BY TOM DALTON STAFF WRITER
The Salem News
---- — SALEM — Last year, it was a snowstorm, and this year, a hurricane looms on the horizon. But neither rain, nor sleet, nor gusts of wind seem to dampen the spirit of Witch City at Halloween.
The crowds this weekend, everyone agrees, are going to be large.
“It’s going to be a pretty crazy (weekend),” said Kate Fox, executive director of Destination Salem, the city’s tourism office. “I think Saturday is going to be a huge night. And it looks like the weather is going to cooperate with us. The weekend is looking really good.”
Although she works in a city of psychics, Fox concedes that she doesn’t know which way Hurricane Sandy will head or how severe a storm it will be. But forecasters yesterday predicted that it will arrive Monday or Tuesday — right between the weekend and Halloween.
They are also watching the storm over at police headquarters, where a small army of officers, horses, dogs, cruisers, motorcycles, bikes and all-terrain vehicles is being assembled to deal with the tens of thousands of people coming here over the next few days.
“Based on our observations, we’re kind of ratcheting things up,” said Capt. Brian Gilligan, who will be in charge of the 150-officer force on Halloween night.
Gilligan is bringing in a large police presence for this weekend, including a mounted unit of a half-dozen horses from Plymouth County.
“They work very well with this particular event,” Gilligan said. “It’s a much more crowd-friendly way to approach people.”
Although Halloween is the main event, there may be more going on this weekend.
The lineup tonight includes the Official Salem Witches Halloween Ball at the Hawthorne Hotel, a concert on Salem Common, a Harry Potter Halloween Ball at the Knights of Columbus, a Zombie Prom at Victoria Station and a paranormal dinner at 43 Church restaurant.
There’s even more happening tomorrow.
It starts with the Devil’s Chase 6.66-mile Road Race and goes on to Family Fun Days on Salem Common, a concert at the East India Square fountain stage, a free mead tasting at Pamplemousse, a haunted movie night on Salem Common, a Voodoo Ball at Rockafellas, a True Blood Bash on Pickering Wharf, and a costume party at the Salem Waterfront Hotel hosted by Billy Costa of Kiss 108.
Of course, there is a long list of daily events, like the Fiesta Shows carnival on Derby Street. For a complete lineup, go to www.hauntedhappenings.org.
There will be activities across the city on Halloween night. One of the newest is hard to explain. It’s called “projection mapping,” a kind of light show that will be done on the side of Tabernacle Church on Washington Street. It’s a new technology that can make structures appear to light up like a candle or crumble in pieces.
As usual, Halloween will end around 10:15 p.m. when fireworks go off over the North River.
“It’s similar to Disney World,” Gilligan said. “When they set off the fireworks, everyone knows the park is closing, and they start heading home.”
The MBTA is running extra trains this weekend and on Halloween day.
Although the weather is unpredictable and Halloween falls on a Wednesday, the city is also preparing for large crowds on Halloween day and night. In past years, estimates have approached 100,000.
“To me, it doesn’t matter what night of the week it is,” Gilligan said. “It’s Halloween night in Salem, and people want to come.”
Tom Dalton can be reached at email@example.com.