SALEM, Massachusetts — It is nightfall in Salem, the week before Halloween. A woman who looks to be in her 70s sits in the bar of the Hawthorne Hotel sporting a novelty witch hat. Her male companion wears a spiderweb tie. Along the lawn at Washington Square, another tourist tugs at her companion’s sleeve as she considers another destination for their week. “But it’s not spooky like this place, right?” she asks.
At Pastime 32, a vintage-inspired craft shop just off Essex Street, a shopkeeper in velvet gives visitors advice about practicing magic. “Witchcraft is more of a lifestyle now than a religion,” she says. She recommends that they read a BuzzFeed article to that effect. “So if a spell works it works.” In the old days, she tells them, you might have had to resort to the formal magic kept in some arcane spell book. But now, she adds brightly, you can just check out Witch Instagram for ideas.
Along the narrow, red brick street in the pedestrianized heart of town, T-shirt stalls alternate with New Age storefronts selling herbs, tinctures, and Tarot cards.