Tired of spending the night of October the 31st in the usual city? Are you a thrill lover? Well, you’re in the right place! Whatever is your idea of Halloween, lost places or unbridled festivities, we have the perfect proposal. Here are the best 10 travel destination around the world to make the most frightening night of the year unforgettable.
THE CASTLE OF NOISY
Also known as the Miranda Castle, the castle of Noisy is located in Belgium and fulfils the reputation of being the most beautiful abandoned castle in the world. It was built in neo-Gothic style in the second half of nineteenth century by Count Liedekerke. For a long time, it has been owned by its descendants – until the years of World War II, when it was occupied by German troops.
During the last century, the castle was transformed into an orphanage, sadly reminded for being the scenario of brutality, cruel punishments and unjustified deaths. In 1980 the castle ceased definitely to exercise its orphanage function and was completely abandoned. Subsequently, it suffered from a serious fire that destroyed a large part of the wooden interiors. To date, no lender has been found willing to invest in the renovation of the building; therefore, Miranda lies in a deteriorating state. On Halloween night, the castle is visited by many curious tempters who go there to try some shiver and enjoy the marvellous, decadent charm that this place filled with history emanates.
BRAN CASTLE AND HOIA BACIU FOREST
This time we are lost in the Carpathian Mountains, in the heart of Transylvania, where one of the scariest legends of Nineteenth Century, that of Count Dracula, is set. There is no better day of the year than Halloween to dive in the gloomy atmosphere of Bran Castle, perched on a rocky wall and totally surrounded by the daring forest Hoia Baciu.
The architecture of the castle features Gothic characters, spiral staircases, spectacular rooms, towers and underground passages. All this lets you imagine how easy it was for Irish author Bram Stoker to set the vicissitudes of his famous horror novel right in this place. Not many people know that the work is not entirely original, but inspired by some legends, rumors and even some other work carried out in 1488 by ecclesiastic who refused their subordination to the laws of the state imposed by Prince Vlad III. For this reason, there was no more appropriate name for the novel than Dracula, a word that Stoker points out meaning “the devil”.
Over time, the Hoia Baciu forest has also earned the name of the devil’s home due to its tangle and dense vegetation, where it isn’t difficult to get lost. For an adrenalin-fuelled night, it’s advisable to first visit the castle, that closes late in the afternoon while reserving a tour of the forest for the evening, even better if with an expert of local legends.
You have to be really brave if you’re going to spend Halloween night at Manchac, in a fishing village in the south-east of Louisiana, just a few miles from New Orleans. The place is known as Akers, nicely nicknamed “The Swamp of Ghosts” and it’s part of the 10 most disquieting places on the planet. Spending the night here means sinking in the silence submerged by the fog in a swamp full of alligators surrounded by secular trees covered with moss. You can admire the landscape from the shores or request a boat tour during which you’ll be told many interesting local stories that will explain to you what originated the disturbing nickname of the place.
In fact, in 1915 much of Louisiana, including Manchac, was struck by a terrible hurricane that, only in this area, caused the death of more than 50 people. Since then, the swamp has been abandoned, leaving space to a cemetery of which remains only a few gravestones covered by vegetation.
The Sleepy Hollow town, located not far from New York, has been renowned thanks to the decision by Washington Irving to set his famous fantasy novel right here. The story tells of a German soldier who was beheaded by a cannonball during the US Independence War, and since then has been riding every night in search of his own head.
Sleepy Hollow’s sombre mood on the rainy autumn days seems to attract many visitors every year in search of a thrill. The main attraction on Halloween’s night is the evening tour of the Sleepy Hollow cemetery, the local church and the bridge through which you enter the city. You can’t miss the Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze, a unique event where more than 5000 pumpkins light up the town, with the addition of sound effects to frighten tourists and make the night of witches really exciting!
This time we are in, Oaxaca, Mexico, where Halloween, or Día de Los Muertos, is celebrated in a full-colour atmosphere in traditional Mexican folklore. During the last 8 days of October, in fact, the city is filled with stalls, floats, masks and sweets of all kinds. Oaxaca begins to smell of fresh flowers (the most famous is the Flor de Muertos, rose of India) which are carefully laid on the tombs of the villagers’ ancestors. The air is also inebriated by the smell of many incenses of copal, a resin often used in aromatherapy. Following the millennial Aztecs traditions, people masquerade as dead, go to local cemeteries and then celebrate on the streets. The celebration of the life through the death is such a deeply-pervaded tradition that in 2003 UNESCO proclaimed the Día de Los Muertos as immaterial cultural heritage of humanity.
ISLAND OF DOLLS
In the Valley of Mexico, overlooking the Xochimilco Lake, there is a supremely creepy place identified by many as one of the most sinister in the world. We’re talking about the Isla de las Muñecas (Island of dolls). This is a unique lagoon that welcomes you with the little reassuring smiles of hundreds of dolls hanging from the trees. Those that one time were simple kid games now populate one of the most impressive places to visit for Halloween.
The realization of all this is due to Don Julian Santana, a man who one day decided to leave his family and move alone on this tropical island. Right in this place, he saw a little girl who was about to drown and, despite his attempts to help her, he couldn’t save her life. In fact, it’s thought that the little girl was just an elaboration of his imagination and his mental disorders, already discernible at the moment he decided to move on the island.
True or not, a few day after the alleged tragedy, Santana recovered a doll from the waters of the lagoon and realized that it belonged to the deceased girl. To honour her memory, he decided to hang her doll on a tree. Man’s solitude and paranoia, following this gesture, grew so much to make him feel persecuted by the spirit of the little girl and make him develop an obsession for mutilated or deformed dolls. Santana was found drowned in the same spot where he said the child died and his property has since become a macabre tourist attraction.
There is no better place to celebrate a typical American Halloween than at Salem. The town is located on the northern coast of Massachusetts, just 25 miles from Boston. The name of city dates back to the 16th century when here was practiced the Witch Hunt. Here the Halloween party is one of the most important of the country and its celebrated throughout the month of October with the Haunted Happenings, reaching its climax on October 31st. After sunset, the heart of the city is animated with parades passing from Shetland Park to Salem Common, gourmet events, tarot reading and masks. Don’t miss the Salem Witches Ball, a great dancing event, and the Salem Museum, where you can trace the occult history of this town.
EDINBURGH SAMHUINN FESTIVAL
Talking about Halloween, you can’t miss this Scottish horrific delight.
Indeed the Celts were the origin of this festivity. In the beginning, Halloween had little to no macabre in its meaning: it marked the end of summer and the beginning of the winter season. The feast represented the moment of preparation for the “dark semester” of the year. It was the ideal time to conclude business that provided plenty of food for the winter season. Everything reached a climax on the 31st of October, the day of definitive passage when the veil between the two seasons tapered and Summer, representing the world of the living, came into contact with Winter, the word of the dead, and they could communicate with each other.
Edinburgh has retained these ancient traditions. The masks here are divided into light coloured ones contrasting with those of dark colour; a symbol of the two seasons, of the two worlds. The evening starts with an enormous parade that runs from the Castle and along the Royal Mile to Holyrood. After the parade, you can stay on the street and celebrate among the countless markets; or maybe book one of the nightly tours, like the Free Ghost Tour. This will let you discover all the peculiarities of such a lovely place.
ABANDONED BEELITZ HOSPITAL
This time we are in Germany, not far from Berlin, in the abandoned Beelitz complex. Here, Hitler himself was admitted in October 1916 when he was still only a volunteer in the First World War. The building, founded in the Nineteenth century, had been used as an infirmary for soldiers wounded in war; during Second World War it was used as a shelter for children and sick people trying to escape from the Red Army. In the following years, it was a hospital for Soviet troops in the new state of East Germany. Finally, it fell into a state of complete abandonment. Today only a sector of this huge structure is used for medical purposes; everything else is a haunted set of abandoned rooms and corridors that have no future ahead of them.
It’s easy to get to the hospital by the RE7 train from Berlin Hauptbahnhof. Some areas can be visited for free, while for others it’s better to book a guide in advance. The wonderful atmosphere of Beelitz, blurry and lost, will make you live an unforgettable day.
CATACOMBS OF PARIS
Walking around the wonderful and busy Paris streets it’s hard to imagine that the world’s largest necropolis runs under your feet. We’re talking about the Ossuaire Municipal, built in the 18th century to diminish the spread of epidemics due to the saturation of some cemeteries and the bad hygienic-sanitary condition of Paris.
It’s estimated that nowadays the catacombs host about six million people, with the tunnels stretching for 300 kilometres. Initially, the site represented only a burial deposit; but later it was reinterpreted in macabre-romantic key, enriched with decorations, engraved poems and sometimes warnings. The visit to the public was first opened in 1874 and it includes only a small section of the huge complex. It has happened in the past that some people have gotten lost in the complex tunnel network by exploiting unauthorized access. Within the catacombs reigns eternal darkness and the temperature is very low, even in the summer.
For an unforgettable Halloween guarantee yourself the strong emotions of a disturbing underground journey.