Each October, Salem, Massachusetts, famous for its 1692 witch trials, holds a month-long festival called “Haunted Happenings” – though this year things have gotten complicated, with the partial shutdown of the federal government. The National Park Service was forced to close its Salem visitor center, including the bathrooms. Volunteers brought in porta potties to remedy the situation.
Salem sees 25% of its annual visitors during the Haunted Happenings event, and mayor Kim Driscoll said the timing of the shutdown couldn’t be worse. The festivities include a withcraft expo, trick-or-treating and a psychic fair, and generates about $30 million. About 250,000 visitors are expected to arrive for the 32nd annual festival.
Regardless of the shutdown, “People have stepped up, we got a makeshift visitor center set up, we brought in portable toilets, so anyone needing information isn’t gonna be lost,” Driscoll said. Yet, some visitors aren’t very pleased.
Nancy Ryan of Manhattan, IL, says she hopes members of Congress have to come to Salem to use the porta potties “because that’s where they belong.” Because, they are like witches. Verna Hahn of Kelowna, British Columbia, said, “this is once-in-a-lifetime we are going to be here. We are not coming back, so it’s a lot of dollars the city is going to be losing if we are not here, spending our money, and that is a snowball effect on the local economy.”
Local warlock Christian Day said, “if this shutdown doesn’t end soon, the Salem witches may have to get together and do a little magic to push it along.” Day went on to cast a spell to bring prosperity to the town.
Diminished festivities aside, the government shutdown is having a real effect on furloughed workers who depend on their weekly paychecks to survive. Brian Kessler, an economist with Moody’s Analytics, predicts the economic impact could possibly be at least ten times greater than the simple calculation of wages lost by federal workers. His firm estimates that a three to four week shutdown could cost the economy roughly $55 billion dollars.
Driscoll added, “nevertheless, we are resilient and are working through it pro-actively. Salem is open for business and ready to welcome the thousands of costumed revelers who come to our City every day through the month of October.”
Image via YouTube.