salem during Halloween this year. In fact, don’t go anywhere but to a hospital if you need it.
  • Massachusetts’ Out of State Travel Restrictions

    • Probably the largest consideration for anyone wanting to come to Salem for Halloween this year is the travel restrictions enacted in August. Read the full guidelines here. For our purposes it’s important to know that if you are travelling from most places in the United States, you will have to do the following upon your arrival to Salem:
      • Fill out a travel form so that contact tracing is possible, should you unknowingly spread the virus
      • Either self-quarantine for 14 days after your arrival to Salem or produce a negative COVID-19 test administered up to 72 hours prior of your arrival in Salem. This effectively means you’ll need to get tested before you travel to Salem or arrive two weeks before you plan on being out in public.
      • Failure to adhere to these guidelines may result in a $500 per day fine.
    • Now, these guidelines ONLY APPLY TO TRAVELERS FROM HIGH-RISK STATES. As of this writing, there are far more high risk states than non, so here is a list of the states from which the above guidelines will not apply (in other words, if you’re coming from one of the following states, you can just come and enjoy your Halloween without needing to do the travel form, quarantine, or COVID test): Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, and Wyoming. I’ll try to keep this list updated as we get closer to the holiday (hopefully there will be way more states by then).


Should You Even Go to Salem for Halloween 2020?

The short answer is probably not. The long answer is it really depends on a few things.

First, if you’re coming from a high-risk state or country, I’d advise you to stay home. The restrictions are intense, testing isn’t nearly as ubiquitous as it is elsewhere in the world, and you’re probably better off coming another year. If you’ve never done a Salem Halloween before, I’d also advise you to come another year. While I have zero doubt that it will be a fun time, it will not be what Halloween is famous for being. So, save your shekels and come another day.

If you’ve been plenty of times before or it’s not much of a stress to go (if, like me, you’re in a location where it’s easy and cheap to get to Salem, for example), I’d say it’s still worth going this year. Even with the closures and restrictions, you still have all the decorations, food, shops, costumes, chill in the air, and so much more of what truly makes Salem Halloween-Central (if you’re curious how Salem became Halloween-Central, by the way, check out this series – it’s a fascinating story).

In reflecting on all of this, I’ve come to the conclusion that this might actually be a good year for the honest-to-goodness pagans to descend on the Witch City. Why? Well, the relative emptiness of the city’s streets will, I believe, help cultivate the perfect environment from which to do one’s pagan workings or get in-tune with the spirit of the holiday that Halloween is based on (“Samhain,” for all you not yet witches out there).

In other words, I think that the sort of holiday we’re looking at is more in-line with the contemplative, reflective nature of the pagan holiday Samhain than the largely commercial enterprise of Halloween. While that is a turn off to some folks, my suspicion is that there are a lot of people out there who share a similar disposition to myself and are relishing the opportunity to embrace a more quiet, more mature Halloween season.

That’s all for today. I’ll update the information above as it develops. Below you’ll find all of the details from the original video. Stay weird, witches!




Salem Massachusetts Halloween 2020 Original Video Transcript Below:

Now obviously before I get started here it’s important to note that this is developing every single day, literally tomorrow everything I say in this video could be irrelevant, at which point I will likely post some sort of update for you. So as of today, May 1st 2020, May Day, Beltane, go dance around a pole, here is where we stand.


Medical Status

So medically as of May 1st, Salem and the surrounding areas are all in their plateau phase, this means basically that they’re not adding on an exponential amount of COVID cases, nor are they seeing a decline in the ones they already have.

Now crucially the medical community is looking to see a few metrics before the city fully reopens, we’re getting back to some of these metrics later. But it’s important to point out right up here up front that unfortunately the lack of testing capacity makes the metrics that the city and surrounding areas are looking for as sort of indicators that it’s a hundred percent or ninety five percent safe to reopen for Halloween impossible. They simply don’t have enough tests to be sure or even relatively sure that Halloween is a sure thing this year.

That’s really what it boils down to and just to break this down in terms of just how big the need is right now, currently in the country we’re doing somewhere in the neighborhood of seven hundred thousand tests a day and some experts are estimating that to be truly safe, this is not just in Salem but the entire country-wide, some experts estimate that we actually need to be testing around 5.5 million people a day.

So 700,000 is what we’re currently doing, they’re saying we need to be ramping up to be able to do about 5.5 million. So that is a massive ramp up in the testing capacity that people in Salem and people all in the medical community all throughout the United States want to see to feel a hundred percent safe. Now I have personally seen some viral videos going around this past week from medical professionals that are pretty harmful in my opinion.

I think at this point it’s pretty safe to say that if you see anyone doubting the fact that we need ubiquitous testing everywhere to be safe you can pretty much just write that person off. Medical professionals in Salem are saying it, the Corona task force assembled to serve that region is saying it, everybody in the know is saying it. So that’s the first thing to point out here, that Salem like the rest of the country does not have near the testing capacity that they need to be fully safe not just for now but for October as well.

So therefore because not having the testing capacity means that you don’t have a full data set over what you’re actually experiencing or what you’re likely to experience, Salem’s health community and business community are starting to look at a situation in which they may reopen some things, see what the result is, and then close some things, and reopen some things, and close some things, and kind of have to do this teeter back and forth. And they have to do that because they don’t have adequate testing or adequate testing support so that they can just know what the landscape is.

What I will say though is that my interactions with Mayor Kim Driscoll and Dave Roberts and the corona task force assembled there in Salem is that these people are 100% committed to the safety of everyone in Salem and that includes any tourists that do come in for October so you can be sure that if tomorrow all of this changes and and Kim Driscoll announces on her Twitter, by the way she follow her she’s awesome, if Salem is officially open for business in October and everything’s gonna be great, know that she would not do that unless it were 100% safe for her to do so. So that is where the medical community is right now in Salem, that is where things stand.


The Federal and Massachusetts State Governments

Let’s talk a little bit about where the state and federal governments are having an impact on the ability of Halloween to happen in Salem. So the commonwealth of Massachusetts has formed an advisory board made up of 18 members and on May 18th they are expected to release a report that details what the reopening of services statewide might look like.

What they’re trying to with this task force has come up with a set of guidelines and systems and procedures that are sort of statewide, are everywhere because if everyone’s not following the same rules it kind of defeats the point. The great thing about this committee among other things is that they’re actively seeking the input of business owners and residents and tourists to Salem to kind of see what everybody’s thinking, get some ideas from people about what would help make their Salem October experience as good as it can be given the circumstances.

So I fully expect that when that report does drop on May 18th it’s gonna be filled with a lot of really really useful information. And it’ll likely be that however Salem does look in October, we’ll be able to trace the roots of how Salem got there back to this report. So you better believe that on this channel we are gonna be talking about that report when it does come out. Now unfortunately the scarcity of testing is not the only issue that the Commonwealth is experiencing in its relationship with the federal government and the assistance that they are providing. A lot of the halted progress toward increased sanitation, testing, and the sorts of measures you would want to see in place to make sure that a Salem Halloween is 100% safe, or as close to safe as it can be is actually coming from a sort of breakdown in communications between the state government and the federal government.

There’s a lot of guidelines that aren’t necessarily clear and procedures that aren’t spelled out in such a way so that local business owners feel like they can act and project into October and even ask the question what could we do feasibly to be open during the Halloween season? A good example of what I’m talking about here is the Paycheck Protection Program loan. Now this was sold to the American people as a very helpful way to keep small businesses afloat during this coronavirus crisis but the feedback that I am getting is that a lot of small business owners in and around Salem are actually afraid that this loan is going to cause a medium to long term load on them that they cannot bear given their short-term difficulties. So they’re skeptical, they’re tentative, they’re slow to act. They’re afraid that they’re not gonna have a business tomorrow. And so a lot of the ramp up sort of stuff that you would normally see this time of year heading toward October from the business community in Salem is really scaled down or in some cases just not there at all.




Unfortunately until adequate assistance is flowing and the lines of communication are open and the guidelines and the rules that everybody has to follow are clear, this probably isn’t gonna get much better and by better I mean that things aren’t gonna change as fast as they could, things won’t be put in place quickly, things will get delayed, and the more things are delayed the less likely it is that Halloween goes off at all. So luckily for us we live in a representative republic which means that if you don’t like anything that I just said, you can reach out to your local people, let them know that you don’t like it. Maybe we can put some pressure on some people in power and help to save Halloween this year.

Alright so now that we’ve explored the role of the state, the role of the federal government, and the medical influence that’s going on around Halloween, let’s have a look at sort of the fallout of COVID thus far in Salem. And why we should all be desperately hopeful that some version of Halloween can occur this year. So the three private sector industries that I see as being the most affected by Halloween either happening or not happening this year in Salem are going to be lodging, restaurants, and tourism. So let’s look at  each of these three industries in Salem and kind of look at what COVID has already done to them. As well as what they are currently expecting Halloween to look like.



In the lodging industry it seems that reservations are still holding strong for around the October season and they are still coming in up to 90 days out, but the reservation policies and cancellation policies in place right now are very, very generous which is a good thing, but that means that we can’t really predict too accurately if those reservations are going to stay in place or if people are making reservations sort of tentatively if they have the expendable income they can a make reservation, then cancel it later.


Bit Bar Salem Massachusetts Salem Ma Restaurants


The dining industry has been almost totally decimated by COVID, they were the first industry to close and since then they have had nearly 93 percent, this is nationwide, 93% staff reduction across all employers in the dining history – that’s insane. So far the industry has lost about 2.3 billion dollars and a lot of this is because many in that industry are finding it hard to shift to a takeout or delivery model because that kind of changes the entire business model. The dining establishment in Salem in October depends on foot traffic, depends on people being able to walk through the streets freely so this is another area where it’s kind of like no one really knows what to expect.



And then there’s a tourism industry and this is the one that breaks my heart the most unfortunately, there are losses already in Salem in the tourism industry that are unfixable. And the really really heartbreaking thing about it is that Salem was on track 2020 to be the most profitable tourist year in the city’s history, especially because of Halloween. Halloween is on Saturday this year and it’s not just on a Saturday, it’s on a full moon, and it’s not just on a full moon it’s on a blue moon which means it’s the second full moon of the month of October.

So destination Salem and the tourism industry in Salem had a whole lineup of events scheduled to kick off actually this weekend and continue just straight through the peak season into November. There was an uptick in reservations across the board I know I personally had four, four scheduled, planned trips to Salem between now and the end of October. So everyone was looking forward to this October is the point, if you’re watching this video chances are you were looking forward to it as well. And Destination Salem and the tourism industry have not made an official call yet on whether Haunted Happenings is happening or not.

But it is important to note that as of April 21st Munich has canceled its annual Oktoberfest which is a massive festival falling around the same time of the year. And that festival has not been canceled since World War Two and there are plenty of people saying that any sort of large-scale public gatherings should just be canceled and not happen this year.


So Will there Be Halloween in Salem in 2020?

Which brings us to the point of this video: will Halloween happen in Salem in 2020? Nobody knows right now. But, it is clear that Salem is preparing for a much different Halloween than they’ve had probably since Haunted Happenings began in the 70s. And the reason why I kind of already laid out, but just imagine it you know most of the activity in Salem in Halloween happens in the downtown area which is only a mile radius and during the month of October something like 500,000 people pour into that small space and Halloween being on a Saturday this year that means that a good chunk you know maybe up to a third or even half of that number are gonna do it on Halloween night.

With that many people in that small of a space, with testing as low as it is, the conflicts between the state and federal government what they are, some states considering reopening right now, which will cause further peaks, will cause floods in the healthcare market later down the road, will extend this thing, it just seems like there’s no way you could have even a tenth of that number of people in that small of a space with anything resembling responsible safety. So that should tell you that what does need to happen this year in order for Salem to have a safe Halloween is a significant ramp up in what they’re able to do medically.

So what does that look like? Well let’s get back to those metrics that I mentioned at the very beginning of the video. So in Salem and the surrounding areas they’re really looking at four metrics that they kind of look out and say okay if we hit these four metrics this means that it is really safe to open, everyone can come and know that they’re gonna have a good time and be safe and no one’s gonna get this thing or very few people are gonna get it or basically we can have our normal Haunted Happenings go off.

One, the healthcare system has to be able to handle the current volume and severity of the patients that they are currently seeing. Two, they want to have a 14-day period without a positive COVID case or death coming in through the doors. Three, they want to be able to widely test all contacts of patients who have tested positive for COVID. This is why they need so many tests, they’re not just testing the doctors and nurses who have symptoms, they want to test the doctors and nurses you don’t have symptoms which they can’t currently do.

They don’t just want to test the patients who have late stage symptoms, they want to test the patients who have earlier stage symptoms which they can’t currently do. And when someone is positive, they want to be able to look at that person’s social network and test everyone around them to see how far it is spread and therefore isolate that particular strain coming from that particular person and if they need to provide a place for those people to stay to quarantine until they’re better, they want to be able to do that – none of that is possible without the tests. And for they want to have it so that if they introduce all these measures, one person is only infecting one other person.

Currently in the Commonwealth one person is infecting three to four people, that needs to come way down. So considering where we’re at and where we need to get to, now that we know what that is, the medical establishment and the administrative bodies in Salem are really looking at a much much different Halloween in Salem because it’s starting to become clear to them that they’re not gonna get what they need to be a hundred percent safe in October. So here are some things that they are currently exploring in Salem in terms of what Halloween might actually look like given the circumstances as they are right now. So this would be stations that offer sanitation, disinfection and masks. The promotion of small group activities and events, which follow the CDC guidelines of social distancing.




Extreme changes for any attractions and events with multiple touch points. So those attractions where you go in and you’re encouraged to touch things, got to scale that back. Likely elimination or limitation of print materials including the Haunted Happenings brochure throughout all of Salem. This includes all brochures, you go to Salem for Halloween, you come away with like 15 brochures from the tours and the museums and the attractions trying to get you to go visit. Probably not gonna happen this year, it’s just too hard to control that paper flow and keep it sanitized and safe. Restaurants and retail establishments are gonna utilize excess outdoor space like parking lots and sidewalks as shopping and dining space. I’m actually pretty excited about that. So now that is all accumulated from people I’ve talked to, heard from, and read about over the past week and a half or so.

This is what I will just say is coming from me. I would expect all large-scale gathering events related to Halloween in Salem this year to just be canceled. This might include things like the parade, concerts, Halloween balls, Samhain ritual circles stuff like that. Basically if they can’t control the volume of people and ensure that people are being 100% safe doing whatever the thing is, I just think they won’t do it and honestly I think that’s probably for the best even though it sucks. Now if we had a significant ramp up in testing, we might be having a different conversation come June, July but as it stands right now it doesn’t seem like that’s gonna happen.

So those things not being there would not be ideal, right that’s not the Halloween we all know and love. But there is plenty of stuff still to do in Salem and actually there’s plenty of cause for hope that some version of Halloween is going to go off. So here are some other sort of key takeaways that I’ve been able to gather about what we can expect in Halloween this year. The first is that if something does go off we can likely expect far fewer people to come then we have seen before.


Cause for Hope

Now there’s a significant hope that it seems the entire business and administrative bodies in Salem, everyone who has a business or is in public office and medical establishment, all of them are expecting a giant surge to come to Salem when it becomes safe to travel. Now they expect that safety to sort of go in tiers. They expect people who live within the immediate region up to four hours of driving range away from Salem to be the first to return. And so they’re gonna start reaching out to those people starting sometime around June to try and get them to come to Salem safely.

By that point, they’re gonna have their procedures and guidelines in place because that report is gonna come out in mid-may. They’re gonna have adhered to that and it’ll be relatively safe for the people around Salem to come enjoy Salem through the mid summer. After that they are gonna target people who live a further driving distance away and then just keep expanding out. Then they’re gonna go into domestic flights and international flights. But that is a process that’s gonna be going through 2021 maybe even 2022. So it’s not like you know: May close people, June the entire country.



How You Can Help #SaveHalloween

Another reason to hope is that you can actually help make sure that Salem remains Salem. There’s a lot you can personally do right now to help make sure that Halloween goes off this year and not that Halloween goes off this year but that Salem comes back from this admittedly gigantic hit. A lot of the businesses in Salem are trying to pivot into a digital first mentality, they’re trying to figure out a way that they can share their attractions, their shops, their merchandise with people digitally, so if you have a shop whose brand you absolutely love whether it’s clothing witch supplies, restaurant, whatever buy from their stores online right now if they offer it.

Keep them afloat through this time if you can and if you don’t have expendable income, find them on social media, drop them online just say hey I miss you, I love your stuff, I can’t wait for you to come back, I’m so so excited about walking into your store again when I can. I personally would like to shout out Gulu Gulu Cafe, Die With Your boots On, Pyramid Books, House of the Seven Gables, Peabody Essex Museum, Emporium 32, God there’s so many, so many places that I cannot wait to go back to and I hope you’re all staying strong and I can’t wait to see you again. I’m gonna be ramping up my buying from these places in the months to come to try and keep them afloat. I’m gonna be reaching out to these people via social media and making sure that they’ve got what they need and helping spread the word here if I can and you can do that on your own platforms as well. My bottom line is I think Halloween will happen this year.

I think it will be a very different Halloween than we’ve seen in Salem before. Nobody knows what that’s going to look like yet but the comments, the new subscribers, the support here on the channel, there’s been a big uptick recently, I’ve been producing more, you guys have been loving what I’m doing, and letting me know that, that has warmed my heart so much to log onto YouTube and see a new sub, or a new comment, or whatever, a new like. To see that on the Facebook on the Twitter on the Instagram on the website it’s like it just gives me what I need to keep going through this. So spread that around to the Salem community. Give it to them, you’re giving it to me, I’m giving it to them, you give to them, they’ll give it to you.

It’s how we get through this thing together. And you can be damn sure that if Halloween in Salem is canceled this year, it will be back. And I promise you that I will do my level best with your support to keep that autumn fire burning and stoked and ready until that beautiful city can return. So that’s all for today, that got a little sentimental there at the end. Won’t apologize for it, I’m a ooey gooey cancer. Please continue the support, it’s been absolutely phenomenal the way this stuff is growing. I really can’t believe it, I’m so so grateful. Share this stuff around, spread the word.

I’m so so excited about next week’s video, so if you are watching this and that is already out, you should check that out because the very first interactive ToSalem experience is coming your way and boy is it a lot of fun. It is my first offering into the land of let’s keep it Halloween all the time and I’m very, very excited to share it with you and I will be announcing it formally next week so check out that video if it’s popping up on your screen right now. If not, subscribe to the channel and hit the notification bell to be notified when that does go live so you can be sure not to miss it. So that’s it for today, stay weird witches, I’ll see you next time.


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