For Salem Haunted Happenings, the carnival returns to Derby Street

By Shelley A. Sackett, correspondent

Haunted Happenings, the annual month-long festival that crowns Salem the world capital of all things Halloween, will kick off its third weekend with the beloved Fiesta Shows Carnival on Derby Street. Famed for having the most thrilling Midway, Fiesta Shows owns and operates over 100 amusement rides ranging in excitement from the most popular Kiddie rides to the ultimate thrill seekers.

The Carnival runs from 1:00 p.m. (12 noon on Sunday) until 10:00 p.m. on weekends and from 3:00 p.m. until 9:30 p.m. on weekdays from Friday, October 14 through Monday, October 31.

“There is something special happening every weekend,” said Kate Fox, Executive Director of Destination Salem, the city’s Office of Tourism & Cultural Affairs. Salem Haunted Happenings typically draws over 250,000 visitors to Salem during October.

In addition to the outdoor fun and frolic of the Carnival, there are plenty of opportunities for lovers of theater, film, séances, tours and much more.

CinemaSalem at Museum Place Mall screens the terrific “The History of Halloween”, a short film shot in 3D that will entertain any age, and “The True 1692”, a 3D film that tells the story of the Salem witchcraft hysteria of 1692. (Visit for the full schedule).

For a more up close and personal 1692 experience, History Alive, Inc. presents the 25th season of “Cry Innocent: The People vs. Bridget Bishop” at Old Town Hall at 32 Derby Square. The live, interactive event allows participants to play the part of the Puritan jury, hearing testimony, cross examining witnesses and deciding the outcome of the famous witchcraft trial. (Visit for more information).

If dinner and theater is your treat of choice, then head to the Hawthorne Hotel on Friday, October 14 or Finz on Saturday, October 15 at 7:00 p.m. for “Ghostbusted!”, the family friendly whodunit where the actors perform tableside and diners help solve the mystery while enjoying a buffet dinner. (For more information and to make reservations, go to ).

If magic is more your cup of tea, then head to St. Peter’s Church at 24 St. Peter Street for the Salem Haunted Magic Show, a live 75-minute show filled with a unique blend of inconceivable stunts, bizarre demonstrations, dark comedy and — of course — audience participation. (Visit for more information).

If your Halloween experience isn’t complete without a séance (or two), then Festival of the Dead’s authentic nightly séances at The Omen at 184 Essex Street should fit the bill. For a complete listing of all events, including the Official Witches’ Ball and the Annual Psychic Fair and Witches’ Expo, visit

New to Haunted Happenings this year, The Salem Waterfront Hotel at 225 Derby Street will host Chowderfest, a Breast Cancer Benefit, on Saturday, October 15 from 11:30 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. For a $10 “spoon fee”, visitors can sample chowder from restaurants in the North Shore and vote for the Best Chowder. All proceeds will be donated to NSMC/MassGeneral/NS Cancer Services.

Trolley tours and harbor boat cruises let revelers enjoy more of Salem by land and by sea. For landlubbers, Salem Trolley offers two options: a one-hour narrated historical tours, and “Tales & Tombstones” a special evening tour that visits scenes of Salem’s haunted past and forgotten secrets. (For reservations, visit ). Gallows Hill’s “Ghosts & Legends Trolley” is a sinister and comical guided look at Salem’s history. (For more information, visit )

Mahi Mahi Cruises has three tours to choose from: a “Haunted Happenings” tour, complete with face painting and Tarot card readings; a 90-minute lighthouse and foliage cruise; and a 21+ “Halloween Boo!s Cruise” with DJ, costumes, prizes and — of course — booze. For more details, visit

If it seems like an impossible task to keep all the schedules and events straight, you’re in luck. Destination Salem has published “The Guide to Salem Haunted Happenings”, the zombie-themed essential handbook for getting the most out of Haunted Happenings. It includes calendars, articles, Haunted Happenings “Dos and Don’ts” and information about Salem’s tours, attractions, entertainment, parking and transportation. The guide is available at the National Park Service Salem Visitors Center at 2 New Liberty St. or at

Here come Haunted Happenings


Salem Haunted Happenings, the annual month-long festival of all things Halloween, typically draws over 250,000 visitors to Salem during October. The 2016 schedule has something for everyone, from artsy street fairs to an a cappella competition to free family Saturday night films.


Salem gets Saturday Night Halloween Fever

Above: A ghoul beckons at the Hawthorne Hotel Halloween Party in 2014. COURTESY PHOTO / Patrick Cornelisson

By Shelley A. Sackett

Salem gets Saturday Night Halloween Fever

By Shelley A. Sackett

Halloween in Salem, the month-long party of haunted happenings, séances, ghouls, ghost stories, witches, pirates, vampires, and the macabre, is ending Saturday with a literal bang: at 10:15 p.m., Halloween Finale Fireworks will light up the sky over the North River.

The best place to watch them? “Bridge Street at Washington Street by the train station,” said Kate Fox, Executive Director of Destination Salem, the city’s Office of Tourism & Cultural Affairs, noting that in addition to affording the best view, that location also encourages the easy exit the city is insisting revelers make at 10:30 p.m..

“We shift gears from a communications standpoint from promoting all the events and programming to wanting people to understand that, while we want people to enjoy themselves and have a good time, we also want them to be prepared to leave at the end of the night,” Fox continued. Police will clear the streets at 10:30 p.m. and the MBTA has scheduled extra trains to accommodate the expected record crowds.


Hawthorne Hotel 2014 Halloween Party reveler.

With the good weather, Fox anticipates between 70,000 and 75,000 people coming into Salem for Saturday’s street party. “If you’re in a bar, a restaurant or a party, you can stay until that ends. But if you’re here to enjoy the streets, the DJs, the walking around and seeing and being seen that we all enjoy on Halloween night, that ends at 10:30 sharp,” she again stressed.

Until that magic witching hour, however, there is plenty this weekend to entertain and titillate all ages of revelers.

On Friday, October 30, the First Annual Salem’s Wicked Hot Spice Eating Challenge will take place from 6 to 7 p.m. on Artists’ Row. Tastings will be four types of chili peppers made into a mash with Salem Firefighters Local 172 on hand to douse any serious resulting flames.

Not looking to challenge your palate? “Myths & Misconception,” a walking tour sponsored by the Essex National Heritage Area, seeks to uncover the myths and debunk any misconceptions about the Salem Witch Trials that happened over 300 years ago and that have been dramatized in books, movies, documentaries, and even TV shows. This walking tour meets at the Salem Regional Visitors’ Center and lasts 45 minutes. It includes stops at the Old Burying Point Cemetery, Witch Trials Memorial, and the site of the original 17th century jail.

Festival of the Dead Salem Witches' Magic Circle

Festival of the Dead Salem Witches’ Magic Circle

Not lucky enough to have scored a ticket to the sold-out Hawthorne Hotel’s 25th Annual Halloween Party? Not to worry – there are plenty of other opportunities to party the night away. The “Victorian Halloween Magi Ball” will take place at Victoria Station at 86 Wharf St. from 7:30 p.m. until 12:30 a.m. Dress in costumes and as characters from books written in the Victorian era by such as authors as Edgar Allen Poe, Charles Dickens, Bram Stoker and of, the creator of “Frankenstein”, Mary Bysshe Shelley. The event benefits the North Shore Elder Service “Over the Rainbow Coalition.”

Another 2015 first, the Heaven & Hell Party, will take place at Sea Level at 94 Wharf St. from 9 to 11p.m. and will feature “Heaven” on the top floor with Ketel One Vodka and “Hell” on the bottom Floor with Captain Morgan Cannon Blast.

Want to celebrate Halloween but take a break from the Salem crowds? Lynn Memorial Auditorium presents a special sowing of the classic 1975 film, “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” on its 40th anniversary. Pre-show fun starts at 9 p.m. and the show starts at 10 p.m. Attendees are encouraged to wear costumes, bring props, learn their lines and be on the lookout for a motorcycle on the loose.

On Saturday, October 31, Halloween day is chockfull of events from 10 a.m. until 10:30 p.m. “Salem Children’s Day!” is celebrated on Salem Common from 10 a.m. until 3p.m. with a full day of blow-ups, games, face paintings and more. At 5 p.m., the Festival of the Dead will sponsor a “Salem Witches’ Magic Circle” with Warlocks and Witches and the Dragon Ritual Drummers who will gather for the sacred and magical ritual of Halloween. The Salem Common event is free and open to all who wish to attend with an open heart and a love for their dead.

Evening events include: the Festival of the Dead’s “The Official Salem Witches’ Halloween Ball” at the Hawthorne Hotel; Gulu-Gulu Café’s Annual Halloween Party featuring Ponyfish with Jeff Savlon; the Annie Brobst Band “Halloween in Salem” party at the Knights of Columbus at Washington Square, and Mamadou Diop Band live at the Fountain Stage at Museum Place Mall on Essex Street.

“It’s been a great month. The weather has been phenomenal and that can really make or break the weekend. With the good weather, more people come in and are able to enjoy more things in Salem without being freezing,” said Fox, whose office is already busy planning Haunted Happenings 2016.

For more information and a full listing of events, visit

Zalem Zombies on the Prowl in Salem

Above: Frank Vieira, center, and  some of his students reading ‘Zalem, Mass.’ Books, or holding up posters from the series. From left, front row:  Helina Almonte, Frank Vieira (me), Richard Morrison; middle row: Mark Savio, Cortney Cook, Julia Chen, Precious Ifeacho; and back row: Olivia Bowers, Angelina Auth./COURTESY PHOTOS

By Shelley A. Sackett

Frank Vieira is not your typical history teacher. By day, the 47-year-old lifelong Salem resident engages Lynn’s Thurgood Marshall Middle School eighth graders with lessons about World History, covering the time period from Ancient Greece until the Enlightenment.

But once he leaves his classroom for the day, the mild-mannered father of five shifts gears and dons his other persona: Frank Vieira, creator and marketer of “Zalem, Mass.”, a comic book series about surviving a Zombie Apocalypse.

“‘Zalem, Mass.’ is not your typical zombie story. It is rich with emotion and quite often brings its readers to tears,” Vieira said, noting he deliberately included actual Salem locations, such as Forest River Pool, Market Basket, Winter Island and Steve’s Quality Market in the action-packed series. “Readers will be hard pressed to not be thinking about seeing zombies no matter where in the city they might go. Using actual geography truly helps to bring the story to life and give it a real feel.”

The cover of 'Zalem, Mass.' was designed by Salem artist Christina Robichau and author Frank Vieira.

The cover of ‘Zalem, Mass.’ was designed by Salem artist Christina Robichau and author Frank Vieira.

The zombie craze that is sweeping the globe, and especially the television series, “The Walking Dead,” is the backbone of Vieira’s inspiration to write his comic book series. “This global fascination was no different in my household, where my five kids and I frequently found ourselves having numerous discussions about what we would do if a Zombie Apocalypse ever actually happened,” he said. As the stories and ideas the family tossed around grew in richness and detail, so did Vieira’s motivation to write them down, and “just like that, ‘Zalem, Mass.’ was born.”

Since the story is based on the Vieira family’s brainstorming sessions, the series uses actual people, centering on the Vieira family.

In a nutshell, “Zalem, Mass.” tells the story of a how a normal and unsuspecting family deals with the onset of a Zombie Apocalypse as it approaches their home in Salem. The father takes immediate action to keep his family safe and together, eventually building a sanctuary at Winter Island, which they call “Constantinople.” “Being a history teacher, I based this Safe Zone on the Byzantine capital, now called Istanbul and located in modern day Turkey,” Vieira said.

Originally, he wanted to take his story “on the road” and have the characters travel the countryside for one reason or another, “but Salem is the Witch City. Not only does it have so much spooky history, but it also has become the Halloween Mecca for millions of people,” he said.

Once Vieira decided to set the series in Salem, he came up with the idea of covering the “S” on an “Entering Salem” road sign with a bloody “Z”. He brought the concept to his close friend and local artist, Christina Robichau, and together they designed the final book cover with a bunch of zombie arms reaching for the bloody city.

In May 2013, Vieira started the Zalem, Mass. fan-page on Facebook and invited a few people to the site. After he added the cover image, he received requests for posters and t-shirts. “I literally made everything from coffee mugs to beach bags, to phone covers… Whatever people wanted, I made and sold via the fan-page,” he said.

Friends of friends invited friends of their friends. As soon as Vieira finished writing a chapter, he posted teasers, works-in-progress for some of the artwork, and, eventually, the finished artwork. “With each new image, people wanted new posters and t-shirts, etc.,” he said.

“I also had five or six test readers who I allowed to read my first drafts in order to get feedback. When they began posting how awesome they thought the story was, more and more people continued to look forward to the book’s eventual release date,” he added.

Last year, Vieira ran his first Kickstarter campaign for 30 days, with the goal of raising $5,000. He raised over $6,000, with many fans literally buying their way into the storyline. Larry Harrison, owner of Harrison’s Comics in Salem and a strong supporter of the “Zalem, Mass.” series, pledged $500 to become a character in Vieira’s Book 1:Constantinople and Book 2:Loss, and to have a major scene take place in his store in Book 3. A second Kickstarter this summer raised another $3,000.

Armed with funding, a title and a cover, Vieira began writing Book 1 in earnest. He plumbed Facebook to meet Marvel and DC artists, Thor Mangila and Michael Magallanes, two Philippines residents who created much of the book’s artwork. “I have been reading comic books for the last 40 years and have met many creators by writing letters or chatting on Facebook. Some I met in person at comic conventions, and one [Ed Beard] I met at the King Richard’s Faire,” Vieira said.

With $10,000 from Books 1 and 2 pre-orders, Vieira was able to pay for the artwork, copyright and publishing expenses. After several frustrating experiences with potential publishers, he decided to self-publish with Currently, “Zalem, Mass.” has more than 13,000 hits on its website ( and more than 2,100 worldwide fans on its fan-page (

Student Yen-Nhi Chit and author Frank Vieira show a poster of her Book 2 artwork, making her a published artist.

Student Yen-Nhi Chit and author Frank Vieira show a poster of her Book 2 artwork, making her a published artist.

As a teacher, Vieira uses his books to encourage his students to follow their dreams and do whatever makes them happy. He shares the writing process and what publishing a book entails with his students and their families. His classroom is filled with original drawings and paintings by many of his comic artist friends. He was even able to get one of his students, Yen-Nhi Chit, who he discovered was “an amazing artist”, published in “Book 2: Loss” by pairing her with one of the Marvel/DC colorists. “Now she is not only a published artist, but she has also made her first serious contact in the art field. Not too bad for a 14-year-old young lady,” Vieira shared with tremendous pride.

“My central idea is to serve as a role model for my students and their families by being an example and showing them that anything is possible if they dream big, and then chase after their dreams and make them a reality,” Vieira said.

Vieira will be available at Harrison’s Comics at 252 Essex St., Salem, on Saturday October 24 from 1 to 3 p.m. for a book signing to celebrate publication of “Zalem, Mass. Book 2: Loss.” For more information, visit and zalem

A Hallowed Time for Witches, Warlocks

Above:Warlocks Brian Cain, left, and Christian Day practice the religion of witchcraft. Here they celebrate their wedding at Hammond Castle. COURTESY PHOTO

By Shelley A. Sackett /


For practicing Warlocks Christian Day and Brian Cain, Salem’s nickname, “Witch City,” is more than a marketing slogan and Halloween is more than a retail second Christmas.

“Witchcraft is one of the oldest spiritual paths that occurs in cultures throughout the world,” explained Day from the home he shares with Cain in New Orleans. “It’s a time when spirits walk among us. It’s a time when we remember those who have gone before who touched our lives in some way.”

Both Day and Cain stress that witchcraft is a religious faith, a belief system that includes magic, clairvoyance, and male and female deities. “We all see God in different images,” said Cain, who read the book “Raymond Buckland’s Complete Book of Witchcraft” as a 15-year-old interested in the occult. The book was an eye-opener for the teen, who already accepted witchcraft as a source of magic. “It was a new way of looking at God and brought witchcraft into my life as a religion,” he said.

Born in Beverly to a “very Catholic, Democrat, Massachusetts family,” Day moved to Salem at age 4 and became a practicing witch at 18 after discovering Tarot cards the year before. Although his mother was “a little freaked out” at her son’s embracing witchcraft, his family understood that he was not doing anything harmful. Nonetheless, “people in our family will needle anybody about anything,” Day said with a chuckle.

After a traditional career in advertising at the prestigious Arnold firm, Day decided to leave that world in his 30s and practice witchcraft full-time in Salem.

Day became aware of a movement in the city that was trying to rid Salem of its witch identity. In 2003, Destination Salem, the city’s official Office of Tourism and Cultural Affairs, wouldn’t allow Day to join. “They said we didn’t fit their mission statement which, at the time, was devoted solely to ‘arts and culture,'” Day explained. This potential disenfranchisement was the impetus for his founding Festival of the Dead in 2003.

[When Kim Driscoll became Mayor in 2005, Day did join Destination Salem, ending up on the Board of Directors in 2010, a post he left after relocating to New Orleans.]

“Festival of the Dead was created to bring back the concept that Halloween is a sacred time of the year. We don’t want to get rid of the fun of Halloween. But we also want to show it has a spiritual side and that Salem has room for witches and their magic. There’s a place at the table for the magical community of Salem,” Day said.

During the month of October, the Festival hosts the Annual Psychic Fair and Witchcraft Expo at Museum Place Mall at 176 Essex St., Salem. Besides presenting an emporium of “magical gifts”, those interested can have a Tarot card reading, a crystal ball scrying or a private visit with a medium. Nearby, Enchanted Alley “magical marketplace” is chockfull of vendors selling crystals, jewelry, spell kits, voodoo dolls and more.

There are also more serious ticketed events such as “Hekate: Unveiling the Queen of the Dead,” “Speaking to the Dead with Laurie Cabot,” “The Horned God: Lord of Death and Resurrection with Brian Cain” and of course, the “Official Salem Witches’ Halloween Ball” on Oct. 31, featuring the Dragon Ritual Drummers and old-fashioned rituals and magic.

Day and Cain, who met on Facebook over a witchcraft discussion and then connected in New Orleans in person and “really hit it off,” were married at Hammond Castle in Gloucester on Nov. 16, 2014, a night sacred to the Witch Goddess Hekate. The castle was also the location of a music video for the song “Voodoo” by the band Godsmack; the video featured Salem’s Official Witch Laurie Cabot.

The couple owns two witchcraft shops in Salem, Hex and Omen. Day believes stores like theirs help people to understand what witchcraft is and to reconnect to their spirituality. He compares customers who buy a lucky charm or light a wish candle to lapsed Catholics who might visit Vatican City and look up at the Sistine Chapel and feel closer to God.
“They don’t necessarily want to become a priest or a nun, but they want to feel that connection. This is what goes on in Salem,” he said.

“People coming to Salem and going into a witch shop — most of them aren’t witches and they don’t want to be witches. What they want is to believe in magic again,” Day added.
Both Day and Cain turn serious when asked what their favorite Festival of the Dead event is and answer almost in unison: The Dumb Supper: Dinner with the Dead (so named because no one may speak throughout the event). “This is really the most spiritual event we have,” Cain explained. “It’s a time when we connect to our loved ones who have passed on and it’s a very specific experience.”

Day said his favorite thing about the Dumb Supper is that every year they get “the husbands,” those men dragged to the event by their wives. Although they weren’t interested in attending, after the evening they invariably approach Day and Cain with stories about seeing or touching their loved ones and ask the same question: “How is that possible?”

“These are the things that really inspire me. If someone goes in expecting nothing and then they get something, it so reinforces the idea of the spiritual world. It’s the most sacred thing a witch can do,” Day said. “Salem is the place to go if you want to believe in magic again.”

For more information, visit