New England celebrates Halloween. I mean, it really celebrates it. And for good reason. There are more ghosts per capita in the New England states than anywhere else. I once spoke with a filmmaker who was going to do a documentary about the haunted houses of Connecticut. Why that state, I'd asked her. Because there are so many, she replied. It's because of the sour ground -- the old burial grounds -- on which a lot of houses were built. My wife and I once had an encounter with a particularly nasty ghost in an ancient Connecticut house that the neighbors used to say had a blue glow around it on some evenings. The old farm house that we once lived in in New Hampshire was haunted by sounds. You could hear hooves, the nickering of horses, and the shouts of the farm hands as the horses were brought into stables every evening -- even though the stalls now only housed our car. When I asked another resident of the village about this, he just shrugged and said, "Thank your lucky stars you don't have our ghosts."
Salem, Massachusetts is, of course, the place where the infamous Salem Witch Trials took place in 1692, presided over, in part, by Nathaniel Hawthorne's great great grandfather, the ruthless Puritan magistrate of the town, John Hawthorne. There is even a popular witch museum in town, just off the main commons, and, throughout the month of October, you can take any number of guided tours through this most visitor-haunted of places, like the Vampire and Ghost Hunt Tour, The Candelit Ghostly Tour, and The Cemetary Tour. Or you can walk the Witch Trial Trail, candle in hand, with a local historian, or attend reenactments of the witch trials, or go to the Psychic Fair and Witchcraft Expo. There's a huge costume parade, and you can dance Halloween night away at a costume ball.
Last year the international Harry Potter conference -- an amazing mix of scholars, fans, artists, and writers all with a real passion for the Potter books -- met in Salem. Dressed in their Hogwarts best flowing black robes, and many of them carrying their own wands crafted from exotic woods, a thousand strong they strolled the wood-smoke-filled streets of Salem debating and celebrating all the finest points of all things Potter. And that tremor that some people felt? Well, some say that it must have been Old John Hawthorne rolling over in his grave.
Copyright 2006© John Cech
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Monday, 02-Oct-2006 14:38:30 EDT