- Haunted Happenings' roots began with a Witches Weekend in 1981 which was co-chaired by Susannah Stuart, the former Salem Witch Museum Director, and Gloria Lampropoulous. It involved hotel package stays, a witches ball, a haunted house, a medieval festival and a screening of "Dracula" at the Salem Theatre.
- The first time Haunted Happenings took place in 1982, it featured parades, costume balls, ghost walks and a "Horribles Parade", among other things. Susannah Stuart and Joan Gormalley, who was then president of the Salem Chamber of Commerce, organized events over three days, including the chamber's own haunted house and a witch's brew contest at Victoria Station. Thousands flocked to Salem and jammed the East India Mall and Laurie Cabot judged the costumes for the Horribles Parade. Essex Institute ran an exhibit called "Salem Witches, Documents of an Early American Drama." Along with the scholarly bent, it also embraced traditional Halloween themes, and it brought together museums and retailers.
Over the next decade, with the Chamber of Commerce running the festival, it stretched over 10 days instead of just Halloween weekend.
- Salem's Tercentenary led to a more expanded and internationally flavored event. Elie Wiesel attended the dedication of the Salem Witch Trials Memorial in August of 1992.
- Eventually, the event outgrew the Chamber of Commerce and became an entity of its own. By 1995, Haunted Happenings had grown to a two week long event and became the city's largest tourist draw, with an estimated 150,000 people visiting Salem.
- The city held its first Halloween parade in 1995, with costumed schoolchildren and a unifying theme.
- The MBTA organized a special train coming to Salem called "Fright Train" starting in 1995. Passengers are welcome to come in costume and show up early for refreshments. The ride will be an entertaining and spooky 25 min. ride to Salem for the opening day parade.
- In 1997, King Fish Media started a Haunted Passport program which offers a discount card to local shops, restaurants and other tourist destinations.
- Starting in the early 2000's the Salem Festivals Committee has organized the month-long Haunted Happening events, along with Destination Salem, Salem Partnership and the Salem Chamber of Commerce.
- Haunted Happenings today begins on Oct. 1st and is pitched as a unique opportunity to visit Salem. The city is more adept at handling and controlling crowds and shifted events to more family friendly events, moving the bulk of the crowds out with a fireworks finale that signals the end of the festivities. The fireworks finale started in 2007 as a way to signal the large crowds that the evening is over.
- The amount of visitors varies from year to year, but a typical Saturday night before Halloween can draw between 50,000 and 75,000 visitors. Over 1 million people visit Salem every year. Approximately 400,000 people visit Salem in the month of October.
Vertical File in Salem Collection - Halloween
Vertical File in Salem Collection - Haunted Happenings
Haunted Happenings Salem city website
"Tourist firms move to take over Haunted Happenings" Salem Evening News, Dec. 1, 1994, p. 9
"Dummies guide to Salem Witches; from witchcraft school to vampire balls and everything in between" Salem News, Oct. 11, 2007, p. A1
"City: We'll keep lid on Halloween: mayor says fireworks may once again signal end of celebration" Salem News, Sept. 12, 2008, p. 1
"Halloween a $202k treat for the city" Salem News, Mar. 13, 2009, p.1
"How Haunted Happenings bewitched the city of Salem" Salem News, Oct. 25, 2010, p. 1
"Revelry trumps frightful cold on city's big night" Salem News, Nov. 1, 2010, p. 1
"Little trouble seen in Salem; generally a well-behaved crowd" Salem News, Nov. 2, 2009, p. 1
"Halloween may come to Salem Common; Mayor considers adding October attraction geared toward families" Salem News, Aug. 14, 2007, p. A1