SALEM, Mass. - For the first time in memory, “Vacancy” signs are up in Witch City on Halloween.
Hundreds of thousands of people visit Salem every October for its "Haunted Happenings" calendar of spooky events and attractions. Crowds typically peak on Halloween, itself, when downtown streets and sidewalks are clogged with creatures in costume.
But, as of Tuesday, rooms were available throughout Salem, including in some of its most iconic inns.
“I’ve never seen it before,” said Juli Lederhaus, general manager of the 93-room Hawthorne Hotel, which had more than a dozen vacancies. “I’ve never seen this kind of wholesale cancellations.”
Hurricane Sandy, of course, was the reason. The storm that blew through Monday forced some guests to leave early and prevented others from arriving. New York and New Jersey - especially hard hit - are among the city's top tourist markets.
Cancellations came from in Florida, Texas and California, as well as Canada and Spain. A city official said several group tours also cancelled.
The storm provided unexpected opportunity for others, including an Italian couple who seized on a cancellation at the Henry Derby House, said manager Lisa Marchand. And the weather wasn't expected to affect most of the haunted houses, restaurants and other events attractions.
“I have prepared for what I think is probably going to be a pretty crowded Halloween,” said Salem police Capt. Brian Gilligan. He had lined up 150 officers from the region as well as motorcycles, bike patrols, K-9 units, mounted patrols and tactical forces to work tonight.
“I’m leaving things the way they are,” he said. “It’s better to be safe than sorry.”
Tom Dalton writes for The Salem News.