SALEM — Ladies and gentleman, the Ripper has entered the building.

Kirk Hammett, best known for his screaming lead guitar work in heavy metal band Metallica, arrived in Salem Friday night, a week removed from the opening of an exhibition showing his horror movie memorabilia collection at Peabody Essex Museum.

The exhibition is titled "It's Alive! Classic Horror and Sci-Fi Art from the Kirk Hammett Collection." It presents 135 pieces of Hammett's life-long collection of horror movie posters, props, costume parts and more, according to Lynda Hartigan, deputy director of the museum. The collection runs through Sunday, Nov. 26.

Hammett will be at the museum twice on Saturday for two sold-out events. Tickets for both went on sale last week, and one of the two events — a private book signing event, scheduled for 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. — sold out in 40 seconds, according to museum communication director Whitney Van Dyke.

The second event, an evening chat with Hammett, runs from 8 to 9:15 p.m., and sold out in just a couple days, according to Van Dyke.

Hammett came to the museum Friday night for a press-only tour of the exhibition. He tagged along for the first half of the tour, walking reporters through a few of the exhibition's larger pieces, before departing for other museum business.

"He's a fabulous legendary lead guitarist for Metallica, which is one of rock history's incredible bands," Hartigan said. "At Peabody Essex Museum, we think of him as our favorite type of personality — and that's the obsessive collector."

Hartigan then turned to Hammett, who was standing feet away.

"In case you didn't notice, that's what you are," she said to Hammett, laughing.

Taking the podium, Hammett said he is dedicating the exhibition to "all of the unsung, unknown artists who put together all those incredibly beautiful movie posters."

There's party of the mystery behind the exhibition. In the earliest eras of cinema promotion — and specifically in America — artists didn't get have the right to sign their works, according to exhibition curator Dan Finamore. The explanation today is that nothing was allowed to interfere with selling the movie.

Between that and vanishing records over the years, most of the posters' original authors are unknown.

"To this day, we still don't know who they are," Hammett said. "There could be two or three of them, could be hundreds of them."

The "It's Alive!" exhibition stands to be wildly successful given its alignment with Halloween in Salem, a pairing the museum hasn't truly explored in previous years. That, and the entire collection is on loan from a legend in rock music.

"An opportunity like this comes along once or twice in a lifetime," said Jay Finney, chief marketing officer at Peabody Essex. "Georgia O'Keefe is coming up in the fall, and wouldn't it be great (to have her come to Salem)? But for most cases, the artist has passed away."

That includes O'Keefe, who died in 1986. The museum will launch an exhibition on her titled "Georgia O'Keeffe: Art, Image, Style" on Dec. 16 and run it through April 1, 2018.

"Georgia O'Keeffe has a huge following and an extremely well-known name, and that's the normal star power you have," Finney said. "Not every artist is a household name, but we endeavor to make it a much more interesting, attractive and compelling reason to come to the museum."

Another exhibition like that of Hammett's collection won't come "any time soon," Finney said, "although Elton John has a fabulous photography collection... which has been in museums."

Contact Salem reporter Dustin Luca at 978-338-2523 or DLuca@salemnews.com. Follow him on Facebook at facebook.com/dustinluca or on Twitter @DustinLucaSN.

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