It’s that time of year again when the kids are dressing up and the words ‘trick or treat’ are ringing through the air. As the autumn leaves fall and the nights draw closer, the shadows begin to lengthen and the wind rises to a creepy, howling crescendo…
Yes it’s nearly Halloween and whether we like it or not it is a festival that is celebrated by many throughout the world. Its origins are, however a little sketchy with varying stories as to how Halloween came about in the first place. The general consensus of opinion is that its beginnings lay in the 16th century, when the Celts celebrated ‘Samhain’, this denoted when the ‘lighter half’ of the year ended and the ‘darker half’ began, and was often regarded as the Celtic New Year.
The ancient Celts believed that it was at this time that the portal between our world and the ‘other side’ was at its thinnest and this was when spirits could pass through. Whilst good spirits were accepted, harmful ones were warded away which could explain the tradition of wearing scary masks and costumes.
Halloween is the perfect time of year to get away, as the summer fades and winter days arrive, so why not make the most of this time of year and take a Halloween themed break.
Nowhere in the world celebrates Halloween like America and if horror is your thing then a trip to the Stanley Hotel, Estes Park, Colorado, will be right up your street. It is claimed that Stephen King was inspired to write his novel The Shining while staying in room 217 at this hotel and although it wasn’t used in the movie, the hotel hosts ghost tours and guests often hear the piano being played and children laughing whilst there is no-one else around.
If you are visiting Hollywood over Halloween, then a stay at the Roosevelt Hotel could see you visited by the ghosts of screen legends Montgomery Clift and Marilyn Monroe. Clift can be heard rehearsing his lines and practising his bugle as he wanders the corridor on the ninth floor, whilst the reflection of Marilyn Monroe is often seen in mirror which used to hang in suite 1200, often frequented by the actress.
A trip to San Francisco is always exciting and most people take the time to visit the eerily desolate island of Alcatraz, located in the city’s bay. Once home to only a lighthouse and a military fortress, during 1861 it housed its first prisoners of the Civil War, its isolated position and the hazardous currents that surrounded the island made it practically impenetrable and the perfect place for incarceration.
It became a Federal Prison in 1934 and remained so until March 21 1963, when it was finally closed down being deemed too expensive to run. Its walls were eroding due to years of battering from strong winds and salt water, and the bay was becoming badly polluted by sewage from the prison inmates. Alcatraz was not a place for rehabilitation, it was a place for punishment and many who survived their sentence often did so at the expense of their sanity, and it is believed that many an inmate still wanders the corridors today, wailing and rattling pipes as they search for their lost souls. It’s most famous inmate, Al Capone, did not die on Alcatraz, however it is claimed that he slowly went insane having spent many long hours in total isolation, if you listen carefully as you wander the corridors on your guided tour, you can still hear him practising his beloved banjo to this very day.
If you’d rather not risk flying through the skies at Halloween, then the beautiful North Yorkshire seaside town of Whitby provides the ultimate Halloween extravaganza with its world famous Goth Weekend. The town welcomes all walks of life and all ages to the Whitby Pavilion with five days of music and events. Even if Goth is not your cup of tea, it is well worth visiting the town just to see the Bizarre Bazaar Goth Market, and to soak up the atmosphere as the streets are full of friendly visitors wearing some very weird yet very wonderful costumes. Whitby is heralded as the place where Bram Stoker discovered the inspiration to write the Count Dracula novels and has its own museum dedicated to the blood thirsty ghoul. Tours take place around the town on a regular basis and don’t worry if you can’t make it there over Halloween; they have another Goth Weekend in April every year, showing just how popular this event is.