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Why is ‘Hocus Pocus 2’ being filmed in Rhode Island instead of Salem, Massachusetts?

A Halloween and horror fan explains why the sequel to the blockbuster Halloween classic seems to be set in Salem but filmed in the Ocean State

Luna Moon, of Salem, Massachusetts, recently visited the sets of Hocus Pocus 2 in Newport, R.I. This is building will be used as "the Old Salem Magick Shoppe" for the film. It is not a real business in Salem.Courtesy of Luna Moon

PROVIDENCE — A Halloween and horror fan is disappointed that “Hocus Pocus 2″ is filming in Rhode Island instead of at the site of the Salem Witch Trials, but says she understands why.

Luna Moon of Salem, Massachusetts, recently took a road trip to visit all of the “Hocus Pocus 2″ sets in Rhode Island. She says a few Salem residents are “bent out of shape” that the quirky Halloween production isn’t returning to Salem.

But others are relieved since it could create traffic issues and street closures for the city that has grown in popularity since the last time “Hocus Pocus” was filmed there nearly 30 years ago.

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Many in the Massachusetts town credit the 1960s supernatural sitcom “Bewitched,” starring Elizabeth Montgomery and Dick York, and “Hocus Pocus” for creating interest in the history of the Salem Witch Trials, and creating a tourist boom.

“The influx of tourism had a major economic impact to the city, and the community was revitalized,” Moon said. “Now, Salem is the Halloween capital of the world.”

As a child, Moon got her love for Halloween and scary things from her grandparents, with whom she watched black-and-white horror films. She said she found the characters inspiring and misunderstood.

“I like the creepy stuff; it was relatable to me,” Moon says. “On Halloween, you can be anything you want to be. There is magic in that. Even in those plastic costumes you can’t breathe in. I was an actor at haunted houses at ages 16 and 17. My first job was with Al Lewis who was Grandpa Munster.”

For years, Salem tried to separate itself from its notorious history of the Salem Witch Trials, according to Moon. But after filming a couple of episodes of “Bewitched” in the 1960s, and then the original “Hocus Pocus,” in 1993, interest in the witch trials grew.

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Salem now celebrates Halloween all month long with its wildly popular Salem Haunted Happenings celebration, a global epicenter of Halloween celebrations that were shelved last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In September, Salem’s Board of Health voted unanimously to mandate COVID-19 testing for attendees at all gatherings of more than 100 in indoor public venues during October. Attendance at the city celebration was in the thousands.

Moon said she kind of understands why that wouldn’t make a good filming environment. The event would have been a filming nightmare — even scarier than the Sanderson sisters.

“We were really hoping the movie was going to film here,” Moon said. “We got the curveball at the last second that it was going to be in Rhode Island.”

“They are doing the best thing for the film. When ‘Hocus Pocus 2′ started filming, it started in October. (October is) like Magic Kingdom on a full capacity day in Salem,” she said. “It’s wall-to-wall people. There would have been no way to film here. But in Rhode Island, you still have that gorgeous New England architecture and history — the Salem magic. It’s fun and we’re all looking really forward to seeing it.”

Moon visited all known sets of the Rhode Island production of Hocus Pocus, documenting them on a Facebook page for her Etsy store, “Luna Moon Gothic,” where she sells horror art, witch crafts, elegantly creepy dolls, Halloween finery, and gothic jewelry.

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Moon recently took a trip to Rhode Island to visit all of the known sets. She detailed each of them to the Globe, noting that filmmakers appear to have included multiple nods to Salem, where the Salem Witch Trials happened in 1692.

She spotted a newspaper stand on the set, featuring from the Salem News, a legitimate Salem newspaper. They used the Oct. 8 edition.

“On the side of the trolley. It’s not one of ours from Salem, but it’s close,” Moon said. “There are businesses in Salem that are on the trolley. Witch City Wicks. Count Orlock’s Nightmare Gallery — those are real businesses in Salem. They are going to be featured.”

The original “Hocus Pocus” was filmed for only a few weeks in Salem, Massachusetts, but the production in Rhode Island has movie sets throughout the state, including in Rumford, Lincoln, Newport, and Providence.

Moon said she received a tip from someone who worked at Disney when construction for the film began and posted some of the first photos of the construction of the town movie site at Chase Farm located at 667 Great Rd. in Lincoln. She was able to walk on the set and took close-up pictures of buildings, which were mostly facades.

Only one structure in the town set is what could be considered a fully constructed house.

“What stood out to me was there was a Jonathan Corwin house,” said Moon of a home in the “Hocus Pocus 2″ village that resembles the house in Salem belonging to one of the nine men who presided over the Salem Witch Trials. “The Corwin house is the last standing structure that anyone can visit from the Salem Witch Trial. If you put them side-by-side it’s the witch house. It’s all colonial architecture right down to the exact windows.”

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Moon believes the movie will be about three girls who relight the black flame candle that brings the Sanderson sisters back to life. But this time it could take place in the age of social media.

Part of the plot could be a backstory of the witch trials because of the presence of what appears to be the Corwin House. Moon and a few friends requested the permits for the set and found that there are pipes running through some of the homes in the town set that could be for a fire stunt.

“There could be a scene where the village burns down,” Moon guessed.

Luna Moon photographed a movie set at Chase Farm in Lincoln, R.I. where the faces of houses with 17th-century architecture were constructed in a field. One of the homes resembles the house of Jonathan Corwin, a Salem, Massachusetts merchant who was one of nine presiding judges during the Salem Witch Trials. He signed multiple arrest warrants, according to Moon. The Corwin House is the last standing structure that people can visit that is tied to the witch trials.Courtesy of Luna Moon

Moon says the sets echo some of the unique things about Salem. For example, a mock-up of a fair in Newport called “Scarefest” seems to be a play on Haunted Happenings, while the attractions at the fair are reminiscent of the 1960s and 1970s roadside attractions that make Salem special, Moon says.

“Being on the set was so magical and you could feel the energy from the crew, the cast, and the extras,” Moon said. “With the passion going into the film, you can see how much love the people have for these characters The magic people are bringing in is what will make it successful.”

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“Everyone loves a puppy, everyone loves pizza, and everyone loves ‘Hocus Pocus’.”


Carlos Muñoz can be reached at carlos.munoz@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @ReadCarlos and on Instagram @Carlosbrknews.