How to Visit Salem

America's Witch City comes alive on Halloween.

Get off the train station. Notice the trees, the slight mist, the rain already brushing on the concrete. See, in the distance, Puritan-era buildings, steeples with high ceilings, the court house. Take out your black umbrella and, before crossing the street, notice the big sign that the train covered before it took off: Salem.

E.R. Pulgar, 2016 ©

E.R. Pulgar, 2016 ©

Walk down the main street, the suburban houses with their dying trees, and dead man's decorations. The leaves look like fire, and the streets are empty, but you hear noise. Follow it to the Witch House, but go into the store next door; you don't want to deal with the long lines or the tourists in pointy hats.

E.R. Pulgar, 2016 ©

Enter Witch City Thrift & Consignment. Buy a portrait of a young child smoking a cigarette next to a large rooster, and marvel at the other strange portraits on sale. Ask the cashier what her favorite café is, and continue venturing down Essex Street until you encounter a large mob. Notice the large signs hanging off every street lamp: Welcome to Salem Haunted Happenings.

E.R. Pulgar, 2016 ©

Get lost in the bookshops, the markets of pendants and talismans with pentacles. Have your dreams interpreted by a street merchant for free, along with three strangers. Nod as the man in the light-green hair toting a sorcerer's staff speaks of the Knower of Hearts, a spirit that will speak through him. Listen, and take it in, and don't take it in.

E.R. Pulgar, 2016 ©

E.R. Pulgar, 2016 ©

Walk among the maelstrom of people as the rain begins to ebb. Notice the old churches, the mini-mansions, the crowd of costumes—Venetian Carnevale masks, $1 cat ears, Hillary Clinton masks. Take a picture of the iconic Bewitched statue just before a Trump rally breaks out. Enjoy the chaos: the yelled Bible quotes, the rabid supporters coming out of windows and pelting candy at the crowd below, the disconcerting sight of children holding signs. Shake your head and move on, but feel relief that it's more comical than anything—the Devil, it seems, no longer has a hold on this city.

E.R. Pulgar, 2016 ©

Walk in the crowd, and get lost in the wave of people. Walk down the alleyways, the ones with brick walls and altars to Egyptian gods at the end. Look at the tarot art plastered on every wall. Smile at the old women beckoning you into their stores, reeking of patchouli incense and hard apple cider.

E.R. Pulgar, 2016 ©

E.R. Pulgar, 2016 ©

E.R. Pulgar, 2016 ©

Continue walking down the end of Essex Street, past the corner of Crow Haven Corner, and walk into a small tea shop—Jolie's Tea Company. Tell the kind owner you'll come back, and peek at the chaotic line forming outside the witch shop. Walk past, away from the crowds.

Take in the Salem Wharf, the sea permeating its smell onto the quiet, colder back of the town. As you walk to the House of the Seven Gables, go past a psychic store: Lady Irine and Company. Talk to the owner about Greece, and how you love the beaches in Mykonos. Get her card, walk past the witch-themed bars, and the wolf-themed coffee shops. Arrive at the House of the Seven Gables, and take in the deep red of it.

E.R. Pulgar, 2016 ©

E.R. Pulgar, 2016 ©

Head back into town, and watch a rock show sponsored by WAAF. Goth rock, pop punk, screaming, a small mosh pit of strangers in cartoon crab costumes. Head past the Salem Witch Museum, marvel at a town that, even at this hour, still vibrates. The lines at the shops are longer. There's still so much night ahead.

Walk into Jolie Tea Company. Order a strawberry white tea. Sit and, in the mystic chaos, relax.

E.R. Pulgar, 2016 ©

E.R. Pulgar, 2016 ©

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