Brennan Kline (Salem Stilt Man) attends the Steampunk Ball iii. (Mary Louise Van Natta/Special to Salem Reporter)

Walking around downtown Salem on the night of Feb. 29, you may have noticed people with Victorian-era clothing bearing fantastical mechanical devices. While they could easily be mistaken for “time travelers,” these strangely dressed socialites are Salemites heading to the Reed Ballroom for Steampunk Ball iii. 

This is the third year of the ball, co-hosted by Salem Art Walk and Prisms Gallery, and it was sold-out. The gallery raises money for Partnerships in Community Living, a nonprofit that provides services for people with disabilities.

What is Steampunk you might ask? Originally coined by science fiction writer K. W. Jeter in 1987, Steampunk is used to describe fantasy and science fiction media set during the Victorian era. Steampunk reflects a world imagined by science fiction writers like Jules Verne and H.G. Wells. Unlike the science fiction worlds of Star Trek and Blade Runner, modern electrical devices or computers don’t yet exist. Therefore, characters construct their inventions and gadgets through simple metals, mechanical systems and steam engines (hence the name Steampunk). The combination of Victorian dress and anachronistic technology gives Steampunk a unique visual style, often featuring gears, tubes, clocks and springs.

Fans of the Steampunk sub-genre found themselves at home during this year’s Steampunk Ball.  The hosts invited guests to “an evening of music, dance, games and circus acts” featuring “a motley assortment of freaks, oddities and performers of the unusual.” All were overseen by Ringmaster Craven Valentine and Anna Davis.  Davis is a gallery assistant at Prisms Gallery.

When you entered the ballroom Makayla Allen would type you a thoughtful note about how beautiful you looked.   While some guests danced to the music of Faerabella or DJ Dirty Mollie.  Others played old-time carnival games or purchased items to add to their outfits from Eleanor Fontaine and Chachi Medica of Chachi’s Haberdashery.  Entertainment ran the gamut of burlesque dancers to magicians.

 Perhaps the most interesting aspect of was seeing the imaginative Steampunk outfits worn by event attendees.   Guests were given a copper key to vote for their favorites. If you looked up you might have seen Brennan Kline (Salem Stilt Man) looming above the crowd.   Many chose Jim Johnson, who attended with  Jenny Johnson and Jon Chayse.  He could send you back in time.  Keep an eye out for this event in the future.  It was worth attending.

Makayla Allen types thoughtful notes at the Steampunk Ball iii. (Mary Louise Van Natta/Special to Salem Reporter)

Jenny Johnson, Jon Chayse and Jim Johnson attend the Steampunk Ball iii. (Mary Louise Van Natta/Special to Salem Reporter)

Eleanor Fontaine and Chachi Medica attend the Steampunk Ball iii. (Mary Louise Van Natta/Special to Salem Reporter)

Decor at the Steampunk Ball iii. (Mary Louise Van Natta/Special to Salem Reporter)

Guests attend the Steampunk Ball.(Mary Louise Van Natta/Special to Salem Reporter)

Robert and Jennifer Bisek attend the Steampunk Ball iii. (Mary Louise Van Natta/Special to Salem Reporter)