EVERETT — They just kept coming, a mass of colors and glittering chrome.
On Harleys and Hondas, Suzukis and Kawasakis, there were straw-haired witches and empty-eyed skeletons, menacing devils and demons, mythical beasts and superheroes.
This cacophonous, vibrating — and slightly macabre — spectacle of hundreds of bikers thundered its way from Everett to Salem on Sunday as part of the annual Halloween Witch Ride to raise thousands of dollars for the Muscular Dystrophy Association.
“It’s a beautiful day, and you get to do something you like, raise money for a worthy cause,” said Michael Medeiros of Haverhill, whose girlfriend, Regina Sall, held on in her vampy witch costume as he navigated his 2008 Harley-Davidson Screamin’ Eagle Road King among the teeming riot of bikes.
Roughly 2,000 bikers dominated the 15 or so miles of roads between Everett and Salem for the 24th annual ride, drawing hundreds of spectators and stopping traffic at busy intersections for 30 minutes at a time. Organized by the Boston chapter of the Harley Owners Group (HOG for short) and Boston Harley-Davidson, the ride ended, fittingly, in the Witch City — Shetland Park on the waterfront — assembling for a small party among the city’s much larger, weekslong Halloween revelry.
According to Brad Gosselin, a fund-raising coordinator with the MDA (appropriately dressed in an eye-popping orange T-shirt), the event raises about $40,000 every year, through $25 to $40 entry fees or personal pledge drives. That money is used for research for numerous diseases, he explained, as well as to help local families (the organization serves more than 1,000).
Blasting the biker stereotype (that they’re loud, they’re rebels, or they’re inconsiderate), Gosselin called the support “tremendous,” noting that, “Bikers are the nicest people; they really are.” (They are also reticent about giving their age; all interviewed for this story declined, but appeared to be in their 40s and 50s.)
‘Bikers are the nicest people; they really are.’
On this particular fall afternoon, they were decidedly creepy.
“It is a witch ride, so we need a witch,” said Sall, of Haverhill, standing with Medeiros before the ride started, hundreds of bikes stretched on the road ahead and behind.
Her version of Halloween biker: Green face, purple-and-black striped tights, the quintessential pointy witch hat (which she had to hold onto when the bikes started moving), straggly, silver hair, and the look finished off with bright purple nail polish.
“Fortunately this is a wig,” she said with a laugh. “Otherwise I’d be having a really bad hair day.”
She also carried a black plastic cauldron, tossing out gummy candies to kids on the sidewalk.
She and Medeiros spend a lot of time riding; about 25,000 miles a year, they estimated. Medeiros called it “relaxing,” noting that, particularly on weekends, “You can do your own thing, set your own pace.
“You see a lot of new stuff, and re-see places you’ve been before, but in a different way,” he said.
“But today,” Sall quipped, motioning to the Harley, “it’s my broom.”
When you look at it that way, Rob Hathaway’s bike doubled as “web” — he rode as Spider-Man; his girlfriend, Rochelle Dickerson, as a gorilla.
“It’s one of the best possible rides out there,” Hathaway, of Wilmington — sans his super hero mask — said as he stood beside his bright red, Ultra Classic Limited Harley.
A 25-year biker and Halloween lover, he’s come in the past as a gorilla and a werewolf, and he called the ride “almost like a parade in every town,” based on the number of spectators who gather on sidewalks and roads as the convoy passes.
John Gaudet of Danvers, meanwhile, rode as a skeleton knight (pairing a traditional Knights Templar -type costume with a silver skull mask). Finishing off the theme: Numerous skulls hung off his Honda VTX1300, and his “passenger” was a zombie animatronic that detached its own head with the flick of a switch.
What he likes about Halloween?
“Scaring people,” he said with a mischievous laugh.
There was plenty of that going around.
Like ghoulish holiday trees, bikes were adorned with rubber rats, spiders, and skulls of all shapes and sizes. Some had decals of crushed, mangled bats on their windshields, while the handlebars of others doubled as devil horns. Giant skeletons with decrepit wings and creepy clowns also served as lifeless “riders.”
A little after 1 p.m., the frightening cavalcade set off. Engines rumbled in a deep, collective, sonorous growl that absorbed all other sound, vibrating bystanders deep into the chest. The air filled with the smell of fumes and gasoline. Eerie Halloween sounds blared from a radio on one bike; Carrie Underwood’s “Jesus Take the Wheel” from another — both intermingling with the shrill scream of police sirens.
The riders blew by on neon green, yellow, blue, purple, red, and black bikes — there was a devil and his mate; Mario and Luigi from the classic Super Mario Bros. video game; a paired-up Mitt Romney and Big Bird; a tutu-ed gorilla; a very easy-to-pick-out Waldo; at least three Santas; Daisy Duck: a duo of Teletubbies: and plenty of skeleton faces, black capes, and devil horns.
The crowd, holding up smartphones and pointing, roared and cheered. Or were they screaming?Taryn Plumb can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.