‘Haunted Happenings and the Urban Supernatural’: Dark Events and Placemaking in Salem, USA

Stone, Philip orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-9632-1364 and Stewart, Hannah (2024) ‘Haunted Happenings and the Urban Supernatural’: Dark Events and Placemaking in Salem, USA. Revenant Journal .

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The Salem Witch Trials of 1692 not only became a turning point of American history, but witchery became entrenched in the placemaking of Salem’s urban supernatural. As such, Salem’s cultural trauma has become a desirable focus of the tourist gaze, specifically through its annual ‘Haunted Happenings’ event. Drawing upon conceptual underpinning of dark tourism, semiotics, collective memory, and social identity, as well as Foucault's ‘heterotopology’, we argue Salem is a place that is disturbing, intense, incompatible, contradictory, and even transforming. We argue Salem is where material realities and (re)imagined supernatural spaces collide to co-create a dark tourism place. Indeed, Salem is where we consume reflections and illusions, as well as engaging with atrocities and misdeeds of the problematic past. In turn, Salem and its supernatural placemaking exports its tragic history, which not only expresses difficult heritage but also ruptures the past to reclaim cultural and mercantile advantage. We advocate contemporary placemaking of Salem within realms of the urban supernatural and cultural trauma creates Salem into a Foucauldian heterotopia. It is here that Salem reflects the reality of our contemporary globalised community, where it is a world within a world, mirroring and yet upsetting what is outside.

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