Halloween was born from the ancient Gaelic festival of Samhain, marking the end of the ‘light half’ of the year and the start of the dark half. The pagans believed the walls between our world and the next became thin and porous around this time, allowing spirits to pass through and linger on in our world.
Enjoy the season of spookiness with one of these Halloween holidays!
Where better to begin our creepy Halloween holidays than a fortress on the border of Transylvania and Walachia in Romania and home of Bram Stoker’s legendary character, Dracula. Fictional he may be, but this fortress was once home to Vlad III Tepes, or ‘Vlad the Impaler’, a ruler of Walachia known for barbaric punishments he imposed during his reign and the inspiration for Stoker’s most famous character. It is rumoured that Vlad III Tepes would impale thousands of his victims at the same time, leaving the bodies on the stakes decaying for months to be seen far and wide.
Stay in an 18th century inn at the foot of the Carpathian Mountains from €36 per person and experience the traditional Transylvanian way of life. Horse riding, sleigh tours and even wine tours and a sauna will take the edge off this spooky break. Find flights to Bucharest
The Cadies and Witchery Tours of Edinburgh use every trick in the book to give visiting ghost hunters and horror seekers a thrill. Even on an ordinary evening, the narrow, dank cobbled streets of Edinburgh’s Old Town possess an eerie quality. Take a tour and hear tales of torture, plague and witchcraft as hideous witches, mad monks and the grim reaper lurk at every turn.
Hear the stories of Burke and Hare, those infamous body snatchers who bumped off their victims in the middle of the night and sold their bodies to the local medical school. You can also tour the underground vaults which are said to have their own supernatural going’s on with ghosts harking back from centuries past.
Calm your nerves with a hot toddy and a haggis feast in one of the traditional pubs on the Royal Mile before heading back to your hotel for a, hopefully, restful sleep. Find flights to Edinburgh
Paris may be known as the ‘City of Lights’, but around All Hallows Eve there are far more sinister things to be doing than gazing at the Eiffel Tower. For those who like serious frights, it’s time to explore the dark side of the French capital. Drawing tourists for more than 200 years, the Catacombs (an underground ossuary) are a vast network of tunnels that run below the streets of this beautiful city and store the remains of 6 million people, taken from condemned cemeteries.
Masses of bones lie stacked against the tunnel walls and a danker, creepier atmosphere you’d be hard pushed to find; even maestro of the macabre, Edgar Allan Poe, mentioned the catacombs in his story ‘Cask of Amontillado’. In honour of Halloween, grab a torch and a map and see how far your fear will let you go.
If you make it out alive, treat yourself to a night on the Paris town and a very large glass of vin rouge. Find flights to Paris.
Not only is Prague home to the Old Jewish Cemetery in the Old Town Jewish ghetto with its collection of crowded and unsettling tombstones, haphazard due to the fact Jews had to bury their dead in layers; it is also home to one of the best-known ossuary’s (bone churches) in the world. The Sedlec Ossuary sits underneath a church and uses human bones used as interior decoration.
From coats of arms to chandeliers and staircases, the image is one that is both deeply disturbing but also beautiful. If that whets your appetite, you could follow it up with a visit to Prague's Torture Museum which is sure to give you the creeps. There seemed to be no limitations for inflicting cruelty on our own kind.
Back in Prague, the sight of a fairy lit Charles Bridge should ease the frayed nerves and if that doesn’t, a shot of absinthe should! Find flights to Prague
Whether you’re spellbound by witchcraft or outraged at the senseless burning of ‘witches’, a visit to Salem, Massachusetts where the famous Witch Trials took place promises to intrigue and scare at the same time. Americans celebrate Halloween with gusto and this New England town goes all out, with costumes, parades and parties.
Salem is now the home to several museums which describe and commemorate the witch trials while ‘The Witch House’ stands on the corner of North and Essex Street as a reminder of those times. Take a tour and see eerie memorabilia like “witch pins” and a small bottle containing the bones of fingers. Get ready to see a ghostly witch or two haunt the local area.
Blow away the cobwebs with a walk along sandy Collins Cove Beach; the perfect antidote to all that terror! Find flights to Boston
On 1 November, the cemetery at Santiago Sacatepéquez comes alive with colour, music and people. Guatemalans set up altars in their homes dedicated to those who have passed away surrounding them with flowers, food and drink. Families then build giant kites made of crepe paper and bamboo that they fly in the streets to communicate with the souls of their dearly departed.
At night the kites are burned so the dead may quietly return to their world. It is said that if the kites are not burned, the souls won't know how to return home and they will linger on in our world indefinitely. If that sounds too spooky - lighten the mood with delicious coffee and traditional Mayan markets selling all manner of handmade goods. Find flights to Guatemala
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