Boo! Our favorite season is here again… time to dress up, buy some candy and start adding pumpkin to everything. Originally a European celebration to mark All Hallows Eve, North Americans have taken Halloween to heart and turned it into one of the biggest holidays of the year. And let’s not forget Mexico where the 1st of November is less about the scares and more a joyous celebration of the dead.
It’s said on these days the veil between the dead and the living is at its thinnest, so follow us on a tour of places where you can catch celebrations loud enough to wake the dead….
Follow Halloween back to it's roots and you’ll find yourself in ancient Ireland where pagans celebrated the festival of Samhain to mark the beginning of winter. It was Irish immigrants that brought the holiday to America and back in the motherland they still go all out with festivals, spooky castle events and famously haunted pubs. Take a ghost tour around Dublin’s winding old streets to its most haunted building- The Hellfire Club. Built from the stones of an old graveyard (never a good idea?) this was a drinking den for rich gentleman where gambling, murder and Satan-worshipping was the order of the day. Now it’s a ruin with great views over the city, especially at night… mua ha haa.
On the northeast coast of England is an old fishing village where ghost stories whisper down cobbled lanes and swirl through a ruined abbey on a clifftop. This is the town that inspired Bram Stoker’s Dracula and his legend lives on as people flock to Whitby for their dose of spooky action around Halloween. The town has embraced its reputation and the abbey is illuminated in October, ghost tours are given around town and people dressed in black congregate for the annual Goth Festival- a celebration of all things dark and alternative.
This beautiful region of forests and mountains in Romania has a rich history of folk tales full of fantastical creatures, fairies and blood-thirsty undead souls. It was Bram Stoker who named them vampires but to locals they were the Strigoi, people who had suffered a violent death and rose from graves to feast on the living. With over 100 castles, medieval villages and dark misty forest Transylvania is an awesome place to visit any time of year but it really comes into its own at this time of year. One of the most stunning (and most haunted) castles is Hunedoara- a red turreted, moated beauty with medieval torture chambers! Don’t forget to pack your garlic.
The scene of the most famous public witch trials in America is always going to embrace Halloween and Salem doesn’t disappoint. Decorations start appearing at the beginning of October and there are ghost walks, a huge parade and family movie screenings. Don’t miss seeing the monument to those executed in the witch trials of 1692, a low stone wall with twenty benches inscribed with the victim's names, date and method of execution. It’s located next to the Charter Street burial ground where many of the townspeople who witnessed the trials are buried.
Mexico City, Mexico
Day of the Dead is celebrated in Mexico on the 1st and 2nd of November but you won’t find much dark and gloomy here. People spend weeks preparing costumes, food and decorations. The party starts in Mexico City with a huge parade of papier-mâché skeletons. Families build paths and arches of flowers to help their deceased loved ones find their way home to altars covered in ribbons, fruits and tamales. The main event is in graveyards as families clean graves, picnic, dance to mariachi bands and decorate the streets with row upon row of colorful paper flags. It's as much a celebration of being alive as a remembrance of the dead, and one you should add to your travel bucket list.
New York, USA
We can’t miss out good old New York, where more than 50,000 people come to celebrate Halloween and show the world how to put on a parade. This year the theme is ‘Freedom!’ and you’re invited to dress as anything that makes you feel free from the stresses of the world. You probably won’t see many zombies and vampires then, but you will get some of the best costumes you’ve ever seen, amazing music and an atmosphere you can’t find anywhere else.
Sleepy Hollow, USA
So named for its ‘peculiar inhabitants’ and haunting atmosphere, Sleepy Hollow was the setting for Washington Irving’s gothic story of the Headless Horseman, a restless ghost whose head was shot off in battle. Today, all through October you’ll find haunted hayrides, farmers markets, live music and blazing pumpkins wherever you look. Take a guided tour of the cemetery and keep an ear out for the sound of ghostly galloping horses.
Written by Laura Sedlak