Up to 100,000 ghouls, goblins, and ghosts will pack themselves into downtown Salem on Friday for a night of haunted Halloween happenings.
The city is beefing up security for the holiday with at least 200 police officers on duty and an increased MBTA Transit Police presence at the city’s commuter rail station, said Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll.
“It’s hard to say exactly, but on Friday nights in the past, especially with good weather, there could be up to 100,000 people here. Most in costume,” Driscoll said.
The impact of the weekend is clear — when Halloween falls on a week night, the city sees only 25,000 to 65,000 visitors, she said.
Salem, often considered a Halloween mecca for its historic witch trials of the 1690s, will host a slew of events, from live music and outdoor entertainment to bar and restaurant festivities, capped off with a grand finale of fireworks.
“We have a number of outdoor venues set up,” Driscoll said. “Part of coming to Salem is people-watching and checking out their costumes.”
The nature of having 100,000 people in such close quarters, however, has not been lost on Driscoll.
“We also know it to be a mischievous time of year, so we’re trying to keep people safe,” she said. “We have a whole plan that we have utilized in the past. Obviously, since it’s a Friday night, we’re beefing [security] up.”
In addition to the elevated police presence — some of whom are coming from neighboring cities and towns — Salem officials are asking attendees to take the train, not their cars, and to leave their costume weaponry at home.
“Don’t bring the bat that goes with your costume, or guns, real or fake,” Driscoll said. “You might have a great samurai costume. Don’t bring the samurai sword.”
Driscoll added that fines for petty crimes are tripled in the city this weekend, and that no one will be allowed on the streets after the fireworks end at about 11 p.m. She said Salem is not a “fraternity atmosphere.”
And so far, so good, according to Driscoll.
“Any time you have that many people in town, you’re bound to have some issues. But speaking to the last several Halloweens ... people have been, for the most part, really well-behaved. We do a lot to encourage that.”
Kiera Blessing can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.