Halloween holidays

By | Category: Travel destinations

PortAventura

In the last few weeks I have had more press releases about Halloween than almost anything else. I knew it was a big event in America but over here? The “big” day is just ten days away

One of the first was from the Spanish theme-park, PortAventura which runs their Halloween season not just on the last night of October but every day from 28th September until the 17th of November which conveniently covers the half term holidays. During this time, lovers of mystery and terror will be able to enjoy a themed spectacular with pumpkins, scarecrows and bats. Scary characters such as the Addams Family, the Mummy, and Dracula will parade through different areas of the park while monstrous creatures will lurk in the darkness of the Polynesian jungle walks, ready to freeze the blood of visitors eager to have fun and enjoy being frightened.

Also in Europe and an hour’s train journey from Prague is Sedlec which could claim to be one of the most haunted laces in Europe. Here almost 150 years ago, this church was decorated in an original and frightening way with skulls and bones from more than 40,000 people. Rumour has it more than ghosts walk and stalk…

part of the penal colony at Port Arthur

Further away in Port Arthur, Tasmania which was a convict settlement in early Australia, there is reputed to be a face haunting one of the top windows in a ruined building there. A few years ago, I joined the night time walk around the buildings but did I see the ghost? No just my own reflection in a window. And that wasn’t a pretty sight either!

But to return home to a popular holiday destination, the Lake District, one of Windermere Lake Cruises’ historic steamers will be decked out in Halloween-themed decorations, as the UK’s first official Laureate for Storytelling, Taffy Thomas MBE, entertains passengers with his unique brand of spooky tales and folklore about lakeside locations. Happening only on October 30th, Thomas will be marking some of the ghostly goings on in and around the iconic landscape down the centuries. He will also point out real-life locations associated with a series of mysterious and unexplained happenings in the area over the years. To make the budget stretch a little further, every child in fancy dress accompanied by a paying adult will be allowed on the Ghost Ship for free.

The London Dungeon – which claims to be the home of Halloween although many Scots might differ – is promising its biggest and boldest Halloween yet. They are putting on a lavish new pumpkin-filled Halloween production. Master of revels is the mischievous Pumpkin Keeper who will be dishing out trick or treat sweeties. Will it be a yummy Chupa Chup or a revolting insect lolly? Then it’s down into the depths of the Dungeon for Halloween encounters with a cast of London’s most infamous names bringing to life 1000 years of London’s Dark past in 18 shows. Mrs Lovett will be on hand with some pies that pass food ingredient laws even if she tells tyou they came from Sweeney Todd!

a welcome to the London Dungeon

Halloween originates from the ancient Celts’ celebrations and is based on their Feast of Samhain. The eve became known as All Saints’ Eve, All Hallows’ Eve, or Hallowe’en. All Saints’ Day, 1 November, is said to be the day when souls walked the Earth. So what is happening in Scotland where Halloween might have originated? Here are some events.

Jedburgh Castle, Scottish Borders – The site’s eventful past as a medieval castle, site of the town gallows and as a prison throughout the 19th century, is well known. Among the ‘ghosts’ rumoured to haunt the castle is the Prison jailor, along with a number of male, female and child prisoners. On dark nights the refrain of a lone piper is said to be heard coming from behind the boundary wall.

Culzean Castle, Ayrshire – Culzean has a ghostly piper, who is reputed to have been searching caves beneath the castle when he disappeared. The pipes are said to herald the announcement of a marriage, and also to be heard on stormy nights. His apparition is also said to have been seen in the grounds of the castle, both on Piper’s Brae and near the ruinous collegiate church.

Glamis Castle, Forfar – Glamis Castle, just outside the village of Glamis, is reputed to be one of the most haunted castles in Scotland. King Malcolm II was murdered here leaving a bloodstain on the floor, which defied all efforts to be removed, and eventually the floor was boarded over. The castle is also said to contain secret rooms, one which is believed to house a monster which roamed at night. This monster was believed to have been the son of a Laird of Glamis who was horribly deformed and was kept in one of the secret rooms. A ghost named the ‘Grey Lady is also said to haunt the Chapel.

St Andrews, Fife – the historic seaside town is steeped in legend, with stories of ghosts of murdered archbishops, John Knox and even the Devil himself wandering the streets! The Cathedral ruins are said to be haunted by an unidentified lady in a long white dress with a veil, holding a book in her clasped hands.

The Isle of Skye – In the past, scores of kilted soldiers have been reputedly sighted here. They are often seen near Harta Corrie which is celebrated in local history for the Bloody Stone that marks the scene of a bitter battle between the MacDonalds and the MacLeods some 300 years ago. Also, often seen is a driver-less 1934 Austin phantom car hurtling along roads at breakneck speed.

Culloden Moor, Inverness-shire – This area is the site of the tragic end to the Jacobite Rising of 1745. Bonnie Prince Charlie and 5000 Highlanders were defeated by The Duke of Cumberland and over 9000 Government troops just outside Inverness in the Highlands. Here, by the memorial cairn, there has often been seen the dim form of a battle-worn Highlander. Some years ago, a woman who was visiting Culloden chanced to look into the Well of the Dead and as she did so she saw the reflection of a Highlander looking back at her.

But it is in America that the Halloween tradition is at its strongest. Even then, there is a link with Scotland. Maryland’s Point Lookout Lighthouse in the town of Scotland is widely considered to be home to the most haunted lighthouse in the history of America. Built in 1830, the lighthouse is based in what is now Point Lookout State Park, near what was once an old hospital and the largest prison camp for Confederate soldiers during the Civil War. Over 4,000 graves have been found near and under the site where the lighthouse now stands – harbouring a minefield of paranormal activity. A number of active spirits are said to still live in the lighthouse.

a coffin racer

Philadelphia claims to be America’s most haunted city. Families wanting to ‘Halloween’ American style can go to town on dressing up and visiting Philadelphia’s most terrifying attractions including ‘Terror Behind The Walls’ at Eastern State Penitentiary and the ‘Bates Motel’, home to one of the scariest horror movies of all time – Alfred Hitchcock’s, Psycho.

But maybe the strangest event takes place in the Colorado town of Manitou Springs. Here they will celebrate the 19th Annual Emma Crawford Coffin Race and Festival. Yes, a coffin race. 50 hand-made, coffin vehicles will be pulled by teams of four “mourners” in memory of this lady who died tragically young and who is said to haunt nearby Red Mountain.

So will you will just let Halloween pass you by thinking it’s just another ploy to encourage you to visit somewhere, dress-up and pretend to be frightened or will you get in the “spirit” of things?

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