The Northeast is a great place to enjoy some scares

There is nothing quite like autumn in the Northeast. Not only is this region known for the awe-inspiring landscape that appears when the leaves change color, but it is also home to some of the nation’s most elaborate and exciting Halloween celebrations.

As the pandemic grows closer to winding down and we look forward to a time where we can once again gather in celebration of Halloween, these seven towns in the Northeast will be sure to make up for the year of lost celebration. Pack your best costume and comfortable walking shoes and build an itinerary around Halloween in these small cities.

Salem, MA

SalemMA_Zombies-Bewitched statue_photo John Andrews

Photo courtesy of John Andrews

Salem is the home of the Salem Witch Trials, one of the most disturbing events in American history. And, as one would expect, this city knows how to put on a Halloween celebration. There are events all month that commemorate the history of the town and celebrate the time-honored traditions of Halloween. The Festival of the Dead is an organization that hosts multiple events throughout the month of October. Running through the entire month is the Salem Psychic Fair and Witches Market, a free admission event that allows you to dive into the world of witchcraft. Practicing witches offer tarot card readings, palm readings, crystal ball scrying and more. Or, you can visit the gift shop to browse the number of eclectic items sold, like sun catchers, spell books, enchanted candles, and voodoo dolls. For the authentic Salem witch experience, visit the Witch House in downtown Salem, the home of a judge who was responsible for sentencing witches to death. Or, visit the Salem Witch Trial Memorial at Burying Point Cemetery where 19 convicted witches were hanged for their accused crimes. Hosted the night before Halloween is the Official Salem Witches’ Halloween Ball, a 21+ event. Tickets are $150 each, and upon your arrival you are instantly entered into a costume contest for which there is a $1,000 cash prize for the winner.

Sleepy Hollow, NY

Sleepy Hollow is better known as the hometown of the famed Headless Horseman, a character in The Legend of Sleepy Hollow written by Washington Irving, who resided in the town. You can visit Irving’s home or the famed bridge where the Horseman was said to be spotted in the legend. If you want to explore more into the history of this town, there is no shortage of guided tours that Sleepy Hollow offers. Some of the most popular are a nighttime walk through Rockefeller Preserve and the grounds of the ornate Lyndhurst Castle. For Halloween lovers looking for a fright, Sleepy Hollow Cemetery offers an evening lantern tour where you get to see the graves of the town’s impressive former residents, including Andrew Carnegie.

Chatham, MA

Chatham, Massachusetts hosts its own small town take on Oktoberfest. Along with a beer garden tent with Oktoberfest-style food, the town hosts a cornhole tournament, a bandstand for local artists and a children’s costume parade. Stop by Kate Gould Park to see the Pumpkin People in the Park display. These creative and playful pumpkin scarecrows are fashioned by local business and are on display from October 16-31.

Princeton, NJ

The area surrounding Princeton, New Jersey is home to some of the Northeast’s most terrifying haunted houses. Scary Rotten Farms, Farm of Horrors and Haunted Red Mill are just some of the top-rated haunted houses that are certain to give you a fright. For more kid-friendly Halloween activities, most of these haunted houses have pumpkin patches and hayrides during the daytime.

Erie, PA

One of the most well-loved traditions in Erie, Pennsylvania is the annual horror film festival. This is a three-day celebration of independent horror cinema, featuring celebrity guests, screenings of films, and workshops from filmmakers and screenwriters. Every year, they accept applications from independent filmmakers all over the world, one of which will be named the winner at the end of the festival. One of the largest kid-friendly events in the area for Halloween is ZooBOO, hosted by the Erie Zoo. Dress the kids in their costumes and get ready for a day of fun activities like the Spooky Scavenger Hunt, the Safariland Express ride, and chat with the zoo’s Talking Pumpkin. Complete the scavenger hunt and you’ll be entered to win a ZooBOO gift basket, filled with treats from a local candy shop.

Croton-on-Hudson, NY

Just 10 miles away from Sleepy Hollow, Croton-on-Hudson offers the Great JackO’-Lantern Blaze, which features more than 7,000 hand-carved pumpkins that are illuminated in a synchronized light show with an original soundtrack. The pumpkin-carving artists have fashioned their gourds into every formation and design imaginable, from recreations of famous artwork to a pumpkin windmill.


Photo courtesy of Tom Nycz for Historic Hudson Valley

Laconia, NH

In Laconia, New Hampshire, one of the biggest Halloween competitions in the Northeast is held. The New Hampshire Pumpkin Festival is an event where residents attempt to amass the largest number of lit jack-o’-lanterns as they possibly can in one place. The Guinness World Record for most lit jack-o’-lanterns has been broken during this festival twice: once in 2003 with 28,952 pumpkins and again in 2013 with 30,581 pumpkins. During this weekend in October, you will not see one surface in downtown Laconia that is not covered with smiling jack-o’-lanterns. The festival also includes fireworks, live music and food.

By Isabella Wilkes