Travel & Your Visit

A chat with the Salem Black Hat Society and their official 2017 costume reveal

things to do in salem, salem black hat society

If you have been around Salem for any length of time, you have likely run into or seen Borah and Xander of the Salem Black Hat Society. Behind the amazing costumes are Brian and Priscilla who are two very kind people that I had the pleasure of chatting with. They were nice enough to give me some back story on themselves and their characters as well as an official reveal of their 2017 costumes! Hang around to the end of the interview to see the pictures! 🙂

things to do in salem, salem black hat society

Xander Diamond

“October 29th is my birthday, can’t get any closer to Halloween which is where I get my inspiration!

I have enjoyed and found myself creating costumes for many years, each with its own story. I now have many costumes to create the wonderment of the mystical celebration of Samhain.

I met my soul mate one and a half years ago through FB social media. His name is Brian. After a meeting in Salem for a conversation to discuss our desire to perform and embrace the Halloween spirit, we teamed up to become the popular witches on Essex Street, Salem MA.

As we moved along in our quest to entertain, welcome tourists and make the children laugh or cry with our “slap stick” comedy we have succeeded to meet our goals – to bring a smile and laughter to the 250,000-500,000 guests coming to Salem, MA., home of the historical witches. The joy of celebrity is over powered by the joy of happiness we receive through the eyes of public we see for the 31 days of October.

Although we are witches in costume only, we also embrace the amazing history of the witches of Salem so wrongfully accused for their activity, assumed to be guilty of almost every bad behavior in the 1600’s. The history of Salem is forever documented on paper in books for all of us to learn what happened back in that year of the damned.

Salem’s Black Hat Society has tried to enlighten the source of how the witches were condemned and hung through our live-feeds of “the hanging trees” and reading facts & fiction to be able to answer questions from our tourists.

We also have ridden the Trolley, explored the museums, dined at the restaurants, supported our children’s charity, volunteered time to community services, followed the politics of the town, giving us the knowledge of the inner workings of OUR TOWN, Salem  Massachusetts.”

things to do in salem, salem black hat society

Borah Brewington Snaggletooth XIII

“I have always loved Halloween. It all started of course when I was a kid. My family celebrated Halloween. We’d all dress up and go trick-or-treating and give out candy at the house. We’d decorate the house inside and out and have a spooky front yard. The Halloween decorating continued all through my life even today.

How did you end up in Salem?

I performed Arthur Miller’s The Crucible in college and fell in love with the story and shortly after, I visited Salem in the early 90’s. As soon as I stepped off the train, I knew I was home and decided that one day, I would move to Salem. After 15 years of nagging my spouse to move to here, we finally did May 2016.

How did you develop your witch characters?

Priscilla has been street performing as a witch for about 4 years by the time we met in 2016. She has several ornate witch costumes and hats that she has handmade herself. She also employs a designer that designs press and photo shoot wardrobes for Hollywood celebrities. This was my 1st time street performing and I had no costumes. I simply took several different characters from the German witch dance video and created one costume. I had no idea of what I was doing. At the last minute, two hours before the Halloween parade, it just all came together for me, the walk, the energy, the voice, the whole character just snapped together in an instant.

How did Salem’s Black Hat Society come about?

I didn’t know anybody here in Salem or the surrounding towns. In mid-July of 2016, I saw a video of a German witch dance and I thought it would be fun to perform. I posted the video on my Facebook wall and stated that a group of us should perform this dance in the Salem Common for Halloween. A lady named Priscilla, said she dressed as a witch and did street performing. She said there is a Halloween parade and we should be in it and do the witch dance. Priscilla and I met for the first time at the Hawthorne Hotel. During that meeting, we decided to create a charity named Salem’s Black Hat Society. We decided to dress as witches during October and perform on Essex St. We chose to take proceeds from our street performing and donate to local charities in Salem. We ended up marching in the parade, and performing the German witch dance in the parade. So all month of October, 2016, Priscilla and I performed on Essex street in Salem.

Priscilla and I decided on names and a back story for each of our characters. Her character’s name is Xander Diamond and mine is Borah Brewington Snaggletooth XIII. I decided that my character lives in an old, thick wooded forest. Borah is androgynous and lives off plants, dirt mud pies, bugs and anything she can get her hands on. She also uses herbs and moldy mushrooms in her different concoctions. She eats rodents and different animals, hence the different pelts found on her clothes. Borah is not a mean character, she is just spastic, crazy and obnoxious. Deep down she loves people, but when she is hungry she is going to eat whatever she can get her hands on and she is always hungry.

Why do you do what you do?

We didn’t know what we were doing. Our only motivation was to make money to donate to charity, bring smiles and happiness to Salem residents and visitors and to have fun! We had no idea what was going to happen…SBHS just took off and started to turn into something we had no idea was going to turn into. Just after a few days of performing on the street, city workers, business owners, Salem residents and out of town visitors started coming up to us and thanking us for bringing so much positive energy, happiness and smiles to everyone’s faces. We were told over and over that what we were doing was exactly what Salem needed! People would come and visit us multiple times a day to have their pictures taken with us. We had so many families with special needs children that would tell us how much joy we brought to their kids. We had many people that had their pictures taken with us, use the photo(s) as their screen savers. After Halloween, Priscilla and I did a couple of live stream videos and recorded videos with Haunted Happenings Magazine. We got such an overwhelming response from all over the US and from other countries that we decided to open a FB page and subsequently an IG account. What we do on FB and IG is we try to educate people about Salem. We also have monthly giveaways to winners. We post videos of historical places in Salem and we also livestream different events and historical places in Salem. In such a short time, we have gained a strong and faithful FB and IG followers. Every day we get questions and comments on our accounts and we try to respond to each of them but it is difficult at times to keep up with.

What inspired Borah’s costume in 2016 and what is Borah & Xander’s theme/costume for 2017?

My first costume in 2016 for Borah was inspired by a few characters from the video as I stated earlier. I bought most of it from Saver’s in Danvers. I ordered some of it from Etsy. Once I got it all together, I dyed ripped cheese cloth, hot glued patches to pieces of the dress, added a faux fur coat found some used shoes from a secondhand store and POOF, Borah’s costume was born. As far as the makeup I knew I wanted to be a green faced witch. I went to the Magic Parlor in Salem. Rob the owner is a professional makeup artist. I told him I wanted a green face with a big nose, a big chin. Rob took my ideas and created Borah’s look. The crazy thing is, Rob painted my makeup for the first time ever just two hours before I ever appeared in public as Borah- just two hours before we were to march in Salem’s Haunted Happenings Parade in 2016.

So 2 hours before the parade, I put the costume on and it physically changed me. I started to walk and talk like this character named Borah. I do my own makeup now that I have had lessons from Rob. It takes about 1 ½ hours to dress as Borah from getting into makeup and putting my costume on.

Do you have any tips on costuming?

Choose what character, story, person that inspires you. Borrow ideas from pictures that you can find on TV or the internet. Shop around in local stores and just build your costume. It’s simple and easy to do if you have the passion. Just take your time and shop around. If you can’t find what you are looking for search on Etsy, that site has lots of resources to buy from. Just use your imagination and run with it and buy a glue gun!”

And now for their OFFICIAL 2017 costume reveal…

things to do in salem, salem black hat society

things to do in salem, salem black hat society

“We have been working on our theme and costumes for 2017 ever since last February. We’ve been keeping it all a secret because it is very competitive in Salem. This year’s theme is Steampunk. We are of course keeping our same characters but dressing them in Steampunk costumes. I ordered bits and pieces from Russian and England. My corset and light box that dangles down form the corset were designed and hand built by a designer from England. The main brown and black striped dress came from Russia. My purple and black vest was made and shipped from Indiana. My necklace was designed and built exclusively for Borah by Luna Moon Gothic Jewelry (FB: @LunaMoonGothicJewelry). My boots are from Walmart and the inner lining shredded dress is from Savers in Danvers. My black and yellow shirt also came from England.”

If you’re around Salem and see these two wandering the streets, taking pictures and bothering the tourists be sure to say hello. 😛 While you’re at it, you can follow their adventures on Facebook and Instagram to see what general spooky shenanigans they are up to.

 

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