You like to travel and are looking for somewhere new to go Trick or Treating, or to get your share of chills this Halloween? Try these spookily spectacular destinations.
1: Transylvania, Romania
Home to Dracula, or at least Vlad the Impaler, the bloodthirsty ruler the character was based upon, Transylvania has embraced Halloween with an unholy passion. You can visit Dracula’s castle in Bran, sleep in the Dracula Hotel on Borgo Pass and eat in a Dracula-themed restaurant.
Transylvania has also become famous for its Halloween parties. The one at Bran Castle includes a midnight tour of Dracula’s lair, while the celebration in Sighisoara Citadel (Vlad’s birthplace) includes a magic show, costume contests, and a howling at the moon contest. Organisers of both say that if you don't have a reflection in the mirror, the party is on them.
Transylvania Live specialise in adventure and sightseeing tours. See www.visit-transylvania.co.uk for details.
2: Whitby, Yorkshire, England
The ruined Gothic abbey overlooking this seaside town in Yorkshire was the inspiration behind Bram Stoker’s Dracula and, every October, the town is taken over by Goths, keen to pay homage to the man who influenced both their look and their lifestyle at the bi-annual Whitby Goth Weekend.
Ostensibly a music festival, the weekend has grown to become a place where Goths meet, mingle, parade and trade. Most years the weekend is preceded by the Bram Stoker International Film Festival, a celebration of horror films both old and new.
Goth girls, Whitby
3: Edinburgh, Scotland
Halloween is seen universally as an American celebration, but it actually started as a Celtic festival called Samhain (pronounced sow-in), marking the transition from summer into winter and the battle between the demons representing both. It is still celebrated annually in Edinburgh with the Samhain Fire Festival.
The festival is run by the Beltane Fire Society and sees a phalanx of spectacular mythical creatures beating drums and breathing fire as they make their way down Edinburgh’s historic Royal Mile to West Parliament Square. Here, a spectacular battle between Summer and Winter takes place. No tickets are needed, but a donation, given to the demons shaking buckets, is much appreciated.
Samhain Fire Festival
4: Salem, Massachusetts, USA
Forever associated with the barbaric witch trails that were held in the town in the late 1600s, Salem embraces its grisly past with a month-long celebration of all that is macabre and ghoulish called the Festival of the Dead.
Over 500,000 visitors descend on the town to have their fortunes told at the Psychic Fair or trade-in their broomstocks at the Witchcraft Expo. The Witch Museum and the Old Harbour are at their ghoulish best. And it all culminates with the spectacular Salem Witches’ Ball at the Hawthorne Hotel.
A witch in Salem
5: Hong Kong
Hong Kong has become the Halloween capital of Asia, with huge Halloween parties at Hong Kong Disneyland and Ocean Park and Halloween-themed events at just about every bar in Lan Kwai Fong.
Halloween is a hit in Hong Kong because it coincides with Yue Lan, the Festival of the Hungry Ghosts. Yue Lan is an ancient Buddlist and Taoist festival that honours ancestors and, like Halloween, marks a period where the realms of heaven and hell and the world of the living are open to each other. Offerings are made and operas are performed to appease the ghosts of both ancestors and deities.
Yue Lan opera
6: Sleepy Hollow, New York, USA
It may have been Washington Irving’s spooky story about a headless horseman that first gave this aptly-named town its Halloween cred, but it was Tim Burton’s 1999 movie, starring Johnny Depp, that cemented the legend. The locals have embraced it all with a month-long Sleepy Hollow Halloween of haunted hayrides, street fairs and parades.
The evening lantern tours are not for the faint-hearted – you’ll be taken through the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, the final resting place of Washington Irving and vampire Barnabas Collins. Lyndhurst Castle, home of Jay Ghoul's House of Curiosities, offers a more family-friendly haunted tour of their estate.
The Legend of the Headless Horseman of Sleepy Hollow.
7: Derry, Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland’s self-proclaimed ‘City of Bones’ is home to Europe’s biggest Halloween parade. The celebrations – which start on Friday night and continue over the weekend – are loud, colourful and intense and were recently voted the best in the world by readers of USA Today.
From the River Mourne to the Banks of the Foyle, the entire town of Derry becomes a Halloween-themed street carnival. There’s a spooky and spectacular animation trail around the city walls, fireworks, parties and plenty of tricks and treats. The Banks of the Foyle Halloween Carnival is not to be missed.
City Wall illuminations (Derry City and Strabane)
So, are you ready to have the best time of your life? Where do we start?
Cover: Le Parisien