Fun in the Halloween Capital
I decided to go to Salem, a Massachusetts town known as the America’s Halloween capital Friday right after my professor approved my idea of featuring a haunted house there or its ghost tour guide. I departed with a little worry. No response from Salem’s 13 Ghosts since I sent them an email a day prior.
Following streams of tourists from the train station, I headed to Essex Street where the 13 Ghosts is located. The festive atmosphere pervaded the whole street which local people see as a center of their Halloween activities.
The street is boisterous with screams from haunted houses, cries from witch trials, scary sounds from a big Kurt Barlow standing opposite Museum Place Mall, chatters from passing tourists and noises from Salem trolleys.
On strolling to the center of Essex Street, after a few chats and quick observations, I knew immediately what I should feature. Before sending an email to my professor, I walked to the 13 Ghosts some blocks away to make sure that I made a right decision.
While awaiting my professor’s reply, I kicked off my reporting at the Nightmare Factory’s makeup workshop, standing observing the hands of Tobi, one of my two subjects, and asking him for an interview when he took a break from serving continuous flows of customers.
With my patience and the generosity from Tobi, Dave and their boss Marshall, I gathered almost all I need for the story by 7 p.m. when I joined the ghost tour offered by the 13 Ghosts whose ticket I purchased online. Of course, my reporting couldn’t be complete without the help from their customers who answered nearly all what I asked and allowed me to take their photos for my story.
To understand more my subjects, I suggested Steve who is made up as the Kurt Barlow, a fictional character in Stephen King’s 1975 horror novel, ‘Salem’s Lot, for an information interview but he refused.
“I’m sorry. I have no time. I work for tips,” said Steve who tends to stand behind his tipping wooden box adjacent to Tobi’s workplace.
I grasped a customer whose left face looks like a zombie’s right after he left Dave’s shop. Observing the way he talked to Dave, I knew that he could me understand about Dave, who looked a bit scary with a white contact lense on his right eye and a septum piercing.
The customer’s name is Alex, a real estate agent from Boston. He said he has worked part-time as a pedicab driver since the market went down.
“Do you mind if I ask you some questions for my story on Nightmare Factory?”
“Sure but I gets back to work now.”
“I understand. How much for a ride?”
“I do a 30-minute tour for $15 and a one-hour tour for $30.”
“Okay. I’d like a 30-minute ride.”
His pedicab is somewhat like “xe loi dap” (pedicab) in my hometown of Chau Doc, Vietnam. When I told him I’m from Emerson College, he surprised me by saying that he graduated there in 2008 from a film program.
I wished I had more chance to talk a walk to every corner of Salem downtown. I wanted to mingle with all the Halloween activities in Salem.
On my way to the center of Essex Street, I met this moving “statue” who drew a lot of people to take photos with her.
At 4 p.m. when looking for something for my dinner, I went by her. A man in a T-shirt and jean shorts standing across from her approached me and suggested me to tip the “statue” and take a picture with her. He made me feel that he was the statue’s co-worker.
“How much should I tip her?”
“I think two bucks are enough.”
Not all performers in Salem work for tips. In the evening, a huge, handcuffed man with a pale-looking face caught my eyes when I walked away from a pirate performance. He ambled around in silence and stopped when people want to photo with him.
I felt obliged to say a bit about my broken nose as Tobi called it. I couldn’t help laughing when a woman approaching me and said:
“I’m sorry I thought your nose is bleeding.”
“Oh really. It’s just a makeup.”
“It looks very convincing.”
No wonder when I stood next to her and her mom, they threw a slightly worried look at me. That was a compliment to Tobi who spent just 3 minutes to make my face gory. I gave him $5 but he first refused and said that he didn’t expect me to pay him.
This year is the first time, I celebrate Halloween. I didn’t know that psychic readings are indispensable to Halloween celebrations until I enter a psychic fair inside Museum Place Mall after my dinner.
Tobi told me that if I wanted to enter the haunted house, just come there and tell his colleague that “I send you to that house. You don’t need to pay.”
Still I refused his privilege because I already had ghost tour-haunted house tickets at the 13 Ghosts.
Before taking a ghost tour with more than 20 people, I did expect something ghoulish. I felt a bit disappointed after 45 minutes walking with a ghost-looking tour guide. I wished I had chosen a Salem trolley tour instead.
Because of the unexpected disappointment, I decided to save the 13 Ghosts’ haunted house tour for tomorrow.
(Salem, Mass. October 26, 27/2012)