A good scaring can be a lot of fun and Halloween is the right time to have the wind put up you by the dead or undead. But where are the best places to find that Halloween thrill – or is it a tingle – that will make your heart race and your hands clammy?
World's Best Halloween Celebrations for Ghosties and Ghouls
New York's Halloween Parade is one of the biggest fancy dress parties on the planet with frightening floats and dancing of demonic proportions, and Florida's Fantasy Festival culminates in a massive Halloween themed party. Universal Studios knows how to put tingles down the crowd's spine – their Halloween Horror Nights sell out in advance, and this is also a good time for Vegas, the original Sin City, where no one really needs the excuse of the Halloween Fetish and Fantasy Ball to get dressed up – the only costume not allowed is your birthday suit.
Why not spend Halloween somewhere suitably frightful...
Transylvania still holds the secrets of the original Vlad Dracul: provided you know where to look amongst the theme hotels and restaurants, and the costumed gatherings.
Bran Castle, despite the efforts of many to photograph it at dusk, shrouded in mist, probably never heart the footfall of the sadistic Vlad Tepes III Dracula – and if it did, it would have been merely for a quick overnight stop on the run from the Ottomans, for though this spot was the far more atmospheric inspiration for Bram Stoker, Vlad Tepes III probably lived, and carried out his nastiness, in Poienari Castle.
Eastern European countries don't celebrate Halloween in the same way as the west, though All Saints Day is celebrated on the first of November. But an occasion for telling frighting stories and fables is often unnecessary.
Mexico's attitude towards its ghost is different, here they celebrate the Day of the Dead, when the dead are welcomed back into people's homes intentionally, but then fed up on sweet or alcoholic offerings to keep them as good spirits for the rest of the year.
Many ghosts and ghouls start off as stories, but how do we know they haven't been passed on from fact?
Sleepy Hollow is a real place. And the characters in Washington Irving's story are based on real people, as is the phantom Hessan soldier, or rather he's based on reported sightings, and documentation that a Hessan soldier was nursed and died here. The famous bridge has been rebuilt several times (in the same style), but in the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery are the graves of all those potentially involved in the story, and a map to an unmarked grave where the bones of the Hessan soldier are supposed to lie... The quiet roads here are a prime spot for a decent Halloween spooking.
If you're going to haunt a city Paris makes a nice choice and it's likely there's a heaving paranormal 'scene' for you to get involved with, what with all those guillotined aristocracy and romantically suicidal poets and artists. L'Empire de la Morte, or the Catacombs, the macabre network of tunnels lined with ancient skeletons and Pere Lachaise Cemetery are spectral central – this is where you can find the graves of Oscar Wilde, Guillaume Apollinaire, Honoré de Balzac, Sarah Bernhardt, Édith Piaf, Marcel Proust and Jim Morrison. Colette is said to come out of her grave at night and replenish the red roses it's strewn with. The Paris Opera is famously haunted by the 'Phantom' and the hunchback isn't the only figure to fear at Notre Dame.
Edinburgh's old town has been around for a long time and seen some strange sights. This is where the story of Dr Jeykll came from, where Burke and Hare plied their nasty trade in murder, a city used to plague and bloody political intrigue. And that's before you head under the city into the great empty vaults built for storage, and that became the setting for the dismal lives of an underclass now represented in spectral form, or up to the castle, with its own cacophony of ghouls, including a phantom piper, a headless drummer, prisoners come up from the dungeons dressed in the garb of both the Seven Years War and American Revolution, a man in a leather apron, Mary Queen of Scots and a host of ghostly dogs who come from the dog cemetery the castle was unceremoniously expanded over.
Greyfriar's Cemetery is Edinburgh's other hotbed of paranormal activity: this is where both 'Hanging judge' George MacKenzie and the hundreds of Presbytarianist Covenanters he persecuted and hanged are buried, and it's supposed to be where some of the world's most violent poltergeists 'reside'.
Even if you don't believe in ghosts the concentration camp at Auschwitz - isn't somewhere anyone would choose to be after dark.
Somewhere between one million and 1.5 million people were killed here in the five years between 1940 and 45. They didn't just die in the gas chambers, some were worked to death or died of disease or starvation, and some were used in illegal medial experiments. A huge number of visitors have experienced being grabbed or touched by the spirits of the dead and it's not uncommon for people to suffer emotional breakdowns or extreme panic just walking though the place, it's so heavy with emotional significance. If any place is home to unhappy spirits, this one is.
The desperate battle that raged over the mission at the Alamo during February and March 1836 was a very bloody chapter in the Texan struggle for independence from Mexico.
200 men defended the Alamo against 6000, and were able to hold out for 13 days – with the help of the ghosts of their dead comrades, who confronted the Mexican attackers when they tried to advance. Ever since people have reported seeing these same Texan defenders stalking the walls. Security guards in the 80s, employed to stop renegade ghost hunters, were frequently surprised by a ghostly dispatch rider, sent to get help.
Many of London's great buildings are attributed with ghosts, the Tower has the princes, there are supposed to be plague victims round St. Pauls and spirits of those who died in the Blitz are said to haunt the underground, but one of the nastiest stories from London's history is about Jack the Ripper and the fear he struck into the hearts of East London folk living in Whitechapel and Spitalfields . Drink in the Ten Bells pub, but before you do ward off evil spirits in Christ Church next door, another landmark around in Jack's day. As well as Ripper victims, Whitechapel is supposed to be haunted by Roman soldiers, a murderous sea captain and a black coach with white horses.
A stake though the heart kills a vampire and a sliver bullet is supposed to be able to do away with a werewolf, but can you ever really kill a witch? If any mortal was primed to return as a ghost after their death it would be a witch or a voodoo queen.
During Salem's Witch Trials in 1692 twenty four supposed witches were done away with, and they're now thought to number among the ghosts haunting the town. Gallows Hill is considered their home, but there are many other buildings with resident and un-quiet spirits: there have been many sightings around the spot where the old Courthouse stood - this where the trials actually took place, and in the Salem Cemetery, which still marks out the resting places of all the bodies. The Jonathan Corwin House, the home of Judge Jonathan Corwin, the witch trials investigator, is the only building in town with direct ties to the trials in 1692, and is thought by many to be haunted by several pained souls as retribution to him.
Witch related tourism is big in Salem all year round, but for Halloween they make an effort to be especially spooky.
Supposedly New Orleans has such a hold on folks that even after they die they have a hard time leaving it behind – but some of them were trapped here by the Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau, who stalks the St. Louis Cemetery in her red and white knotted turban, and she's joined by the tortured ghosts of Madame Lalaurie's slaves, who she was accused of performing terrible cruelties against are still trying to struggle free from their chains in the Lalaurie Mansion, the late chef Paul Blange who has been known to sit down for supper with guests at Brennan’s restaurant and Civil War brothers in arms patrol the Griffin House and the Beauregard-Keyes House. And that's just the itinerary for the first night... Halloween is like a warm up for Mardi Gras...
San Francisco had the deadly earthquake and the devastating fires that followed – all those stories about people huddling on roofs pleading with police below to be shot so they wouldn't have to endure being burned – but it's also lost more than a 1000 souls off the Golden Gate Bridge, a ghostly policeman stops people and gives them speeding tickets in the Golden Gate Park and all sorts of eerie sounds can be heard coming from the ever tortured spirits of Alcatraz....
Roswell has a reputation for the paranormal, but it's more visitors from space than from 'the other side' that people expect to find here. But if you believe it was an alien aircraft that crashed then you may also believe in the ghosts of the aliens who were killed in the crash. And there have been reported sightings...
For more fiendishly frightening Halloween travel ideas peruse our list of the World's Most Haunted Cities
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