EDITORIAL: Stirring the cauldron

Adam Sandler’s movie “Hubie Halloween” made only a modest splash when it debuted in 2020. Critics generally found it fangless if goofy fun, with the website Rotten Tomatoes giving it a “meh” 51% rating. On the plus side, its wardrobe, make-up and set-design elements killed.

Why bring up a movie even Sandler fans soon forgot? Because “Hubie Halloween” managed to do something altogether astonishing. It turned Marblehead into Salem. On Halloween, no less.

Strange but true. Thanks to creative set construction and many dollars spent locally, Marblehead’s streets and neighborhoods credibly subbed for Salem on screen. Which city was Witch City? Few could tell for sure.

Oh, the horror.

Look, we get it. To live in Marblehead from Labor Day through October and approach Salem from any direction can be a nightmare.

The crowded sidewalks. The traffic. The tour buses. The lack of parking. The pumpkin-spiced kitsch.


Need to travel from Salem State University to the Beverly-Salem Bridge on a mid-October weekend? Keep a flying broomstick handy.

Meanwhile, all those out-of-town visitors getting their freak on pump millions into the local economy. Just not into ours.

Okay, but could that script be flipped? Might we ever give our 01970 neighbors even a small run for their money? And would we ever want to?

At first glance, the idea of Marblehead embracing its Inner Salem doesn’t stand a ghost of a chance. But maybe, just to stir the cauldron here, it’s worth another look.

In some ways, our town is already competitive, historically speaking. Those notorious 17th-century Witch Trials that put Salem on the tourist map? We also own a piece of that, in the legacy of Wilmot Redd, for whom Redd’s Pond is named.

“Mammy Redd,” as she was known, was a “cranky old lady who didn’t want to be bothered,” as town historian emeritus Bette Hunt once put it. Clearly, though, Redd bothered the wrong people, who accused her of witchcraft. Tried and executed in Salem Village in 1692, she became the only Marbleheader to meet that grim fate.

Redd’s memorial, located on Old Burial Hill, could be a worthy side trip for any dedicated witch-watcher worth his or her salt. Just saying.

And what about all that witchy kitsch for which Salem is famous? The Haunted Happenings attractions that bring in big bucks every fall? Well, we have something to offer there, too.

In fact, we dare anyone to find a more imaginatively spooky Halloween-themed display than what architect Tom Saltsman and crew construct every year on his Pleasant Street property.

Recent multi-media installations have included a 20-foot tall, cobra-headed Egyptian goddess; a “Game of Thrones”-scale dragon; a King-Kong-sized gorilla; a marooned ghost ship; and a massive alien spaceship, all worthy of a top-notch Marvel movie set designer.

What will their team unveil later this month? Stay tuned. But it should be awesome.

Fans of another popular Halloween-themed movie, “Hocus Pocus,” will be rewarded, too. Nominally set in Salem, several iconic Marblehead landmarks pop up throughout the film, including Abbot Hall, Old Burial Hill cemetery, Crocker Park, Old Town House and State Street. Our town’s autumnal beauty provides the perfectly haunting backdrop for the Sanderson sisters’ antics.

A heads-up, then. With three more weeks to go this October, there’s plenty of time for Salem visitors to branch out a little — no flying broomsticks necessary — and creep on over our way to sample Marblehead’s seasonal attractions. We’ll scare you up a parking space, treat you to some history you might have skipped, and maybe, should you time your visit right, throw in a Hollywood ending.

The Current Editorial Board
info@marbleheadnews.org | + posts

The members of the Current’s editorial board are Ed Bell, who serves as chairman, and Virginia Buckingham, both members of the Current’s board of directors; Kris Olson and Will Dowd, members of the Current’s editorial staff; and Robert Peck and Joseph P. Kahn. Peck is an attorney, former chairman of Marblehead’s Finance Committee and a former Select Board member. Kahn is a retired Boston Globe journalist.

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