Tens of thousands of people traveled far and wide to celebrate the closing night of Haunted Happenings Tuesday night. Now, the City of Peace returns to its residents. The season was widely reported as being the largest on record, from the kickoff parade having more floats than prior years to the Columbus Day weekend crowd reportedly dwarfing last year's final weekend. But by midnight Tuesday night, barriers had come down, hundreds of police from throughout the county returned to their homes and street sweepers roared along roads filled with revelers just an hour or two earlier. As the tourists returned home as well, there was a sense of wonder that left with them. Just take note of "prettybrownnomad" on Instagram, who posted a photo on Instagram with the caption, "Exploring Salem, MA during Halloween has been on my #bucketlist for a while now. This year, that dream came true." Or ask Dorothy... a very tall, 30-year-old bearded Dorothy. Oh, and she's — he? — from New Orleans. "We wanted to experience the whimsicalness of Salem Halloween," said Brent Gibert, standing with his mother Susan, who was dressed fittingly as a witch. "It's amazing. Everyone is participating, and everywhere, we're well received." Bangor, Maine resident Dan Lavoie — better known as The Salem Satan, standing each year with a "free hugs with Satan" sign — brought his 4-year-old daughter Alyssa along. She came dressed as strawberry shortcake and held a companion sign offering free snuggles."I've come every year for seven years," Lavoie said. "And I do the Satan thing to troll the religious guys. It tends to make them more upset than getting yelled at, because we're just being quiet." Lavoie wasn't the only one. The night was relatively incident free, though police were called out to check up on a developing situation between the widely recognized Pastor Stephen Brock, from True Gospel Baptist Church, and a caravan of folks from the Satanic Temple on Bridge Street, who spent a good chunk of the night obstructing Brock's commentary in troll-like fashion. Not everything went to plan, however. Seabourn Quest, a mammoth cruise ship with a carrying capacity of 458 passengers, was due to come to Salem as part of a 14-day "Atlantic Coast Harbors" tour. But with this past weekend's destructive storm, the plans were canned, according to Kate Fox, executive director of Destination Salem. Where plans did go forward, they did so gloriously. Jeromy and Liz Sexton traveled from Pennsylvania and made their visit to Salem a weekend affair. They were inspired to come from watching Hocus Pocus, Jeromy Sexton joked.
"This was our first time, and we just really wanted to come up," he said. "It has been a blast. Everybody has been great."