…to Visit (or Avoid like the Plague) this Halloween
Love it or loathe it, you cannot escape it. With the crisp fallen leaves of autumn come all things witchy, ghoulish, vampy, Harry Potter-esque and pumpkin carved. Not forgetting the hoards of ‘angels’ – with (or without) their evil elders in tow – but very definitely accompanied by their ever-growing demand for sweets, candy and yep, apparently sometimes even money, also referred to as Trick or Treaters!
As my own kids get bigger and I realise I can no longer fob them off with my usual ‘Mummy and Daddy will take you knocking at random doors for chocolate next year,’ I think it’s probably about time that I too embraced my reluctant devil within (just for the day anyway), let my serpent hair down and get into the Halloween spirit.
Which doesn’t come naturally to a girl who shuns the grotesque, ghostly and Gothic. Until I pondered a little… and realised that I have actually experienced a couple of spooky scenarios of my own:
My period started on the 31st October.
So that’s surely gotta make me a token witch? It also coincided with my first ever proper Halloween party (ie. one without adults). An interesting combination of blood and gore!
The ‘Grey Lady’ gave me Scooby-Doo Legs in Dunster Castle.
You’ll just have to go to the UK’s West Country ‘hot spot’ to see if she has the same effect on you. Although I would strongly advise against being accompanied by an intuitive friend who reveals to you as and when you are in the castle’s ‘guest bedroom’ that she forgot to mention she always sees spirits when she is in old houses…
I worked amidst ghosts without even knowing it!
During my late teens I was a summer holiday ‘tour guide’ at the UK’s Wookey Hole Caves. A tourist magnet in deep Somerset which back in my day also featured a ‘modern’ re-production paper mill. There I would demonstrate the ancient craft of paper making to (all too often zombified) visitors who’d suddenly come back to life at the opportunity to make their own piece of A4… totally oblivious to the spirit of the young girl whose dark shadows and wails had often been seen and heard wandering the very floor on which we sifted the pulp. Notorious for causing untimely death to its employees, ye Old Paper Mill and its machinery could trace their records – and stolen souls – back to 1086 and the Domesday Book when the earliest mill in that very spot was used for grinding corn. Some things are best kept a dark secret!
But enough of me. Let’s provide YOU with some temptingly terrifying places to run the hell away from – or just scare yourselves senseless this Halloween:
1: The Hollywood sign, Los Angeles, USA
If you thought Hollywood was all glitz and glamour, think again! Aspiring actress, Peg Entwistle, may have only risen to moderate fame, but her ghost is a Hollywood legend. One evening in 1932, Peg climbed Mount Lee in L.A to the site of the famous Hollywood sign, removed her jacket and hauled herself up the ladder on the back of the giant letter H. She would have teetered on top of it for the briefest of moments, admiring the lights of the glamorous city that failed to deliver her dream, then she plummeted to her death. Her spirit has been spotted many times nearby, wandering in eternal sadness.
2: The Savoy Hotel, UK
How glad am I that on my one (and definitely now only!) visit to London’s swanky Savoy Hotel I was blissfully ignorant of the the fact that there are more spectres hanging around the capital’s infamous establishment than almost anywhere else in the city! From the filthy rich to the poor and needy, the ghosts on this patch are apparently too many to count. Hardly surprising when we consider this land has hosted a palace (burned down in a Peasant’s Revolt), a hospital (destroyed by a fire), and a chapel (which still stands today).
3: St. James Theatre, New Zealand
This is one of New Zealand’s most haunted locations. Numerous ghosts sightings have been reported over the years in this culturally spooky wonder. More often than not it’s the ghost of Yuri, a Russian performer who allegedly fell to his death from above the stage. Yuri has been known to fiddle with with the lighting, something he is prone to do do once the theatre has been locked up for the night! And he’s sometimes accompanied by the ‘Wailing Woman’, a common apparition who supposedly well, wails, as her name suggests. Add to that the chanting of the boys choir… and my Scooby-Doo legs are outside the building already.
4: Edinburgh’s Underground Tunnels, UK
One cold February morning several years ago I found myself on a day trip to Edinburgh, where (it seemed a good idea at the time, anyway!) I decided a quintessential tourist experience had to be a guided tour of the underground South Bridge Vaults. Basically, this was once home to an entire population of the city. And here they lived in total misery. It’s a dark, dank, truly haunting experience. You can definitely sense invisible eyes as you follow your tour guide along the black tunnels and take in the historical accounts of these dwellings which not so long ago Edinburgh’s modern day population was completely oblivious to. One thing’s for sure: if you survive this unscathed, you’ll been in need of a large Scotch Whisky!
5: Chillon Castle, Switzerland
An extract from Lord Byron’s poem sums up the ghastly conditions for prisoners in the dungeons, leaving us in no doubt that the reports of the ghosts and ghouls who lurk in the bellows are true…
There are seven pillars of Gothic mould,
In Chillon’s dungeons deep and old,
There are seven columns, massy and grey,
Dim with a dull imprison’d ray,
A sunbeam which hath lost its way,
And through the crevice and the cleft
Of the thick wall is fallen and left;
Creeping o’er the floor so damp,
Like a marsh’s meteor lamp:
And in each pillar there is a ring,
And in each ring there is a chain;
That iron is a cankering thing,
For in these limbs its teeth remain,
With marks that will not wear away,
Till I have done with this new day,
Which now is painful to these eyes,
Which have not seen the sun so rise
For years— I cannot count them o’er,
I lost their long and heavy score
When my last brother droop’d and died,
And I lay living by his side.
Lord Byron, 1816.
6:The Keg Mansion, Toronto, Canada
Perhaps the eeriest place on this list, the mansion which served as the Massey home until around 1915, is reputed to be haunted by members and staff of the Massey Family. Paranormal happenings galore happened in the 50s in particular. A child’s spirit has been witnessed on a number of occasions, zooming around the home and furiously placing an armchair into a window frame. Allegedly, one of Massey’s sons once loudly hauled an armchair across the floor after his father forbade him to play on the Sabbath. Peals of laughter can also be heard upstairs and if you listen carefully you might hear a boy crying for his mother… or sitting on the stairs watching you eat. Nice! Add to that Lillian Massey’s ghost who watches over the restrooms… often unlocking the doors when patrons are doing what they’re doing – as well as flushing and rattling the toilets – and you have one unique Canadian dining location!
7: The Ear Inn, New York, USA
326 Spring Street might as well be Nightmare on Elm Street. Built in 1817, the building which houses the infamous inn on the ground floor was soon a firm favorite with seafarers. One of whom was Mickey the Sailor… who liked to stay around long after closing hours… and nowadays still frequents his local in the form of an apparition with rather a keen eye for the ladies. Waitresses have reported incidents of goosing and Mickey apparently gets even more flirtatious with those guests brave enough to stay overnight. Our advice: save up your dimes and check into The Plaza.
8: The Louvre, Paris
The Louvre Museum, France’s largest national museum, and the most visited museum in the world is believed to host thousands of souls who glide in and out of the many galleries – tortured, lost, crazed and hungry desperately searching for an exit. And many are those who’ve reported the feeling of somebody or some presence following them from exhibit to exhibit… as if they have a personal attachment. No wonder the gallery’s most infamous painting is called ‘The Mona Lisa’…
9: National Film and Sound Archive, Canberra, Australia
A wolf in sheep’s clothing… This national and rather grand art deco building would appear to be the home of important images and sounds.Until you dig a little deeper. Up until 1984, it was quite a different kind of building altogether; The Australian Institute of Anatomy… where body parts were stored and collected. Many believe the ghosts of the dead still pervade the hallways. The downstairs corridor, which once home to a colossal collection of human skulls, is reported to be an absolute hive of poltergeist shenanigans. A contractor even claimed to have been pinned against a wall in the basement by, well, something!
10: Karak Highway, Malaysia
And we end our list with a place that we definitely recommend you stay as far away from as possible… Karak Highway, built to link Kuala Lumpur and Karak, a town in Pahang, Malaysia. Its reputation was earned from the countless accidents that have taken place over the years and it is arguably THE most haunted highway in the country… perhaps the whole of the Far East. Eye witness accounts include a yellow Volkswagen Beetle… with no driver (eek!) that appears out of nowhere. And sightings of pontianaks to name but a few.
But by no means is this list definitive! Heck, we haven’t even scratched the spooky surface…
Tell us some of your terrifying trip tales from around the world… Go on. Double dare you. And we’ll brace ourselves as we hide beneath the covers!