In years past, the city of Salem welcomed visitors around Halloween time and even advertised the freaky festivities. But during the pandemic, they're turning people away.
Though many of Salem's traditional Halloween festivities have already been canceled this year, crowds are showing up in costume anyway. Now, Witch City officials are urging people with plans to visit in October to postpone their trips.
"This is not the year to come to Salem," Mayor Kim Driscoll said at a press conference Friday morning. "It's not going to be a banner year given all the things that were canceled."
"We're working hard to cut down on visitors," she added. "That is not normally what we do in October, but this is no ordinary October."
Driscoll announced new steps Friday intended to protect the health and well-being of residents, employees, and visitors, including limiting access and erecting barriers along the Essex Street pedestrian mall and advising businesses who have not yet put in place advance reservations and ticketing systems to do so.
The measures will be in effect from Saturday through Oct. 29.
Driscoll said the city will be announcing its plans for Halloween in the near future.
"It's typically a street party," she said. "This year it's on Saturday, there's a full moon, it's Daylight Saving. Obviously, before COVID we were expecting to have a banner day on Halloween. None of that can happen."
Driscoll said restrictions on Halloween will likely include early shutdowns, closures of parking areas and the curtailment of trains.
The city implemented coronavirus safety rules for visitors earlier this month, including reservation requirements, and beefed up its police presence to prevent crowds. The city also launched an online tool that shows the approximate crowd levels based on car counts and people at commuter rail stations.
Driscoll also held off on adopting relaxed coronavirus restrictions from the state. Shops, restaurants and attractions continue to operate at reduced capacity -- 25% indoors. And although state regulations allow 10 people per table at restaurants, Salem has kept the local limit to six.
"We are huge witch fans and we're all into the occult and everything," said tourist Krystal Pastorino.
"All the witchiness, all the fun times and the atmosphere is beautiful, the town is gorgeous, all the history," said tourist Carly Wissler. "We were totally here unless they were kicking us out."
"We've adjusted to accept reservations which is the first time in Opus' history during October that we've accepted reservations," said Cassandra Delp, the restaurant's general manager.