SALEM — Thousands of visitors from across the continent — some dressed as horror movie monsters, Disney princesses, or Internet memes — prowled the historic downtown of “Witch City” on Saturday for the final weekend of its monthlong Halloween celebration.
Many skipped costumes in favor of everyday attire, but some added their ghastly guises to the holiday ambience as they admired the art, jewelry, and witch hats for sale along Essex Street, or followed a guide wearing a skull-bedecked top hat through the Salem Witch Trials Memorial.
Some visitors dressed as old standbys such as witches or skeletons, while others chose topical togs. Pennywise — the clown from Stephen King’s “It” — made an appearance, as did a couple of red-robed consorts from Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale.” In a nearby graveyard, President Trump gnashed his teeth.
Thalita Andenmatten said she had visited Salem many times, but this was her first trip during the Halloween season. She was excited so many of the festivities were family-friendly, she said.
“I love it,” said Andenmatten, who turns 35 on Sunday. “There’s a lot of kids out, and my daughter is having a lot of fun.”
The young girl was dressed as a “cute witch,” her mother as a vampire.
“I’d like to be a little bit scary,” Andenmatten said, laughing.
Despite the season’s focus on fear, the atmosphere in the world’s unofficial Halloween capital was quintessential New England: relaxed, family-focused, and full of autumn color. But beneath the festive atmosphere was a year’s worth of careful planning and many layers of safety measures.
Kimberley Driscoll, Salem’s mayor, said the city is taking ample precautions to protect the public and will have a visible police presence through Tuesday, including State Police helicopters above the crowds, and plainclothes officers among the revelers.
“The police chief and the department work with state and federal law enforcement agencies throughout the month, as well as the MBTA,” she said in a phone interview. “We are interested in making sure all vantage points are covered, and we do take into account some of the tactics that have been used in other areas.”
Each afternoon through the holiday, the city is shutting down several blocks of Washington Street and adjacent cross streets, and roads will be blocked by trucks to stop vehicles from driving into the crowd, as happened in a 2016 terror attack in Nice, France.
Large streetside mailboxes are out of service, sealed until after the holiday, and visitors may not bring weapons, even cardboard swords or plastic guns that go with costumes.
“We really strive to remind people that weapons, real or fake, we will be confiscating them,” Driscoll said. She said that recently a visitor showed up dressed as Leatherface,the killer in the “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” films, and had his chainsaw taken away.
Driscoll stressed that the city has already welcomed many visitors this October without issue. “Folks have been very well behaved,” she said.
Among the revelers on Saturday was Louis Zamboli, 51, who traveled from Long Island, N.Y., with his wife. Zamboli was dressed in jeans and a sweatshirt with cowboy boots and a straw hat.
“I’m a cowboy,” he said. “I forgot my shirt at home, but I’m a real cowboy. I ride horses. I’ve got my spurs on my boots.”
The trip was shorter for Jill Warnick, 56, a dental hygienist from Brookline. She took the commuter rail, which added extra service for the weekend.
Warnick was dressed as a deer, with fuzzy antlers attached to a headband. On her lap sat a Siamese cat dressed as a lion, who Warnick introduced as Andy.
“He’s the predator,” she joked.
Warnick said she makes the trip to Salem every year.
“I don’t think I’ve missed a year in 20 years,” she said.
Carissa Preveneau, 24, traveled from another Salem — the one in New Hampshire. She and Jonnie Belisle, 33, of Quebec, dressed as Vikings.
“[Vikings are] loud and aggressive, and that reflects my personality, I’ve been told,” Preveneau said.
Preveneau and Belisle had been to Salem for Halloween before, but wanted to leave an impression this year.
“We’re making an effort, because last year, I came, and I was not dressed up,” Belisle said. Preveneau agreed: “You have to go full-blown, or people don’t respect you.”Rowan Walrath can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @rowanwalrath. Jeremy C. Fox can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @jeremycfox.