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Tired of staying at home every year, waiting for your bell to ring so you can hand out candy to the few who show up at your door? Or perhaps you just want to take a break from the same ‘ol Halloween party. Whatever the reason, Halloween offers a great excuse to travel to some of the world’s most hauntingly spectacular places, like these.
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There are lots of great choices when it comes to hotels and vacation rentals in the mountains of Romania’s most famous region – Transylvania. Most also happen to offer easy access to legendary Bran Castle, once said to be the home of Vlad the Impaler, which was the reputed inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Vlad was known for his extreme cruelty, which included impaling tens of thousands of his enemies on stakes. Today, the castle is open to the public and also offers Halloween tours.
While Bran Castle is certainly worth a visit, many say that Hoia-Baciu Forest, located in the country’s second-most populous city, Cluj-Napoca, is where the more serious thrills are. This foreboding glade is home to many haunted tales, including lots of UFO and ghost sightings which give it kind of a Blair Witch atmosphere.
Edinburgh is not only one of Europe’s most beautiful cities, it’s known as one of the spookiest in the United Kingdom. Shadowy figures of lost souls lurk in the depths of Edinburgh Castle, which sits atop an extinct volcano, overlooking the city. With a phantom piper and a headless drummer among its resident ghosts, visitors to the 900-year old fortress might even come face-to-face with what really goes bump in the night. Take a ghost tour through the old underground parts of the city, one of the best ways to experience Edinburgh’s supernatural goings-on. By spending the night at Dalhousie Castle, you just might get a glimpse of the ghost of Lady Catherine, the most frequently reported specter at this 13th-century fortress turned hotel. Guests have heard the rustling of her skirt and tapping on doors – some have even had their hair pulled by this long passed young woman who starved herself to death after her parents forbid her one true love.
The streets of Oaxaca, Mexico are transformed into one massive street festival for the annual Day of the Dead, or Dia de los Muertos, celebrations. Streets are decorated with skulls, skeletons and flowers while costumed people visit local cemeteries following ancient Aztec and Mayan legends. Follow the seas of flowers and flickering candles, watch street dances and painted faces during the Day of the Dead parades and even barter for macabre skeleton dolls at the local market. The party is truly like no other, not to mention the fantastic ruins and landscapes found throughout the region.
While celebrating Halloween is a relatively new thing in Italy, Venice is practically tailor-made for ghost tales and murder mysteries, with its dense maze of narrow alleys that sometimes end right at the edge of a canal – impossible to see until it’s nearly too late. Not only that, but the smaller islands in the lagoon also served as mass graves during the city’s many bouts with the plague. One was even home to an insane asylum, though it’s long been abandoned. Of course, as Italians love to dress up in outlandish, creative attire, you’re sure to find lots of parties and all types of festivities to keep you busy too.
Halloween in Salem is a month-long event. There are all sorts of ghoulish happenings, including the Haunted Happenings Grand Parade, as well as ghostly tales, lots of witches, vampires and more. In fact, 26 people were once tried and put to death in this town – for being witches. Today, it happens to be one of the top Halloween vacation destinations around the country for its celebration of witches on their most important night of the year.
Salem’s Halloween parade takes place early in October, but if you aren’t here then you can always visit the Salem Witch Museum to learn about witchcraft and the historical reasons behind the witch trials. There are all sorts of tours of haunted spots, trial and hanging re-enactments as well as fireworks and witches’ circles. If that’s not enough, Hawthorne Hotel, a reputedly very haunted property, will also hold its famous Salem Witches Ball.
The City by the Bay isn’t just sourdough bread and amazing clam chowder, it’s filled with fabulously haunted places to visit. Its history of natural disasters, in addition to being one of the biggest boomtowns during the gold rush days, makes it strikingly haunting, yet always beautiful. In one of the city’s most famous landmarks, Alcatraz, renowned as one of the eeriest destinations in America, visitors can take haunted tours after dark where cold spots, mysterious music, unexplained moaning and apparitions have been seen walking through walls. If you want to spend the night with a spirit or two, the historic Queen Anne Hotel is ideal. This upscale B&B is famous for its ghostly hauntings. A ghost named Mary is said to continue her duties in death, as she keeps a watchful eye on guests to be sure they have a comfortable stay. She has a habit of tucking in her guests at night – and even unpacking and hanging up their clothes.
Even the name Deadwood evokes a haunting image, and some believe it’s the most haunted town in the country. Whether you believe that or not, it’s still a great destination with an incredibly rich and colorful history. During October, Deadwood becomes “Deadweird”, with haunted houses, spirit tours, costume contests, and more. This two-day celebration is generally held the Friday and Saturday closest to October 31st. For an especially haunted evening, end your celebrations by staying at the historic Bullock Hotel – owned and built by Deadwood’s first sheriff, Seth Bullock. Though he died nearly a century ago, in 1919, it’s said that he still plays host at his beloved hotel. Some have claimed to see his apparition, but many have experienced all sorts of other strange occurrences here. Alarm clocks that aren’t plugged into the wall go off, televisions change channels on their own, and guests have felt tapping on their shoulders only to turn and see that no one is there.
Well known for its magnificent Gothic architecture, Prague is a fantastic Halloween destination. There is a multitude of ghost tours and guided night walks throughout the city as well as numerous attractions like the Torture Museum, Charles Bridge with its eerie-looking statues, St Vitus Cathedral and its gargoyles, and Old Town, the setting of many local legends and ghoulish stories. In the town of Kutna Horna, less than an hour east of Prague is Bone Church – a very strange kind of skeletal art gallery. Inside this Gothic chapel are the skeletons of around 40,000 plague victims plastered from top to bottom. Some are weaved artistically into the interior, others are crafted into a series of bizarre decorations, including a giant coat of arms made of tibias and fibias. The chandelier, which dangles from the center, was created using every bone in the human body.
Halloween in Tombstone is a great place for families, with pumpkin carving and costume contests, ghost stories around the fire and plenty of other activities. But it’s also a great place for adults who are looking for haunted thrills. Boothill Cemetery is renowned for its high number of specter sightings, often seen wandering through old wooden grave markers – some have even been captured on film. Numerous sightings of ghosts have been reported throughout this Old West town, including the Bird Cage Theater and Big Nose Kate’s Saloon. The streets of Tombstone themselves are said to be the walkways of many lingering spirits, including the long-dead Marshall Fred White, accidentally shot back in 1880 by Curly Bill Brocious. A cowboy who is frequently seen crossing the road in a long black coat near the site where Virgil Earp was ambushed and left crippled, never makes it across the street, leading many to believe that it may actually be the ghost of Earp himself.
Halloween is the second most celebrated time in New Orleans, after Mardi Gras, of course. Celebrating Halloween Crescent City-style isn’t just for kids, in fact, there may be at least as many events for the adults as for little ones. It has a well-known reputation for voodoo, and while exploring the French Quarter you’ll find a number of voodoo shops where you can learn more about the centuries-old practices. You can almost feel the spirit of Marie Laveau, the High Priestess of 19th century New Orleans, in the vibes of some of them. There are tours after dark that will regale you with tales about the hundreds who died in a tidal wave at the eerie Manchac Swamp just northwest of the city – filled with ancient trees and wispy Spanish moss, this is a creepy yet beautiful place any time of year.
You can also take one of the many haunted tours throughout the French Quarter, as well as other parts of the city, but be sure to visit the world-famous cemeteries where the dearly departed are buried in tombs above ground. Hundreds of tales abound in which the ghosts of these “Cities of the Dead” make their presence known – a few of which have even been documented and visually captured.
Estes Park, which sits at the eastern edge of Rocky Mountain National Park, is not only renowned for its gorgeous mountain scenery and outdoor recreational activities, it’s home to the Stanley Hotel, a historic landmark for which author Stephen King based his novel, “The Shining.” Here you’ll find beautiful views – and, possibly a few ghosts. Staying in this hotel was said to have spooked horror master Stephen King so much that it became the inspiration for the setting of his unforgettable film based on the novel.
Opened for more than 100 years, ghostly events have always been a part of its history, including the sounds of children running and laughing down the halls on the fourth floor, as well as Mr. Stanley, the hotel’s original owner and the inventor of the Stanley Steamer Automobiles, along with his wife, seen walking through the lobby. Mrs. Stanley can sometimes be heard playing her piano in the music room, while a former housekeeper who died here in 1911, is said to frequently assist guests in Room 217 by unpacking and storing their belongings.
Halloween originated in Ireland, known as “Samhain Night,” a medieval festival that marked the end of the harvest, bringing shorter days and longer nights, linked to the dead revisiting the mortal world as well as large communal bonfires and associated lore. This is a time when restless spirits and specters can pass the veil from the spiritual realm to walk the earth, seeking revenge for earthly grievances. Of course, the Emerald Isle is also a place filled with spectacular castles and out-of-this-world scenery, making it one of the best places to visit year-round. The largest organized Halloween celebration here is the Banks of the Foyle Halloween Carnival in Derry City, which features a parade, fire dancing, fireworks and much more. There are haunted houses, ghost tours, scary movies and the recanting of horror stories too.
If you plan to be in Dublin, visit St. Michan’s Church, where there have been numerous reports of things like muffled screaming, the raspy whisper of hushed voices and even the rather shocking touch of icy cold fingers on some visitor’s necks. The most adventurous ghost seekers might want to spend the night in one of the tower rooms at Ross Castle in County Meath – an authentic medieval castle turned B&B that’s renowned as one of the most haunted in the country.
London is home to a haunted tower, gloomy dungeons, and, with a rather bloody history, there is also practically an endless number of places where ghosts are known to roam. As such, you’ll have your pick of horrifying Halloween events, attractions and parties. Take an after-dark ghost walk and visit graveyards as well as famous murder sites with the author of Haunted London, Richard Jones, via the London Ghost Walk, or meet up for the Jack the Ripper Walk to take a guided stroll of the infamous murderer’s old haunts in East London. You can even take a horse-drawn carriage ride through Richmond Park for an hour-long special Halloween tour, where you’ll learn all about the ghosts that haunt its grounds. The Tower of London, once home to political prisoners who were tortured and subsequently executed, also offers rather fascinating tours in which you’ll hear all sorts of ghostly tales – the tower itself seems to emit an eerie feeling with its stark white appearance and winding stone corridors.
Sleepy Hollow, the setting of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” by Washington Irving, one of the most iconic American ghost stories, is a real town in New York – and there are still reports of the Headless Horseman heard today at cemeteries throughout the area. The Old Dutch Burying Ground is one of the oldest cemeteries in the U.S., and Sleepy Hollow Cemetery houses Irving’s grave. The cemetery hosts both daytime and nighttime “lantern” tours, though you’ll need to book well in advance as it’s extremely popular, especially on and around Halloween. Though you’ll find something for everyone in this town on All Hallows Eve, including Gothic mansions, haunted hayrides, parades and street fairs. And, during the entire month of October, the 300-year-old Philipsburg Manor is transformed into a fearsome landscape, said to be “ruled by vampires, witches, undead soldiers, ghouls, and ghosts – all serving the Headless Horseman himself.”
Hollywood is not only home to all sorts of haunting tales, but the largest Halloween street party on the planet takes place every year in October in West Hollywood. It draws some half-million to the streets of Santa Monica Boulevard, dressed in wild costumes, most letting their inhibitions go. It features live entertainment across a number of stages as well as food vendors, photo stations and numerous bars offering drink specials and patio parties. If you hope to see a celebrity and possibly even a ghost, your best bet is to stay at the glamourous Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. Marilyn Monroe was once a resident, and she’s believed to be one of the many restless spirits that haunt the establishment. Guests and hotel staff have reported seeing a blonde woman in the mirror found in her former suite, and her presence has also been felt in the hotel’s poolside Tropicana.
While Bisbee is just a short jaunt from Tombstone in southern Arizona, it offers a different, perhaps less kitschy, experience. This historic mining town turned funky artists’ haven that’s tucked within the Mule Mountains has a colorful history, lots of quirky character, and, it’s also known as one of the most haunted towns in America. While you’ll have your pick of haunted hotels, the Copper Queen and Bisbee Grand are two of the most renowned. Open for over a century, the Bisbee Grand is said to have several resident ghosts, including a male spirit who’s frequently spotted downstairs. A female can occasionally be seen on the upper level, typically described as wearing a Victorian-style dress, carrying a tea tray and sometimes even standing at the foot of the bed in Room 2 or 3. Sometimes, the normally silent piano begins playing a few notes on its own when all is quiet and few are around. If you want to party it up for Halloween, you’ll find lots of options, including annual street dance hosted by the Copper Queen Hotel, one of the biggest parties in Bisbee, with three bars, a DJ and dancing. Costume contests, live music and all sorts of festivities are held throughout town.
Halloween is second only to St. Patrick’s Day when it comes to big celebrations in Savannah. It has the advantage of natural décors like eerie Spanish moss and a multitude of ghost-ridden antebellum homes, including the Sorrel-Weed House on Harris Street, featured on both Syfy and HGTV, which is known as the most haunted in the city. On Halloween, it even offers a ghost hunting experience, complete with professional ghost hunting equipment. There are also ghost tours throughout the city, as well as bar crawls along the cobblestone streets.