Review: A Season with the Witch, The Magic and Mayhem of Halloween in Salem, Massachusetts – J.W. Ocker

The city of Salem, Massachusetts has always had a magical allure for me.

So much so, that I hope to visit the infamous city sometime in the next few years.

But what is planning a trip without doing massive amounts of research before hand? Insert J.W. Ocker’s A Season with the Witch: The Magic and Mayhem of Halloween in Salem, Massachusetts. 

Did Ocker give me a ‘step-by-step’ guide on how to enjoy one’s time in the Witch City? Keep on reading to find out my thoughts and opinions.

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28943696A Season with the Witch: The Magic and Mayhem of Halloween in Salem, Massachusetts by J.W. Ocker

Publisher: Countryman Press (November 11, 2016)

Print Length: 338 pages

Salem, Massachusetts, may be the strangest city on the planet. A single event in its 400 years of history―the Salem Witch Trials of 1692―transformed it into the Capital of Creepy in America. But Salem is a seasonal town―and its season happens to be Halloween. Every October, this small city of 40,000 swells to more than a quarter million as witches, goblins, ghouls, and ghosts (and their admirers) descend on Essex Street. For the fall of 2015, occult enthusiast and Edgar Award-winning writer J.W. Ocker moved his family of four to downtown Salem to experience firsthand a season with the witch, visiting all of its historical sites and macabre attractions. In between, he interviews its leaders and citizens, its entrepreneurs and visitors, its street performers and Wiccans, its psychics and critics, creating a picture of this unique place and the people who revel in, or merely weather, its witchiness. 

The Review

A Season with the Witch: The Magic and Mayhem of Halloween in Salem, Massachusetts offers a unique insight into one of the United State’s most macabre cities.

A Season with the Witch: The Magic and Mayhem of Halloween in Salem, Massachusetts is J.W. Ocker’s account of uprooting his wife and children to live in the Witch City for the month of October.

The first section of the book sees Ocker walking with the historic witches. To famed sites, including the Salem Witch Museum, the Witch House grave yards, the execution site, and more than a few grave yards. The second half of the book is where Ocker walks with the more eclectic witches of today. From Bewitched to Hocus Pocus, Ocker lays out every attraction one should keep in mind during their own visits to Salem, given me the perfect itinerary to follow when I eventually make it to the legendary city.

What really made this book special, however, was not so much the places, but in the personal stories Ocker was willing to share about the places. It was less a travel guide and more a catch-up over coffee with an old friend. Ocker didn’t try to sound, how do I put this so as not to offend, too academic. He let his personality shine which really showed me just how passionate he was about the subject, making the reading experience all that much more enjoyable.

Finally, if that wasn’t enough, I finally found someone who has adequately put words to my feelings of Halloween. He explains it as being a season, rather than one single evening, and the following quote is exactly how I feel when the first real day of fall finally arrives:

I love that every candy aisle in every store is suddenly a carnage of gummy body parts and chocolate grotesques. I love the way round orange pumpkins and tall yellow cornstalks become the dots and dashes of the season’s Morse code. I love how we find the colors of decay suddenly beautiful as the leaves die in conflagrations around us. I love that horror movies are on every channel and in every theater. I love that haunted house attractions exist. I love Bing Crosby singing about the Headless Horseman and Michael Jackson dancing with zombies. I love how the carefully tended lawns of spring and summer yield foam tombstones and plastic skeletons in the fall. And, of course, even though they were left out of the Monster Mash, I’ve always loved a good Halloween Witch. Or an evil one.

Overall Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars. 

Purchase Links

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indigo

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And those are my thoughts on A Season with the Witch: The Magic and Mayhem of Halloween in Salem, Massachusetts by J.W. Ocker. Have any non-fiction witchy recommendations you’d like to share? Leave them as a comment below and help my TBR grow.




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