By Jacqui Gray
What are you doing on October 31st? Whether at home or getting out of town, you can always find some exciting way to celebrate Halloween.
As an Australian, we didn’t really grow up celebrating Halloween. Sure in more recent times, people are hosting parties, but it really is not something that registers for us. Most Australians would even say it is an American commercialized day and actively want nothing to do with it. I say ‘poo poo’ to them!
A few years ago, I experienced my first proper Halloween in San Diego and I am now 100% converted. Two years later I made it to Las Vegas for a week of spooky fun…Bonnie Screams – what was I thinking!? I agreed to let friends take me out into the middle of the desert! At night! The week of Halloween! I was terrified! There was a fair amount of high pitched squealing, swearing and no feelings of love to my friends who subjected me to this torture. There was also a fair amount of Fireball shots required to calm me the hell down. A couple of days later, back in Vegas, we spent time in the Circus Circus Fright Dome (have heard this is no longer running) and, you guessed it, more Fireball shots were required. Why do people love to scare themselves?
I wish I could be in the US to get some Halloween magic at the end of the month. Sadly, I won’t, but I wanted to share some of the Halloween ideas (for the grown-ups) I researched, in the hope that I would be able to come.
These guys take Halloween seriously – you get the full experience any time in the month of October. Infamous for the Salem Witch Trials, the town now celebrates their dark history. While there, you can visit a Witch House museum, experience hanging re-enactments, parades and visit haunted and infamous locations, and witch circles. On the big night expect magic shows, witches balls, séances, and fireworks. The Hawthorne Hotel’s host an R–rated annual costume party.
New York, NY
The Village Halloween Parade is massive and, as with everything in New York, you know it is gonna be awesome. Some of the costumes are considered inappropriate for children and range from pop–culture figures to eye-popping extravaganzas.
Sleepy Hollow, NY
Quaint country inns, antique shops, and Hessians feasting on rotting corpses- yep, Sleepy Hollows has it all. Only the fearless walk along the spooky trail to the haunted 300-year-old Philipsburg Manor. During October, it is transformed into an interactive haunted house populated with vampires, witches, and the occasional Hessian lurking in the shadows.
Terror Behind the Walls at The Eastern State Penitentiary employs Hollywood–worthy lighting, sound and more than 200 actors to scare the bejesus out of visitors. Used as a penitentiary from 1829 to 1971, the building is now abandoned. The tours start in the former recreation yard where actors costumed as “insane prisoners and sadistic guards” do their best to startle you. Nope… absolutely no way. Be assured of one thing – you will never find me at this event! Ever!
New Orleans, LA
Halloween is the second most celebrated time in Nola (after Mardi Gras) and the city is often called America’s most haunted city. With Krewe of Boo parade and a Vampire Ball (this is more my pace), the French Quarter is bursting with voodoo, vampire and haunted tours. The braver souls can visit world-famous cemeteries or check out the after-dark tour of eerie Manchac Swamp.
Word has it that many of the historic districts’ stately homes are haunted. The Hearst Ghost Tour allows you to check out the paranormal hotspots around the city from the ‘comfort’ of a hearse.
This city hosts a Zombie Crawl which visits 35 bars. This year, they are expected nearly 20,00 participates to be decked out in their back-from-the-dead best.
Not going to be in the USA? Here are some Halloween treats in other countries:
The Capuchin Catacombs in Palermo, Sicily is definitely fascinating, if you’re prone to nightmares, but don’t even think about being trapped inside. Today, it holds some 8,000 very well-preserved mummies and is open to tourists. Many have claimed to hear whistling, whispering, and some even returned to a room to find skeletons rearranged in different positions.
Want to attend a Halloween party at Bran Castle, home to the legend of Dracula? Well, you can! Packages are available for the big night and as a bonus, you get to check out the beautiful Transylvania region.
The eerie city of Edinburgh has plenty of history and rich traditions along the Royal Mile and in the mighty castle. City of the Dead Tours ventures into the most haunted parts of the Old Town, going underground and visiting spooky graveyards.
Spend the night at Dalhousie Castle, and you just might get a glimpse of the ghost of Lady Catherine, the most frequently reported specter at this 13th-century fortress turned hotel.
If you’re anything like me and scare way too easily, you can always embark on the Potter Trail and explore locations that inspired the Harry Potter series.
With a seemingly unlimited number haunted placed, you can take an after-dark ghost walk, visit graveyards and legendary murder sites.
An hour-long spooky special Halloween tour on a horse-drawn carriage ride through Richmond Park.
Skulls, tequila, and tapas can be found at Tonteria, a Mexican themed club (a former haunt of Prince Harry’s!) where it is Day of the Dead every night.
Want a spooky overnight? Head to Ross Castle. Built in 1536, the stone tower is now a B&B, but don’t plan on getting much sleep. At night, guests often report waking up to voices and doors banging shut on their own. Some have even felt the presence of a spirit sitting at the edge of their bed.
All around the city, clubs, restaurants, boats and museums host themed events for tortured souls. This year Monster Ball is celebrating its tenth anniversary- or you can torture yourself with an all-night marathon of scary movies.
Can’t get away for the holiday? Consider taking ghost/haunted tours at home as most cities regular have something this time of year. Towards the end of October, things get amped up. Also, they are a neat way to learn about your city’s darker side. Haunted City Ghost Tours has events in New York, Hollywood Hills, and Las Vegas.
Groupon often has specials for city tours – make sure you check the conditions around Halloween.
If you’re heading to New Orleans, get a Halloween themed wig from Fifi Mahony’s! Always amazing, no matter the theme.
Coming to Australia – you will find some great Halloween parties, but we, sadly, have a long way to go to getting everyone on board.
I don’t have a ton of photos to boast about this time, but here are two that I think truly capture my love for Halloween!