Witch City's ‘Haunted Happenings’

Stewart, Hannah, Todd, Louise and Ali-Knight, Jane (2023) Witch City's ‘Haunted Happenings’. In: Festivals and Edutainment. Routledge, London, pp. 26-40. ISBN 9781003305415

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Official URL: https://doi.org/10.4324/9781003305415-4


The infamous Salem Witch Trials resulted in the deaths of 20 innocent Puritans accused of witchcraft in 1692. Today, Salem, Massachusetts, has positioned itself as a modern-day Halloween Town where a ‘Disneyfied’ interpretation of its tragic history is on offer throughout its annual October festival – Haunted Happenings. Using a case study approach, this chapter explores how the festival uses dark event tourism and edutainment as a light-hearted approach to educate and entertain people on the darker side of tragedy. Thirteen semi-structured interviews were conducted with Salem’s community stakeholders. Findings suggest the city’s cultural offerings have transmogrified the Salem Witch Trials into an enduring narrative on the value of edutainment as a combative tool for social and political change, highlighting the cultural benefit of creating an immersive educational experience for festival goers. This chapter concludes with recommendations for the future application of the dark event tourism typography and how dark festivals can provide a platform for mediated resistance – a strategy involving the tolerance of the anti/pro-tourism dichotomy, with the greater goal of protecting a destination’s cultural integrity and historicity through edutainment.

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