Courtesy photoWith blood and guts popping out all over the place, haunted houses usually aren’t for the faint of heart and especially are not well suited for small children who are afraid of the dark. But the parents of little ones can breathe easy knowing a new haunted attraction in Salem’s Museum Place Mall was made just for young kids.
“Sometimes people would say ‘there’s nothing for little kids and the haunted houses are too scary,’ and we had an opportunity to do a children’s haunted house and really tone it down for a lot of kids,” said Jonathan Scoglio, who opened Griswold's Ghostly Grove last month along with the owner of the Nightmare Factory, Marshall Tripoli. “It’s more of a children’s haunted attraction, it’s not like a haunted house with a maze and people jumping out at you.
“If the kids get really frightened we can turn on the lights and the kids can look at the paintings in there and the animatronics characters in there. … It’s usually pretty obvious if they don’t want to go in because they are going to get scared, because kids get scared when the lights are off.”
In fact, Griswold’s Ghostly Grove is among a slew of temporary attractions and events geared toward children and families at the 30th annually Haunted Happenings this month in Salem. From Family Fun Days to free films on the Salem Common, there are more offerings for kids in Salem this Halloween than there have been in recent years.
Kate Fox, director of Destination Salem, which organizes Haunted Happenings, said some people have come to view Halloween in Salem as adult playground each October.
“A lot of the attractions and haunted houses, there’s a gap in entertainment for kids ages 5 and 12 where things might be too scary, depending on the kid, it all depends on the child and what they are used to,” Fox said. “We’ve definitely tried to have more activities for all the people in the family to do.
“[On] the other end of the spectrum there’s so many 21 and over parties and costume parties and the street party aspect to Halloween night itself. But over the last three or four years we’ve made a conscious effort to promote to families. We want to promote to everyone and not just appeal to one demographic because Halloween should be for everyone.”
This past Saturday the Radio 92.9 Haunted Movie Series began on Salem Common with Monster’s Inc. and this coming Saturday Casper will be shown. On Oct. 22 Hocus Pocus will be shown and Beetlejuice is slated for Oct. 29. All the movies start at 6:30 p.m. and are free.
The National Parks Service will put on a new show called Sea Shanties at the Ship Stage on Derby Warf at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. this Saturday. And Wizardly Wonders at the Witches Cottage was only performed on weekdays last year and is now being extended to Saturdays and Sundays. The dramatic presentation on is geared toward children, Fox said.
“It’s cool,” Fox said. “It’s a lot of fun.”
On Oct. 29, 30 and 31 there will be trick-or-treating from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. at Pioneer Village, which is a replica of Salem in the 1630s.
While last week’s Chamber of Commerce’s Grand Parade, this Saturday’s Salem Halloween Children’s Day and the Stop by for a Spell Children’s Costume Brunch at the Hawthorn Hotel on Oct. 23 are all always staples of Haunted Happenings, Shara Sobelman also saw a need for even more family fun this year.
That’s why the owner of New England Parties and Parties over Boston has organized two Family Fun Days on Salem Common, featuring interactive inflatables, games, entertainers and contests during the last two weeks of the month. The Goodtime Stringband, which was part of the film production of "Furry Vengeance" when it was filmed in Topsfield, will also make a cameo at the Family Fun Days. Proceeds from the first weekend will benefit Salem Main Streets and the second will benefit Salem Common Neighborhood Association.
“I’m from Salem and I live in Downtown Salem,” Sobelman said. “Last October I would walk my dog through the Common and say ‘Why aren’t there more family friendly activities going on?’ We approached the city and the mayor and they were very open to it.
“I think there’s a lot of things just geared toward adults and teenagers and so many people come from around the world and even locally. It’s important to encourage people to stay around and participate.”
No attractions are geared toward adults and teens more than the haunted houses.
“That’s what we’ve heard, that there’s not a lot for kids to do,” Scoglio said. “That’s why we really wanted to change it up … You got to some haunted houses and it’s all blood and gore and we’re staying away from that. You can still have fun without getting too gory.”
Justin A. Rice can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.