If all you have planned for Halloween is to don a Scream mask and throw eggs at old ladies, then step it up and get seriously spooky this Halloween with these six dead good ideas for a haunted holiday.
1. Transylvania, Romania
There is nowhere else that says 'spooky' like Transylvania. Bram Stoker’s legendary character, Dracula, hung out in this 'neck' of the woods, which is in fact a real-life region of Romania. So did the living, breathing (well, not anymore) Vlad the Impaler. See where he hung his victims out to decompose at Bran Castle, a couple of hours north of Romanian capital Bucharest.
2. Salem, United States
Salem, god bless his soul, was, until recently, one of my sister’s long-suffering cats. Being black, he was quite unimaginatively named after that talking moggie in Sabrina the Teenage Witch (that was such a good show!). Salem took his name from a town near Boston, Massachusetts, where ladies in pointy hats who commuted by broomstick were thrown on the bonfire in the Witch Trials of 1692. Unsurprisingly, Salem celebrates Halloween big style with parties, parades and lashings of pumpkin pie.
3. Paris, France
The ‘City of Light’ has a hidden dark side, and no, we don’t mean the fleshpots of Pigalle. As you enjoy Parisian hand-holding moments with your loved one, gazing upon the Eiffel Tower or Notre Dame, underneath your feet is a hidden world. The Catacombs are a vast network of tunnels running below the streets of the French capital that store the remains of a staggering six million people. Take a guided tour to safely see masses of skulls and other body parts.
4. Edinburgh, Scotland
Back in the day, when they lived underground, the good folk of Edinburgh commonly died of all sorts of nasty stuff like the plague. Today you can hear the story of many of their demises on a guided tour of Mary King’s Close, a system of secret streets beneath the tourist-tastic Royal Mile. And they're running some special spooky events for Halloween in Close Fest. As the place is supposedly haunted, you’ve a good chance of encountering spooks. Not for the faint-hearted, as they say, but great fun all the same.
Halloween is much more of a big deal in the US than over here, but it’s mostly a celebration of kitsch for the kids, and an excuse to dress up as saucy witches. However, in darkest Mexico it’s the real deal. On Los Dias de los Muertos (Days of the Dead), the living populace honours its dear departed by extending an invitation to relatives-no-more to pop round to the family homestead for tea and cake, and probably a stiff drink to send them back to the netherworld in good spirits.
It might be a bit late to sort out a last-minute break to Madagascar, but if you think that festivities here are a bit tacky, then celebrate Halloween in traditional style on this exotic island off the east of Africa. The Madagascan way of honouring their dead is the ‘turning of the bones’, an ancient ritual where the dead are dug up, decked out in new threads, then encouraged to hit the dancefloor with friends and relatives. We’re deadly serious.