Election season can be stressful. Here at Elections Daily, we believe in infusing some seasonal fun into what can be an anxiety-producing time period. With Halloween just around the corner, we’ve decided to blend politics and the festivities. Here is our inaugural frightening-feature – How America’s most famous Halloween towns vote.
Salem is perhaps America’s most prominent creepy city – infamous for the witch trials that took place there in the late 1600s. Around that time, hysteria over witchcraft had gripped much of Europe and colonies in North America. Accusations of collusion with Satan himself were rampant. The trials sentenced nearly 20 people to death for practicing witchcraft, although, contrary to popular belief, they did not burn anyone at the stake.
Despite the brutality of the events, the city has embraced its sordid past. The police department even features a witch riding a broomstick on the logo. While people worldwide know Salem for its history with witches, it was not actually the town that kicked off the trials. They originated in Salem Village, a settlement that overlaps with what is the modern-day town of Danvers. However, due to the name of Danvers at the time, its role in the trials has largely been forgotten.
Politically, however, the towns are less unique than their colorful history. Like most towns in Eastern Massachusetts, they supported Hillary Clinton. Salem voted for her by a whopping 42%, while Danvers was more Trump-friendly, voting for Clinton by about 8%.
Sleepy Hollow, New York
A short train ride up the Hudson River from New York City lies the town of Sleepy Hollow. Now a diverse upper-middle-class suburb, the town was first populated by Dutch settlers in the early days of colonization. However, Washington Irving immortalized the town in his story The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. In it, a schoolmaster named Ichabod Crane courts a young woman named Katrina Von-Tassel while he becomes increasingly afraid of the headless horseman that supposedly haunts the settlement.
The tale is centered in the area of the Old Dutch Reformed Church, built in the 17th Century. The climax of the story occurs near the church, on a bridge over the Pocantico River. Crane attempts to escape the headless specter, by crossing the bridge to the church, which the horseman supposedly cannot cross. But as he and his horse gallop onto the bridge, the headless horseman throws his makeshift pumpkin head at Ichabod, knocking him off the horse. He is never seen again. The bridge and church are still there as historical tourist sites.
The concept of a headless horseman was hardly invented by Washington Irving. The monster has a long history in European folklore, but Irving’s creation, a decapitated Hessian mercenary from the Revolutionary War, attained global prominence. The horseman’s use of a jack-o-lantern as a makeshift head made him, and Sleepy Hollow, a Halloween staple in the United States.
Politically, the town is heavily Democratic. It backed Hillary Clinton 80-20 in 2016, with her winning almost every precinct by over 50%.
Vampires, Mountains, and Western North Carolina
In truth, vampires didn’t always look and talk like Bela Lugosi. Lugosi, a socialist refugee from Hungary, landed the role of Count Dracula. He was not the first to play the count on the big screen. Less than a decade earlier, Stoker’s novel was put to screen for the first time in the German film Nosferatu. In that film, Max Schreck portrayed a version of Dracula renamed to Count Orlok to avoid copyright issues. But the silent movie never had a large-scale cultural impact.
Lugosi, originally from the village of Lugoj near Transylvania itself, appeared in the film with minimal make-up and spoke with his natural, thick Hungarian accent. His portrayal has defined vampires as a genre ever since it debuted in theaters 90 years ago. Today, every child old enough to understand Halloween thinks of a vampire as having slicked back black hair, an Eastern European accent, and an aristocratic charm. All features that were, at the time, unique to Lugosi’s portrayal.
Unfortunately, America is short on vampires. But it does have a Transylvania. Specifically, Transylvania County, North Carolina. Southwest of Asheville, it is located in the mountains just like its namesake. Dracula doesn’t make his home there, but the county does run red – not with blood – but with votes. It backed Donald Trump by a 22% margin and Pat McCrory by an 11% margin. However, in the State Supreme Court Race, the GOP only carried it very narrowly, by aroud 3%.