I am thrilled to bring you a Halloween interview another special Salem guest!
Her name is Kristin and she does a fantastic podcast about Salem.
Thanks for joining us. Please tell us about yourself.
My name is Kristin Harris, and I am a resident of Salem, Massachusetts, the Halloween capitol of the world (I know there is another town who claims this, but I think we certainly have an edge). I moved to Salem in 2013 to pursue my M.A. in American Studies from the University of Massachusetts Boston and graduated in 2015. I am also a tour guide here in Salem for Black Cat Tours, and a Paranormal Investigator with Mass Ghost Hunters Paranormal Society.
I am very proud to be hosting two nights of fact and fiction, as I like to call it, with FunDead Publications, called Visions in the Dark: Salem and the Supernatural at the Witch House in Salem as a part of Haunted Happenings 2017. To tell you a bit about the Witch House, it is the former home of Jonathan Corwin, who was a magistrate during the Salem Witchcraft Trials of 1692, and it is the only structure still standing in Salem Proper with direct ties to the trials. For the event, we wanted to hold it somewhere that has a deep connection to Salem, like the Witch House, and we will be exploring the history of the supernatural and its influence on Salem society from the 17th century to the present. That event is on Tuesday, October 24th.
What was Halloween like for you growing up?
I most remember my parents being SUPER enthusiastic about Halloween, and my Gram. My Gram and Pop used to go all out, they had a whole haunted garage they would decorate and scare the neighborhood kids. I grew up in the suburbs in Pennsylvania, Bucks County, so when I was younger, Halloween was an EVENT. I mean, my parents would plan things all month, we had the tradition of going to the Sleepy Hollow Hayride at Active Acres in Newtown, of course we would carve pumpkins in the garage. Usually this would involve my Dad trying to outdo everyone, and some Ozzy or Motley Crue in the background. You know, kid stuff. But it had an impact on me, and I was a Halloween nut pretty much for as long as I can remember. I always remembered the best houses who gave out the full sized candy bars, I mean well into my teens, until it became weird to trick-or-treat it was like a strategic run through the neighborhood.
In later years, when I met my husband and we discovered a mutual love for Halloween, it was trying to see how many things we could fit into the month, we even tried to do a haunted porch at his parents house (they had a huge porch) and it was a big hit. But, Halloween had slowly started to be less and less kids every year and that was kind of sad. But then as adults when we moved to Salem (I had gotten a job at the Witch House and we both worked there for 3 years) and we discovered HOW intense Halloween and Haunted Happenings was here, it was almost like we found our town, like this was where we were meant to be. So what better place to talk about strange history and the macabre!
Do you have any stand out Halloween memories?
Actually yes, so Scott (my husband) and I have always been total Halloween nuts, but Scott was having a particularly bad year dealing with his anxiety one year. And of course, that's nothing to joke about, but when we look back on this particular incident we now laugh. We decided to go to HAUNT at Dorney Park in Allentown, PA (highly recommend by the way, it blows Fright Fest at Six Flags away) and we had gone through Haunted House after Haunted House, and they had I think 13 different haunts it was CRAZY. But we finally come to this fun house themed one that we had brushed aside to go to the more scary looking elaborate ones, and we round a corner, and this dude in literally the most corny, un-scary alien mask you could imagine comes at us with this totally half-hearted AAAAH!! I'm sitting here laughing as I type this because it was really bad, but for some reason this set Scott into a full-on panic attack and we had to stop the show so he could get out. Again, at the immediate time it wasn't funny, but as soon as Scott calmed down we both were hysterically laughing at the fact that all it took was some half-hearted weird alien mask to trigger anxiety, but that's anxiety for you! We laugh about it now.
What abut a favorite costume?
I have to say one of my favorites was a Poison Ivy costume that I made myself. I bought a stock metallic green Halloween dress and fabric glued all the ivy on myself, I even made the eye pieces and the shoes, literally spray painted them myself. I was pretty proud of that one just because I made it myself. This photo is a little blurry but it was a Batman themed Halloween party so it was pretty awesome.
How do you celebrate Halloween today?
Well, Scott and I got married ON Halloween in 2013, so it's our wedding anniversary. But we are both very lucky to be tour guides here in Salem, and we both usually give a tour during the day, mine is a ghost tour, taking people around to all the haunted locations in Salem, and his is for Bewitched After Dark, and deals with the Salem Witch Trials history specifically. But I am always thrilled to have the privilege of being a tour guide in Salem, arguably the best Halloween town in the U.S. on Halloween. It's something that is particularly special to me, and will always be close to my heart.
Do you have any yearly rituals or things to get in the seasonal spirit?
Actually our only ritual is what I nickname "the deciding" when we both just decide when the Halloween season has arrived for us, and we deck out the whole house in Halloween and blast our Spooky Playlist on Spotify. Usually this is followed with pumpkin beers and/or cider and horror movies. Also, I march in the Haunted Happenings Grand Parade every year with Black Cat Tours and that's always something I really look forward to. It's sort of the official kickoff to Haunted Happenings in Salem.
What about music, movies, or places to go?
Oh, yes, definitely. My ultimate Halloween song is All Hallows Eve by Type O Negative. Also all the classics, Witchy Woman, Spooky by Classics IV and Season of the Witch by Donovan. I try to watch all of the Universal Monster movies I can, The Shining, IT, Stephen King anything, Practical Magic, Sleepy Hollow, the list goes on but those are some of my favorites. OH! and the 1990s Dracula movie, the Lucy white vampire costume is one I have been wanting to do for a LONG time, but I keep pushing it back. As far as places to visit, we have tons of farms in New England, so definitely Russell Orchards for apple cider donuts.
Why do you think we keep Halloween with us as we get older?
I talk about this a bit on the podcast, but I think it's the eternal question of death. Halloween is supposed to be this time of the year when the veil between the world of the living and the dead is the thinnest, when you can see the dead and be able to communicate. So to me it's this idea that for this one night, everyone is on the same page about sort of walking in two worlds. You don a costume and maybe it's this identity or character you always secretly felt was a strong connection to you as a person, or maybe it's just something you thought was traditional, but either of those things shows a deep connection to this time of year. And I personally think, especially with Salem, that it's one that has always been there, this fascination with this other world, sometimes even obsession, that led to tragedy (in 1692). But people have always had this draw to those questions, and especially in Salem this has put conversations about the supernatural at the forefront of social thought in almost every century, just in different ways.
So I think it's the ever-evolving thought process and curiosity that will continue to culminate around this particular time of year. I also think this is why these sorts of celebrations are ridiculously appropriate for Salem, but if you want to learn more about that, come see me at the Witch House on October 22 or listen in for the live podcast because I'll definitely be talking more about that.
Inside the Spooksters' Studio
The worst thing to get while trick or treating was potato chips, seriously though, why potato chips?
My favorite thing to get was those caramel-apple lollipops, those are the BOMB
My favorite monster cereal is Count Chocula!!
Where can folks find you online?
Life After Midnight: Strange History, Salem Style is on Facebook and Instagram.
People can listen to all the episodes on SoundCloud and the Podcast app on iTunes.
Thanks for getting tangled in the Halloween Web. I hope it was fun for you!
It was, thanks for having me!
A huge thank you to Kristin for joining us today. I highly recommend her podcast if you want to learn more about the strange history of Salem, supernatural or otherwise. Trust me on this one, if you're reading this, you should be listening!
Be sure to visit all the Halloween houses by clicking the link below!