Spend October 31st in These Freaky Places, If ye Dare...
Halloween is all about being frightened. Here are the best places in the world to get your skin crawling, your hair standing on end, and your bowels loosening on All Hallow's Eve.
1. Mexico: Día de los Muertos
The eerily-named Day of the Dead, adorning skulls and skeletons, is actually a cheerful celebration across the USA and Latin America to remember deceased relatives. Head to Mexico on 1-2 November for children dressed as corpses, candied skulls, candlelit vigils and night-time street parades.
The Día de los Muertos originates as an Aztec festival to honour the goddess of the underworld, who watches over the bones of the dead. Like Halloween, the festival was later mixed with Christianity and it’s now based on the belief that the deceased would be insulted by sadness and mourning – so their families remember them in style.
2. Transylvania, Romania
The immortalised home of the infamous vampire Count Dracula in Bram Stoker’s 1897 gothic horror novel, Transylvania’s snow-covered peaks, winding medieval streets and draughty castles make for the perfect Halloween destination.
There’s a dark truth behind the fictional Dracula. The aristocratic vampire is partly based on the 15th century Romanian prince Vlad the Impaler, known for (you guessed it) impaling his tens of thousands of victims. He was also called Dracula, meaning dragon or devil in Romanian; tourists can visit his birthplace at the 12th century picturesque village of Sighișoara.
Despite its spooky folklore, Transylvania is beautiful country and an idyllic holiday. So smuggle your stake past customs and pack plenty of garlic, and set off to enjoy Dracula’s home at the fairy-tale Bran Castle, amidst Romania’s wild mountains, quaint citadels, and valleys dipped with Gothic villages.
3. Salem, Massachusetts
This colonial settler town is best known for its witch trials in 1692. Amidst an outburst of hysteria and Puritan paranoia in the New World, 19 people were hanged as witches and one man pressed to death by stones. Remembering persecuted women might not be integral to modern Halloween, but witchcraft certainly is – you might also know Salem as Sabrina the Teenage Witch’s talking cat.
Americans flock to this historic spook town at Halloween, and if you’re looking for cheesy corporate cheer, packed bars, haunted houses, carnival rides, ghost tours, and psychic readings, there’s no better place to spend the holiday.
4. Amityville, New York
The ‘haunted’ Dutch colonial house of 112 Ocean Avenue, Amityville, entered legend as the Amityville Horror – terrifying site of the real-life mass murder of six family members in their beds in 1974.
As the story goes, its subsequent owners George and Kathy Lutz fled the house 28 days after moving in, claiming paranormal activity was terrorising them. Whether their account was truthful remains controversial, but it certainly stuck as a spine-chilling Halloween story.
The spooky house still exists under a new address and with its famous quarter-moon windows changed. It hasn’t witnessed any unusual happenings since but it remains a popular Halloween pitstop, something the house’s owners and local residents aren’t too pleased about.
5. The Bermuda Triangle
Take a (one-way) trip to this infamous oceanic site, where scores of planes and ships since the 1940s have supposedly vanished without a trace. The triangular area stretches from Bermuda to Miami and Puerto Rico, hiding mysteries such as the Star Tiger. The passenger plane disappeared without explanation in 1948 carrying 25 passengers and 6 crew: no bodies or wreckage were ever found.
Many ‘mysteries’ have since been solved, and critics point to geological, climactic and technical failures of ships and planes – not to mention that it’s one of the busiest cargo routes in the Atlantic. Buy a return ticket if you dare, and if lucky enough to survive you’ll find sunny Caribbean beaches on the other side for an alternative Halloween.