Cultures

These towns have the strangest Halloween traditions

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divination and prediction on runes and Tarot, mysticism or esoteric isolated on grey background

Image: Shutterstock/Borys Vasylenko

One June afternoon when I was teenager, a couple friends and I decided to go trick-or-treating in my quiet suburban neighborhood. We dressed up in Hawaiian shirts, windbreakers and other thrift-store miscellany and went from house to house knocking on doors and asking for candy. Whether the neighbors went along with it in good humor or ordered us with threats to get off their private property, clearly what we were doing was weird. Duh, that’s what made it fun.

Thinking back on that day, what was weird was not just that we were celebrating Halloween in June…Halloween traditions themselves are weird. On October 31, the normal social codes of caution and privacy are suspended (for example, “don’t accept candy from strangers”), as everyone lets their kids dress up as superheroes and walk around the neighborhood, sometimes unsupervised, asking people they don’t know for candy. But that is just the standard weirdness of Halloween traditions, which some towns put to shame, so great is their weird. Check out these Halloween traditions that are just plain weird.

Take Salem, Massachusetts as an example. Anyone who knows anything about the not so great moments of American history knows that this is the town where, in 1692-3, some twenty people, mostly women, were accused of being witches and were executed. None of those murdered in Salem were professed, practicing witches, but now, for the whole month of October, the city becomes the witch capital of the United States for the Festival of the Dead. Site of the Annual Psychic Fair and Witchcraft Expo, you can have a genuine psychic reading here, or you could contact the dead with the help of a medium at a séance. Join witches from the world over for the Salem Witches Circle, as they perform a ceremony to honor deceased loved ones. And, of course, if you make it to Salem for the celebrations, don’t miss out on the Salem Witches’ Halloween Ball at the Hawthorne Hotel, where hundreds of people gather for food, dancing, ritual, live music, free psychic readings, and spells!

Less witchery and more goofballery is to be found in Manitou Springs, Colorado, site of the Emma Crawford Festival. Emma Crawford, a pianist from the 19th century who was afflicted with tuberculosis, went to the town for the springs’ healing powers. She died two years later and was more or less relegated to oblivion…until 1995, when the town started paying her homage in the week leading up to Halloween. Since then, annual activities feature coffin races, where Crawford impersonators ride in decked out caskets (some end up looking like cars or wagons—anything but caskets!) which are pushed by four “mourners” in costumes.

Whether you’re into witchcraft or coffins, or whether you just want to be a part of good old trick-or-treating, live up the weirdness this Halloween!

Marcus Wade loves to surf the Internet, drink coffee and travel. He loves meeting new people and having interesting conversations about art, politics and society.