Event Recap: D23 Runs Amuck in Salem – “Hocus Pocus 2” Screening, Black Flame Ball, Self-Guided Tour

To celebrate the premiere of Hocus Pocus 2, D23 invited Gold Members to Salem for a bewitching day and night of frolic with an event called “D23 Runs Amuck in Salem.” The day began at the historic and reportedly haunted Hawthorne Hotel where breakfast pastries and fruit were available alongside coffee, tea, and juice. Upon checking in and receiving an event credential, we were also given a goodie bag with lots of treats.

A D23-exclusive pin was promised with the price of admission ($250 per person), but the goodie bag also included a Hocus Pocus 2 candle from Goose Creek, Hally Hair’s themed Bewitching Shine Fluffy G + Comb Set, a Colour Pop sol shimmering highlighter, a D23 exclusive pumpkin carving stencil set, mini poster, and coupons for sponsors of Hocus Pocus 2, including Walgreens and Swiffer.

The event also promised a map of filming locations that were within walking distance of Hawthorne Hotel. The map was well-themed and look like it came from the pages of Book, although it wasn’t a functional map. Thankfully, addresses were included so you could plug them into your navigation app of choice. Attendees were split into two groups for a showing of Hocus Pocus 2 on the big screen at Cinema Salem, which welcomed us all with a message on their marquee. Cinema Salem hosts lots of special screenings and was advertising an upcoming showing of the original Hocus Pocus on October 22nd with special guest Omri Katz (Max Dennison), who will participate in a Q&A.

As we entered the theater, we were given a bonus goodie, a Hocus Pocus 2 baseball hat. And while we waited for the show, D23 kept us entertained with a reel of Hocus Pocus trivia.

Another surprise and delight was when we were asked as a group to conure Billy Butcherson from his grave by reciting Winifred Sanderson’s spell from the first film. It was super effective, causing actor Doug Jones to materialize. After sharing a few anecdotes from the set of both films, he queued the film to start (video of his introduction is included at the bottom of this post). It was neat getting to share Hocus Pocus 2 with an audience and experience other people finding it just as funny as you did.

After the screening, we were on our own until the “Black Flame Ball” at 7:00 pm. I decided to start my self-guided walking tour by trekking out to Pioneer Village, which was about a 30-minute walk from historic downtown Salem. There is a fee to get in of $5 per person.

A small strip of preserved land surrounded by baseball fields and the coastline, the village of Thackery and Emily Binx seemed so much larger in the movie than it is in real life. The Binx house is advertised with a sign that shows a black cat on it. Sadly, visitors are no longer allowed to enter as recent water damage has caused the floor to rot. A bench has been set up so that visitors can sit and pose for a photo.

The other dwellings in Pioneer Village can be explored and give a good sense of what life was like in 1630 (or 1693, if you want to be in the same year that Thackery was turned into an invincible black cat by the Sanderson Sisters). Established in 1930 to celebrate the tercentennial of Massachusettes, the exhibit offers a taste of what life was like leading up to the Salem Witch Trials.

A limited number of spots were made available on a guided tour of Salem through Black Cat Tours, and I saw the rest of the sights on the map this way. Our guide was named Daniel, who was very knowledgeable and tailored our tour to filming locations from the first Hocus Pocus (Note: while Hocus Pocus 2 is set in Salem, its location shoots were done in Rhode Island).

 The building that served as the exterior of Max’s school was actually Phillip’s Elementary School. It’s no longer a school, but an apartment complex. There are rooms available if any diehard Hocus Pocus fans want to move in.

Across the street is Salem Common, a vast open green space that served as the spot where Allison gave Max his number back, tricking him into thinking she was giving him her number instead.

Speaking of Allison, her home in the film is a historic landmark known as the Ropes Mansion. It is cared for by the nearby Peabody Essex Museum and has a famous garden on the grounds. Special for this event, candles were placed in the windows along with hay bails and pumpkins to decorate it once again for Allison’s parents’ party.

I did not see anybody drinking cider or bobbing for apples.

Salem’s historic Town Hall served as the exterior of the party Max and Dani’s parents went to. You know, the one where they were bewitched by the Sanderson Sisters to dance until they die at the end of “I Put a Spell On You.” I asked Daniel if that legendary musical sequence was filmed there. It was something he wondered about for years, but he met an extra once who confirmed that the interior of the party was shot on a soundstage in Hollywood. This historic building was only used for scenes showing people arriving and exiting from the party. Fun fact, it’s also reportedly haunted.

Daniel pointed out this landmark, known as The Witch House, which is the only structure you can visit in Salem with direct ties to the Salem Witch Trials of 1692. It was the home of Judge Jonathan Corwin, who presided of the trials that would see 19 hanged. More than just a story connection to Hocus Pocus, it is believed that the shape of the house served as a source of inspiration when designing the Sanderson Sisters’ cottage in the film. If you imagine a water wheel on the side, it’s hard to deny a few similarities.

Hocus Pocus conjures imagery of cemeteries. The one where Billy Butcherson was buried was an indoor set in Hollywood, while Max rode his bike through Old Burial Hill, which is in Marblehead, not Salem. However, one of the oldest cemeteries in the United States is just steps away from all of these other sites, Charter Street Cemetery, also known as Old Burial Point. It’s where Jonathan Corwin was buried, and while nobody knows what happened to the bodies of the 19 victims of the Salem Witch Trials, their lives are honored with a bench commemorated to each of them, which was installed in 1993.

After the tour, it was time for the “Black Flame Ball,” a 3-hour party at Hamilton Hall that featured a live band dressed like skeletons, just like the Halloween party the Dennisons went to.

Servers carried hors d'oeuvres around and bars were set up with themed cocktails and spirits, plus cider, tea, and coffee. Basically, you could get whatever type of potion was needed to get you through the night.

Doug Jones stopped by as a guest of honor, but when the Black Flame Candle was lit, the Sanderson Sisters appeared via three drag queens. You better believe that they performed “I Put a Spell On You” and the crowd went wild (it’s included in the video at the bottom of this post). Doug Jones’ appearance also turned into an impromptu meet and greet, with the personable star honoring a line that magically formed when he stepped onto the floor.

Stepping back into the present, a photo op was also available where you could become a long-lost Sanderson Sister (or Sanderson Mister, or “Mother”) from Hocus Pocus 2.

My first trip to Salem was magical thanks to D23. I got to see some familiar sights from my favorite Halloween movie, and it made me want to go back and explore more of the town’s history. Check out the video below to see Doug Jones introduce the film screening, his appearance at the “Black Flame Ball,” and the drag queens lip-synching to “I Put a Spell on You.”

Hocus Pocus and Hocus Pocus 2 are now streaming on Disney+.

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