Friday, December 8, 2017

Halloween 2017: Salem Witchery

The Crucible (1996)

“The sky over New England was crow black, pitch-black, Bible black, so black it could be difficult at night to keep to the path, so black that a line of trees might freely migrate to another location or that you might find yourself pursued after nightfall by a rabid black hog, leaving you to crawl home, bloody and disoriented, on all fours.” 
-Stacey Schiff, The Witches: Salem 1692

Last year was the first Halloween I decided to dedicate my entire haunt to one theme; Sleepy Hollow and The Headless Horseman. It embodied not only the famous legend, but inspiration from the Tim Burton film Sleepy Hollow, as well as the overall look and feel of Sleepy Hollow, New York. I really enjoyed creating, or recreating, this world, so to speak, and decided I ought to achieve another theme this year, so I went for the 'theme' I'm most passionate about...

The Crucible (1996)

The Salem Witch trials, for many reasons (some of which I can't quite explain), has always held my interest stronger than any other event in history. It has captivated me, inspired me, and bewildered me all at once. I think, in the beginning, I was fascinated by it all the same way most people are; mass hysteria, power struggles, and any speak of witchcraft. But, over the years, I only ever wanted to know more.

The Witch (2016)

What was life really like as a puritan? And what then suddenly made you a witch? And, because witchcraft was possible, if you were accused, did you then question your own innocence? Had you really singed the devil's book, and just not remembered? He was real after all, wasn't he? If he was, then YOU being a witch was possible too then, wasn't it?

The Witch (2016)

And, of course, what really caused it all? Witchcraft? And if not, what exactly?

Political agendas. Neighborly disdain. Desperation for attention. Mental illness. Physical illness. Hearsay.
The Crucible (1996)

Or were the people of Salem village seeing, hearing, feeling something and calling it the only things they knew to call it? Pointing to the only citizens they knew could be responsible?

Witchcraft, it seemed was oddly the greatest threat to puritan life, despite all other variables. It was a time when the Old World met the New. When a culture that had an answer for everything, suddenly hadn't any. When puritans already feared unknown land, its natives, that coming winter, yet still felt it vital to keep weary of their neighbors... indeed, it was witchcraft that was seen as the worst thing imaginable.

The Witch (2016)

This Halloween, I wanted to explore Salem, its witch trails, and its overall fear of witchcraft. I wanted to embody New England in its puritan reign, and what 17th century witchcraft, or a puritan's nightmare for that matter, was evolving into during this era, and in this New World. I drew inspiration from Salem itself, it's historical records on the life and times during the trials, puritan superstition from Europe and the New World, and of course from the films The Crucible, The Witch, and the TV series Salem.


To keep with the theme, I went as a puritan gone witch. Without looking like your customary Thanksgiving pilgrim (although that is more like what women of Salem would have worn, especially in Salem Village), I wanted to add just a hint of something more to her look, a bit of power if you will.

*Now, this also had to be due to my influence from the tv series Salem and it's over the top costuming (like really? Lucy Lawless in neon purple?! You know what I'm talking about... If you don't, google it.) As much as that can sometimes take me out of the history of it all (what with its accuracy being tossed out the damn window) I still get their reasoning in wanting to spice things up, so I was inspired to do something just a bit more interesting too than the simple triangular collar and plain dress.

My initial sketch...

That being said however, I still felt it important to keep in mind, ya know, history. With that, I decided to make my costume/character appear somewhat like how Mary Sibley is portrayed in Salem; a woman of repute, and wealth, but with a dark side. I imagine she'd serve her community well in Salem Town, but by night did her bidding in a hidden cottage in Salem Village some place - after all, who could really say what the cause was of all things witchy...

For the base of the costume, I searched for a modest, long black dress with long sleeves - for the first time in I don't know how many years (maybe ever) I couldn't find the right kind of simple dress at the thrift store, but was very happy to discover this Margaret Hamilton classic at Costume Castle, my local all-year round costume/Halloween prop shop (if you're ever in Orange County, you must visit this place, it's so fun!)
When it came to the ruff collar, I couldn't have been luckier that my lovely aunt was in town and she kindly helped me out. I asked her to make something simple, with a homemade feel, but still a statement piece and boy did she impress the hell out of me! I can't thank her enough. She was also sweet enough to add white cuffs to the sleeves. With a touch of lace on the edges, this thing was looking more and more real.

Later I purchased some black trim at the fabric store and I (get ready for it) hot glued (!) it right onto the bodice of the dress! It's not Halloween if I'm not burning the tips of my fingers in creating my costume, guys...

I then put my hair up in a white bonnet I have from my older puritan costume (talk about customary pilgrim! Fun fact; it's not even an adult size costume, it's a child's XL - but hey, it was half the price, y'all!) That costume I now tend to wear at Friendsgiving; Patrick has been sweet enough to dress up as my puritan man for the past two years (See Below)! Over the bonnet, I added my go-to black witch hat - I swear you can't get good witch hats like it these days...

I was inspired by the looks in these historical depictions featuring hats (almost witch-like), bonnets, and white collars:

I also found this gorgeous photo shoot:

For more, view Maxine Helfman's photography.

Not to mention the tv series Salem. These modest, all-black looks inspired the overall feel and texture.

For the most part I think it came together very well! Plus it was really fun to put together something simpler, but still historical and interesting. 

Me and my spooky face... 


If you've seen my previous haunts, you usually know what to expect; general Halloween staples (pumpkins, skulls, candles), antique relics, and some kind of witch display incorporated. (I'm obsessed, what can I say?!) But since the theme was all about witchery this year, I had to take it to a whole new level! So here were the new additions:

The Mood:
To capture the look and feel of Salem, I tried keeping things more natural looking that in previous years; corn, husks, stones, crystals, twigs, branches, and of course, many witchy bottles. For the overall color scheme I chose to stick with black and white (but mostly black to keep things eerie), nodding to Puritan garb obviously.

'Black Philip' on the Wall:
When I was first thinking of new additions, I was extremely influenced by The Witch (2016) and wanted to incorporate a similar concept for my haunt. The concept I'm talking about is the overall intention Director Robert Eggers claimed to have behind the film; to envelop the audience in what a puritan's nightmare would be; after all, what happens to a family separated from community? They are in danger of being effected by witchcraft, of course! I could go on and on about all of the intricacies and brilliance beyond this film, but I think the guys behind YouTube channel Rant & Bollox do a way better job at describing it all in this incredibly in-depth analysis:

Going with this idea, I thought about what things might frighten people about witchcraft and, it always comes back to people believing witchcraft has to do with the devil (which it doesn't, though it might have in niche groups throughout history), so I figured, why not recreate the most infamous familiar of them all and incorporate Black Philip himself?!

I found this perfectly imperfect wooden plaque to stick his head on (thank you Home Goods and all your kitschy glory)...

... quickly painted over that. Then looked everywhere for a goat head or mask of some kind, and found this guy:

You guys see Suicide Squad? Me neither, but it was the best (and only) goat head I could find. In a strange and bizarre fashion I mounted the mask to the plaque; a lot of bubble wrap and cardboard was involved. To cover the hot mess that was a mask on a piece of wood, I saved it all by safety pinning some faux fur from the craft store around his neck. Then I used HOT GLUE (my favorite thing ever) to cover up the open eye holes by putting parchment paper behind them and gluing within the hole to seal it. After that, I painted him black, though I was sure to leave the crevices in his rubber "fur" off-white, providing a textured look. Finally, the eyes. You ever look at goat's eyes? Yeah, look em up. You'll understand why people associated goats with devils...

The Puritan Woman:
Last year I dressed up my mannequin as the Headless Horseman, so this year I did something similar; a puritan woman gone witch. Surrounded by black birds from every angle, and holding a poppet in her hand, our good woman is right on the edge (literally) between being pure and turning evil...

I was very inspired by these promotions for Salem, and wanted to recreate the same effects:

My child XL pilgrim costume came handy once again! Luckily I already had black twigs too, so I punctured them into the eyes of a styrofoam head (which I painted to look more like flesh), and placed a black bird in her midst. For the mouth I used a thin black pen to draw lines on her lips and stuck in some black thread to hang down so it looked like her mouth had been sewn shut.

The Sisters:
Not sure why I ended up calling them 'The Sisters', or why I inevitably broke out into song each time I mentioned them during the set up, but 'The Sisters' is what these two beauties came to be known as. In our living room, we have these two wooden pieces with doors that open, the perfect place for these two to keep and eye on guests...

The Cauldron:

I'm usually more of an indoor haunter, but I have always wanted a nice big cauldron set up out front for the trick 'r treaters to enjoy. With the Salem theme in action, this was the perfect year for it. I tried to recreate something similar to Grim Hollow's witch cauldron, Pumpkin Rot shared it years back and it always stuck with me - it's a one of a kind. Also, special thanks to my mom who distressed the jars hanging from the top! She and I were inspired by Rot's famous "Witch Jars," and followed his basic tips for creating the look.


It wouldn't be Salem without poppets! I bought a large bag of raffia from the craft store and used basic Pinterest tutorials on how to make Thanksgiving pilgrim women out of husks, like this one.

Chalk Circle / Slate:
Ok so I didn't have a giant slate, but I used a styrofoam poster board, chopped at the edges, spray painted it with chalk paint and had me a board! I drew a pretty protection circle with rune symbols and placed crystals within it.

Saw this adorable idea in Martha Stewart years ago and always wanted to try it. With wire, craft string and two cheap broomsticks from Spirit, I think it came out alright, especially with my mom's idea to place some birdies in the middle...

Black Ruff Collars:
I scattered puritan collars throughout the haunt (under skulls and pumpkins mostly), but felt I needed something a little darker for the two deer skulls I bought at Spirit. I formed wide wired ribbon into a ruff collar with hot glue (!) to make a basic and decorative collar. Afterwards I spray painted them black and placed them behind the deer so they would pop on our light-colored walls.

Black Candles:
   Inspired by Harry Potter (another theme that would be fun to attempt) I decided to add the iconic floating candles as seen in the films. I used this tutorial, but to fit with my dark theme, I painted mine black instead of white. I also used the same technique I used on Black Philip's eye holes on the bottoms of the toilet paper rolls (parchment and !hot glue!) so that you won't have to look up and see hollow "candles." Then I painted over the bottoms too. I keep asking myself, why aren't these being sold in stores? Are they, and I just haven't noticed? The bummer about having to make them with little tea lights is that you have to glue them in day-of because you can't switch them on and off once they are placed in your "candle." If they ever do make these for retail, they should consider making them remote-controlled, how cool would that be?! 

In case I didn't go into detail enough, view more photos of my Salem Witchery haunt on Flickr. And for more inspiration check out the board I made on my Pinterest, Halloween 2017: Salem Witchery, to see all the things that influenced me this Halloween!

Overall it was a season to remember, a lovely Autumn, and a festive Halloween with my family and friends, boyfriend, and kitty cats all filled with joy, spirit, and merriment.

My girls Bri (lion tamer) and Megan (Rebecca from This is Us) and me:

All of us with Patrick (druid) and Chris (Jack from This is Us): 

Also here's Patrick and me (rockin' that child's XL) at Friendsgiving... we take all holidays very seriously...

Well, thanks for reading all about my over the top Salem-themed Halloween (and apparently Friendsgiving). Here's Cocoa and Fiona to wish you all a lovely holiday season and a Happy New Year!


  1. That is stunning. Such beautiful work and attention to detail. You should be very proud.

  2. Everything looks so incredible! Adore the costume and your decorations are jaw-droppingly stunning!