trick or treat: halloween in salem, mass.

Before I had Isaac, I sometimes found myself out of the country over Halloween. It’s an easy holiday to forego. It’s also a great time to travel. The weather is temperate, crowds have dwindled, inns generally are still open for business. If I did remain stateside, I’d do my best to ignore the celebration. The throngs of adults acting out sexual goodness-knows-what, women with ample bosoms in low-cut dresses, men with false bosoms in low-cut dresses (their favorite movie, without fail, was “Some Like It Hot”) were tiresome. The exception might have been the Halloween Parade in Greenwich Village, but in the 1980s, before it became too popular. Then along comes baby and Halloween becomes a good thing, a fun thing, with costume parties in the park and parades around the block at school.

When Isaac was four or thereabouts, I researched the history of Halloween online. That was how I stumbled upon Salem, Massachusetts’ Haunted Happenings, a nearly month-long series of events in the name of what for centuries had been a celebration of summer’s end and all that comes with seasonal death. This LINK from The History Channel nicely sums up the holiday’s origins.

I was also interested in Salem because of the witch trials. In the fifth grade, we watched the 1950s “You Are There” episode, the one hosted by Walter Cronkite, on the proceedings. It was riveting. I’m sure I was intrigued in part because some of the central characters were young girls, girls close to my age. It was one of the first times I felt a connection of possibility to history, albeit an abominably unfortunate incident. I remember thinking, "I could have been one of them." Then, when I was in college, I discovered I was the direct descendent of Winifred Benham of Wallingford, Conn.; she was thrice accused and thrice acquitted of witchcraft in the 1690s. The first accusation came in 1692, the same year that the charges started flying in Salem. So there was a pull there, too.

I was horrified that Salem didn’t give the trials proper treatment and instead had allowed any entrepreneur with the inclination and a line of credit to open up a witch museum or a haunted house. The august Peabody Museum, which houses the papers from the proceedings, has kept its distance. The last time I checked, the extent of the Peabody's curatorial recognition of the events for which Salem is most widely known was two display cases, in the library, not in the main museum, containing artifacts, a walking stick, an arrest warrant and the like. I was less appalled that Salem traded on its witch past in the weeks leading up to October 31. The commercial impulse, though not entirely forgiveable, is to be expected. The museum's disregard less so. I wrote about all this HERE.

Despite all of the above, I’ve been meaning to take Isaac to Salem for Halloween. This sweeps, for a trip to Salem for next Halloween, gives me a chance to do that. It’s to promote a Sony horror movie, The Covenant, starring a new crop of young actors.

To enter, click HERE. The winner takes the trip next year, per the OFFICIAL RULES. The deadline to enter is October 31. At one minute before midnight.