The title of “Halloween Capital of the World” is claimed by two very different cities in the United States: Anoka, Minnesota, and Salem, Massachusetts.
Both make strong cases for why their celebrations and connections to the spooky holiday make them the true Halloween capital.
History and Origins
Anoka traces its Halloween celebrations back to 1920 when civic leaders organized a parade and events for children as an alternative to Halloween pranks.
Since then, Anoka has held annual parades and community celebrations, only canceling in 1942 and 1943 due to World War II.
In contrast, Salem’s Halloween traditions stem from the tragic Salem Witch Trials in 1692. After centuries of largely ignoring its dark history,
Salem embraced its witch and Halloween connections in the 1970s and 1980s, hosting its first “Haunted Happenings” festival in 1982.
Today, Anoka hosts parades, contests, parties, and other family-friendly events throughout October.
Participants come from around the Midwest to join Anoka’s parades, which continue the tradition of costumed children marching down Main Street started in 1920.
Salem’s month-long Haunted Happenings festival incorporates history and the supernatural with events like psychic readings, ghost tours, live music, and more.
The festival draws hundreds of thousands of visitors each October, taking over the city.
Tourism and Economy
Anoka’s Halloween events attract visitors but remain community-focused, whereas tourism completely transforms Salem in October.
Nearly a third of Salem’s annual tourism revenue comes from Halloween visitors. For both cities, celebrations provide an economic boost, especially to local businesses.
Anoka seems to have more of an insider, community connection to Halloween, whereas outsiders associate Salem strongly with witches and Halloween.
Salem has fully embraced its witch and Halloween identity, even as residents have mixed feelings about the festivals.
Which town is the Halloween Capital of the World?
Both cities make strong cases. Anoka’s has a lot going on and is focused on family-friendly entertainment. They also have trademarked the name.
Salem’s total transformation and international reputation during October pushed it over the top. With over 1 million tourists visiting in the month, it mixes its turbulent history, with family-friendly activities. It edges out Anoka.
Anoka and Salem’s very different origins and evolutions provide a fascinating look at how communities integrate history into modern holiday celebrations.