The nights, when the witch shops have closed down to at least the human visitors, the shop's earthy incense still lingering in their doorways.
The nights, when the practitioners at the psychic fairs try to pull you in for one more reading, one more glimpse into yourself and the future before they drop their rune stones back into their bags and slide their Tarot decks back into their sleeves.
The nights, when you can actually hear your boots on the cobblestones of the Essex Street Pedestrian Mall, hear the spangled black waves lapping in the harbor, hear the leaves scratching against the curbs as they search for a safe spot from the crushing feet of the next day’s revelers.
The nights, when droves of ghost tours and dark history tours pass by like lost souls following the glowing lantern of some black-caped guide, each participant holding lighted stick candles protected by plastics cups like they’re in a religious ceremony.
The nights, where the bars stay open late, all decorated with bones and cobwebs and monsters and serving spook-themed beverages like they are the city’s real haunted houses.
The nights, where the windows and stoops of the houses grow fungoid with plastic jack-o-lanterns glowing warmly. The traces of fake fog hugging the empty Haunted Neighborhood. The witch museum and its color-changing façade lights. The black patch of the Common.
City’s at night are strange, semi-solemn things in general, but in Salem, its night wanderers are looking for something more spectral, for an ambiance more October. And, so far, I can tell you, it has delivered.