City of Salem closes landmark cemetery for entire month of October

City of Salem closes landmark cemetery for entire month of October

SALEM, Mass. — Halloween is undoubtedly the biggest time of the year for the City of Salem.

Spooky enthusiasts from all over the world flock to the site of the historic witch trials of 1692 every month of October, hoping to soak up as much of the haunted celebrations as they can.

This year, however, the city has decided to close down the Charter Street Burial Ground from late Sept. until Nov. 3. City officials said the on-going restoration project of the cemetery led to a vote to close it for foot traffic during the month of Halloween.

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"A lot of groups use it as a place to kill time and maybe not behave in an intentional manner in the cemetery," said Kate Fox, the Executive Director for Destination Salem. "There's no way to control it all in October when we have so many visitors."

Last Halloween season, volunteers stood at the entrance and exit to ensure that no more than 100 people at a time could enter the cemetery. This year, however, locked gates are preventing anyone from going inside.

"This is resting place for John Hawthorne," said Fox. "He was one of the judges during the Salem Witch Trials. The cemetery is hundreds of years old and it has withstood a lot."

Hawthorne, the great great grandfather of famous writer Nathaniel Hawthorne, was a judge and one of several witchcraft prosecutors who were laid to rest at Charter Street Burial Ground.

The series of hangings and prosecutions of those accused of witchcraft in colonial Massachusetts resulted in 19 people, mainly women, being executed from Feb. 1692 to May 1693.

However, the decision to close down the cemetery wasn't well-received by all in the city.

Giovanni Alabiso, owner of Salem Historical Tours and Haunted Footsteps Ghost Tours, said people travel to Salem from around the world to pay respects to their ancestors.

"We've had descendants of Simon Bradstreet, [the] governor during the witchcraft trials come here," said Alabiso.

For Alabiso, the cemetery's closure is bad for business. He says that, during his peak time for profit, the decision has cost him "probably $10,000."

"Everyone is like, 'We want to protect the cemetery,' so we're all on the same page, we just disagree how to do it," said Alabiso.