Halloween in Salem has kicked off early, thanks to an organization that has historically avoided the Haunted Happenings frenzy: the Peabody Essex Museum. The internationally known museum just opened a horror exhibit, "It's Alive! Classic Horror and Sci-Fi Art from the Kirk Hammett Collection." The exhibit showcases horror movie memorabilia from the collection of Metallica lead guitarist Kirk Hammett. The exhibition includes 75 posters spanning the earliest years of the horror genre in cinema, along with movie props, statues and a series of guitars (which Hammett played in concerts) that he had designed based on his favorite pieces. The show runs through Nov. 26. "Curators in particular are charged with coming up with the unexpected," said exhibit curator Dan Finamore. "We want the unexpected experiences in our galleries, so we'll do that with designs — but it starts with the art we're displaying." Halloween in the Witch City is the stuff of legend. During its month-long Haunted Happenings festivities each October, up to 500,000 visitors flock to the city for street fairs, haunted houses, costume balls and people-watching. Not only has the number of tourists increased steadily over the years, but they seem to start showing up earlier each fall. But year to year, Peabody Essex Museum hasn't gotten in the game. Until now, that is. The art on display over these next three months speaks to the same frights that costumed revelers seek out in Salem every Halloween. Initially, the timing of the show wasn't part of the discussion. "We didn't generate the idea with Halloween in mind," Finamore said. "The idea was based on the collection, the quality of the collection, and once we had approved the idea that we should do the show, then it came into play — what time of year?"
Hammett visits Salem: The collaboration between Hammett and the PEM was forged through a mutual friend of Hammett's, Finamore said. The curator then had an opportunity to visit the home where Hammett stores most of his collection, and Hammett was eager to put the work on display. Before the exhibit came together, Hammett had never been to Salem. "When I first got into Salem two or three trips back, I thought to myself, 'How have I not been here before?'" the horror buff said. "It's like being a big Disney fan and not going to Disneyland." Hammett also praised the vegan culture in Salem, though that's beside the point. Kate Fox, executive director of Destination Salem and one of several architects of Haunted Happenings, said the Hammett exhibit is a "great opportunity for Salem and the museum, and people who may not ordinarily stop into the Peabody Essex Museum when they come during October." "What we see in a normal October when the Peabody Essex Museum has an exhibit — Strandbeests is a great example — we'll see people coming in October that have no idea that Haunted Happenings is going on".
Now, the horror is part of the draw.
"It's all just part of the fabric of Salem," Fox said. "And having a cool graphic arts exhibit like Kirk Hammett's collection, which is a complement to Count Orlok and the Horror Film Festival going on, there's a lot of great collaboration and great efforts in Salem that will benefit everybody."
By Dustin Luca DLuca@salemnews.com