The Season of the Spooks

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Start A Scary Tradition

October - the time of year for pumpkin spice lattes, Major League Baseball playoffs, leaf peeping (yes, that’s a thing for those of you on the west coast), and all things spooky.

It seems like every year, the Halloween traditions in my house grow and mutate. We carve pumpkins while sipping Dark n’ Stormies. We conjure up the perfect group costume. We dissect the villain reveal of whatever slasher movie is on the tube. And we nosh on a festive Halloween recipe.

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But before we adopted all these customs, the first tradition was to go on a haunted tour of the city. Just about every city has its local folklore about the haunted, the morbid, and the unsolved.

The dark history of a city is rarely told; tourism bureaus usually try to mask the existence of ghosts and serial killers. However, these stories have profound impact in shaping the narrative of a city. Macabre and sinister incidents have changed cities’ laws, architecture, industry and reputation.

Two examples of this:

New Orleans, LA

Zombies and vampires were conjoined long before Anne Rice published, “Interview with a Vampire.” The reason: yellow fever outbreaks in Louisiana killed over 40,000 people throughout the 1800s, and whenever the levee flooded, coffins rose to the surface. Not all coffins remained shut, and not all bodies remained in their caskets. What does the victim of yellow fever look like? Pale skin, bleeding in the mouth and eyes, black vomit, not to mention receded gums and long fingernails.

Salem, MA

Salem tried for decades to suppress its association with witchcraft and sorcery, before succumbing to embrace it in the late 20th century. In 1692, residents in the small, Puritan town accused one another of black magic. The Salem Witch Trials led to forced confessions, undue trials, and the death of 25 people. The term, “witch hunt,” was born from the hysteria in Salem.

This Halloween season, explore your hometown from a new perspective: go on a spine-chilling, supernatural haunted walk. It may explain a few things. And who knows, perhaps an annual haunted walking tour will become part of your family’s Halloween tradition.

Several haunted walks are available for free on the Sidewalk app.

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Vice, Ghosts & Serial Killers: A Haunted Walk Through Pike Place Market

What We Love: Grab a pint in what used to be a old funeral parlor. Police discovered too late that the mortician had killed dozens of the people he cremated. While the mortician fled town, the specters of his victims remain in the building.

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Los Angeles

Ghosts, Vice, Serial Killers & Unsolved Murders: A Tour of Haunted Downtown LA

What We Love: Visit three historic movie theaters that are haunted by ghosts of Hollywood history. One works in a projection booth, another flits around the former segregated section of a decrepit mezzanine, and the last is an actor who failed to transition out of the silent film era.

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New York

Tales from the Grave: Ghosts and Hauntings of Greenwich Village

What We Love: Two words: Supernatural celebrities. The ghosts of Aaron Burr and his bitter daughter, Theodosia haunt a restaurant. Edgar Allen Poe wrote The Raven in a nearby building. Dylan Thomas’ phantasm downs whiskey and pushes bar tables.

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Salem I

Beyond the Witches: Spooks, Murder & Sinister Hauntings of Salem

What We Love: A sea captain was brutally assassinated at the request of his son-in-law. Today, the captain’s ghost haunts the second floor of his mansion, forever waiting to confront his killer.

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Salem II

Mass Hysteria, Torture & Harbingers of Doom: Hauntings of The Salem Witch Trials

What We Love: Explore the places where the witch trials occurred, beyond the tourist traps. The cemetery near the old jail, the apple orchard where a woman was spotted flying through the air, the former home of Sheriff George "The Strangler" Corwin.

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Jason Donahue, Co-Founder & CEO

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