Busking in Salem looks different this year than past years, leaving street performers to figure out creative ways to do what they do best. Some of them are putting up fences, others are crafting elaborate social distancing signs, and still others have taken to the internet, choosing to entertain the masses in their own homes.
The reason they do it is because they love it, and Salem has always had a particular draw to the fascinatingly costumed.
We spoke to a few of the most well-known street performers in Salem and asked them the question “What do you love best about busking in Salem?” And here’s what they said.
If you like what you see, don’t forget to tip the performers!
The Salem Satan
“First there’s an underlying energy that Salem brings. Some feel it and some don’t. I’m one that does. There’s a calmness that comes over you and when I’m there, it’s the only time I live in the moment.
“Second, I love providing entertainment to the crowds. If I had to gauge it I would say 98% of the people love what I do. I often get high fives, laughter, positive comments, and so many hugs. Even though there’s a small percentage that don’t interact with me, I still love their reactions.
“Third, but certainly not least, we have a growing busker community and we look forward to seeing each other every year. I consider these individuals to be part of my Salem family. I don’t live local, but we all have 2 things in common that binds us: our love for Salem and Halloween. We all come from different walks of life, but get along splendidly.”
Brandon the Shapeshifter
“I love busking in Salem because it allows me to do what I am passionate about which is transforming into different magical characters, while celebrating my favorite holiday, which is Halloween. I am able to connect with so many people all around the world and have many tourists appreciate the hard work I put into my costumes. Just seeing them light up and get excited makes my day.”
Witch City Michael Myers
“I love watching the crowds, seeing different people from all over the world. Getting to interact with them. Seeing how everyone reacts to my character. I always look forward to repeat visitors. I have one family that in my first year out there used me for their wedding proposal. Since then they’ve been back every year. That’s what motivates me to be out there! Tips are a great bonus, and always very much appreciated.”
Big Top Tiny
“I love the atmosphere of Salem. The cobblestone streets and dimly lit alleys flanked by old world brick facades. I only busked in Salem last year for the first time and the reactions I received were amazing. Salem welcomed Tiny with open arms and from that point on I was hooked!”
Borah Brewington Snaggletooth XIII
“What I love about busking in Salem is that I get to meet so many people from around the US and the world. Old and new friends that live and visit Salem stop by for what they call their “tradition” of taking pics with BORAH! for Christmas cards etc. Through my snarky, witty, sarcastic character, I bring laughter, smiles and lots of times tears of happiness. Some of my favorite moments are when I connect with children and adults that are differently abled.
“I love when they come up to me and we have a pure, innocent moment of spending time together. Their smile, laughter and innocent curiosity of BORAH! are truly amazing moments. I have had happy family members cry from the positive reactions their children or parents have had from being with BORAH! I love the positive feedback that I get from the community. I also love giving back to Salem.
“Each year I donate a portion from the tips that I make in October to different children’s charities in Salem. Obviously this year is bringing lots of challenges to Halloween 2020. Like all of my fellow buskers, I miss busking out on Essex Street. I know that everything will be okay and we ALL will come back stronger and more enthusiastic, ready to take on October 2021”
Salem’s Sophisticated Psycho
“What I love about busking the most is the smile on the faces of the people. Seeing people happy is extremely important to me. I love bringing joy,by bringing terror.”
Michael Myers of Salem
“[The reason] I out there is just for that, the love of it. Yeah tipping is great and all, but the reactions you get out of people laugh, cry, or scared are so worth it. I truly believe that street performing is a huge reason why people come from all over to Salem this time of year apart from the fact that it’s a beautiful city. There’s an electricity in the air from October 1st to October 31st. When I’m not out performing I just enjoy walking with my son in the city and interacting with other performers. Kids love it as well! Salem truly is a mini Disneyland this time of year.”
“Busking in Salem when I can is an amazing experience. It all comes down to the Halloween season (Haunted happenings) and my love for it and the love I have for the historic city of Salem. Showing off my costume and performance to make the experience for locals and tourists that much better and to be more involved with the city and the awe factor that I give and receive.
“With COVID-19 I have heard without having street performers dampens the feel of the spookyness this year and it’s not the same. And us as buskers hear that and wish things were different because we do make a difference and affect the overall environment of Salem.”
Jason Takes Salem
“Street performing in Salem brings a lot of joy to me. Just like how people go to Major theme parks and hope to see their favorite characters, in Salem people come to see witches, ghouls, and monsters of all horror genres. As an artist, it gives me the opportunity to create costumes and props to use to maximize my performance and to show my artwork.”
Donate to Witchfinder’s GoFundMe: www.gofundme.com/witchfinder20
“The thing I love about performing in Salem is the immediate connection it can create between the performer and the audience. Tourists come to Salem to have a ‘wicked’ good time, and to be a part of that is something very special. Especially the people who come every year and greet you like an old friend. Even though my character is designed to be someone you love to hate, the crowds have always been so supportive and appreciative; it really leaves you with the feeling you’ve done something meaningful at the end of the day.”
“For me, going out in Salem is something I do both for the love of Halloween and for charity. I joined up with some of the regulars in February 2020 (in the knick of time!) for a Valentine’s event to benefit Boston’s Children Hospital, but I’ve been creeping the streets of Salem since 2018.
“The energy of the people I meet out there, their sense of intrigue, curiosity, and joy when they see me and interact with me is addicting. Bringing a smile to someone’s face is priceless and makes you forget all about your limited hearing, almost zero vision, and being perpetually either too hot or too cold. And with the fundraising aspect, I love being able to give back to my community while also being my weird, spooky self. The non-profit I am currently supporting is Planned Parenthood.”
A Cosplay Autumn
“I love seeing the excitement on someone’s face when they instantly recognize my character. That level of joy is worth every moment I spend out on Essex Street, no matter how much I make nothing tops seeing that kind of excitement.”
“The energy and spirit of Salem in October is AMAZING! It is something everyone must experience at least once. Every year I look forward to heading back to Salem and seeing all my fellow buskers. I love meeting people from all over and being part of the fantastic experience that Salem provides it’s visitors.
“Seeing people, young and old, so excited to meet Jack makes it all worthwhile. There is nowhere else you can have 31 days of Halloween. Salem is just the perfect place for The Pumpkin King to be.”