If you’re a ’90s kid who grew up watching the Disney Channel, Halloween is probably synonymous with the 1993 movie Hocus Pocus. Unfortunately for me, we didn’t have the Disney Channel growing up, so I didn’t see Hocus Pocus until I was already an adult — and while it has now become a Halloween classic in our house, I’ve noticed some things in the movie that my friends who grew up watching it never noticed before. Here are some things you only notice in Hocus Pocus as an adult.
There are obviously spoilers ahead, so read at your own risk.
Thackery is invincible even before he becomes a cat
Once young Thackery Binx is turned into a cat by the Sanderson sisters in 1693, he can’t be killed. This is particularly evident after he’s smooshed by a car and re-inflates good as new. But kids watching the movie may not realize that Thackery is pretty much always invincible, or at the very least he has indestructible skin. When he’s trying to save his sister Emily from the clutches of the Sanderson sisters, he grabs hold of a boiling cauldron and tips it over with his bare hands. Have you ever touched the handle of a hot cast iron pan without a potholder? What about trying to pick up a pot of boiling water by edges of the pot? Thackery Binx doesn’t experience any of that scalding pain or the sizzle of his flesh against the cauldron because he’s clearly already invincible and indestructible.
The witch trials were already over by Halloween 1693
The opening scenes of the movie are set in 1693 Salem, specifically on Halloween. The only problem is that by October 1693, the Salem witch hysteria and resulting witch trials were over. In fact, the last hangings as part of the Salem witch trials were in September 1692. After that, Governor William Phips (whose wife had recently been accused of witchcraft) dissolved the court that was up until then hearing cases, released everyone who had not yet stood trial, and forbid the use of spectral evidence to be used in the remaining trials.
What this means is that the angry mob and resulting hanging of the Sanderson sisters at the beginning of the film is historically incorrect. Then again, Hocus Pocus came out in 1993, so having the opening scenes set in 1692 would have meant the Sanderson sisters were returning 301 years later — not quite as fun as exactly 300 years to the night, so we understand the decision to take creative liberties.
The Sanderson house is way dirtier than it should be
If the Sanderson house was being used as a museum (closed down, as Allison tells Dani, because spooky stuff kept happening), why are there so many cobwebs that it looks like no one has set foot in it since 1693? Max has to reach through a huge layer of them to retrieve the lighter he uses in the scene. If the museum has been shut down for several years and no one has been inside — which could mean there are a ton of cobwebs in theory — why has the electricity to the building not been shut off? Clearly no one is going in to clean it or otherwise worry about upkeep, so who exactly is paying to keep the lights on?
Dani is wise beyond her years
Max’s sister Dani may be young, but she certainly isn’t stupid. In fact, she shows intelligence and maturity well beyond her years. Perhaps this is why Max sees her as plenty old enough to be trick-or-treating by herself, that is, until Dani wisely reminds him that it’s her first year in this town and she’ll get lost on her own.
Dani also dispenses wisdom to the brooding Max whose foul mood is in part because he misses home. She tells him, “This is your home now, so get used to it,” which sounds an awful lot like something an adult would typically say to a kid in these circumstances. She also knows how to haggle, agreeing to indulge Max’s desire to spend time with Allison by making him promise their Halloween costumes for the next year will be Wendy and Peter Pan, adding the stipulation, “With tights or it’s no deal.”
She also knows at her tender young age that beauty isn’t just what’s on the outside. When Winifred Sanderson is droning on about how she’ll be young and beautiful once they steal the life force of the children in the town, Dani pointedly says, “It doesn’t matter how old you are. You sold your soul. You’re the ugliest thing that’s ever lived and you know it!” You tell her, Dani!
Allison’s family is stuck in 1693
When Max and Dani find themselves unexpectedly in Allison’s family’s home on Halloween night, we see just how important her family’s role is in the town (and possibly how important it has been since the 17th century). Allison’s 17th century gown costume is the tip of the iceberg for the costumes at her parents’ party. While we don’t directly meet any of the attendees, we see them milling about in the dining room while Allison is talking to Max and Dani. The men are all wearing powdered wigs while the women are in similar period attire.
Given that we know Allison’s family has money (“Ehh. Rich people.”) their private party in full 1693 regalia suggests they’re the direct descendants of the townspeople responsible for the Salem witch trials in the first place. After all, it isn’t the entire town that’s dressed as the 17th century upper crust (Max and Dani’s parents are at a town party where people are dressed as Dracula, a lizard man, and Madonna, to name a few). Just as the people responsible for the Salem witch trials didn’t often mix with the commoners, neither do Allison’s parents.
Mary is clearly the smartest of the Sanderson sisters
Watching Hocus Pocus through a child’s eyes, you probably think Winifred Sanderson is the only one of the Sanderson sisters who has any brains at all. That’s because that’s what Winifred wants you (and her sisters) to think — more on that later. In fact, it’s the “bumbling” Mary Sanderson that’s actually the smartest of the whole group, and possibly the most powerful.
Let’s start with the fact that Mary Sanderson has a highly attuned sense of smell when it comes to kids. She’s basically the sommelier of children. She can tell you, just by smell, if there is a child in the room, whether that child is a boy or a girl, and their age (down to about six months). Don’t believe me? In 1693, she could smell Thackery Binx in addition to his sister Emily in the Sanderson house. “I knew I smelled a boy!” she exclaimed when he was discovered. Then, in 1993, she was able to sniff out Dani, asserting she could smell a little girl, around 7-and-a-half or 8 years old.
But it isn’t just her sense of smell that proves she’s smart and powerful, she also knows about futuristic things she has no business knowing about. Take for instance when she is smelling for the children and detects scrod instead, which she notes is sometimes cooked with a little bit of bread crumbs and margarine, maybe a bit of olive oil. Clearly Mary has powers beyond even her own understanding.
Winifred Sanderson is an abusive sister
If you’re shocked to discover Mary is the most intelligent of all the sisters, it’s probably because Winifred worked so hard to make you believe that she was the only one with any sense. She constantly puts her sisters down, calls them idiots, and even refers to them as her own personal curse. It isn’t just the name-calling, though. Winifred also ensures that she gets the best of everything (she gets the broom to fly on after the sisters’ own brooms are stolen, while Sarah gets a mop and Mary is stuck with a vacuum cleaner).
It’s evident at the beginning of the film if you’re really looking for it. She implies the potion the sisters are making is all for herself, only later suggesting she’ll share it (and her sisters thereby thanking her for her generosity). Sarah and Mary also seem to know, at least on some level, that they’re Winifred’s punching bag, with Mary asking, “Do you want to hit me? Would that make you feel better?” implying that Winifred has a long history of taking her frustrations out on them.
Allison is obviously a witch
Max’s love interest, Salem-native Allison, has a bit more going on than a typical teenager. If you follow the movie closely, it seems like a very good possibility that Allison is a witch herself. To start, she sports a red cloak that looks just like the cloaks the Sanderson sisters wear when we see her early in the movie. To be fair, it is Halloween, but no one else is seen in costume and the rest of her clothes don’t seem to indicate she’s treating the cloak as a costume either. Her red cloak also is a symbol of the fact that it’s for her that Max’s bravado comes on display and sets all of this in motion. She is, whether she knows it or not, bewitching him from the get go.
Later in the evening, after she has changed out of her 17th century gown to accompany Max and Dani to the Sanderson house, she’s wearing a white sweater to symbolize her goodness in opposition to the Sanderson sisters. Allison is also the one who is most drawn to the spell book, constantly resisting the urge (or having Thackery resist it for her) to read through it to discover its magic. Winifred Sanderson even points all this out after Allison creates a salt circle for protection, exclaiming, “What a clever little white witch.” You said it, Winifred.
The spell book no longer belongs to the Sanderson sisters
Now that we’ve established that Allison is almost definitely a witch, the end of the movie in which the spell book’s eye pops back open makes a lot more sense. It was always the Sanderson sisters (Winifred in particular) who were needed to wake the spell book, so as a kid watching the movie it seems like the book waking up is a clear sign that the witches aren’t actually gone. But given that Thackery’s soul has finally been released, we can assume that the curse over him has been broken because the Sanderson sisters are, in fact, gone.
So how does the book wake up? For Allison, of course. She has, as we’ve established, been drawn to it throughout the whole movie. Even when she, Max, and Dani first entered the Sanderson home, she immediately went to the book (which, if it hadn’t been behind glass, might have awakened to her voice at that very moment). The Sanderson sisters are certainly gone, but the end of Hocus Pocus isn’t the end of witches in Salem.
The bullies are left to die
We’ve already established that Max isn’t the brightest of the bunch (that’s Dani, remember?), but it turns out maybe Max is the most cruel — at least of all the children. This one was pointed out by Hello Giggles and, I have to admit, it’s pretty disturbing when you think about it.
When Max shows up to save Dani and Binx, he also finds the town bullies (who have harassed him to no end) trapped in cages. Rather than doing the honorable thing and helping them escape as well, he takes his shoes back (which the aforementioned bullies had stolen) and leaves them hanging in their cages. Even though the Sanderson sisters don’t end up using what little remains of the Life Potion on the bullies, once the witches are presumably defeated, no one returns to free them. Even as the credits roll, they’re still just hanging around singing Row Row Row Your Boat
I won’t argue that the bullies didn’t deserve some sort of comeuppance, but being left to rot in a cage seems a little extreme. Then again, let this be a warning against bullying. You never know when you’ll need your would-be victims to save you.