3 years, 10 months ago
You’ve done the dress up and been to the parties, you’ve seen parades and handed out treats, but how serious are you really about Halloween? If the time has come to test yourself, we may have found the perfect hallowed and not so hallowed ground for you. So lay down the plastic fangs, shelf the crone costume and save yourself a night explaining four seasons of American Horror Story to complete strangers over dodgy novelty punch. Something wicked this way comes – if you dare.
Père Lachaise might be better known for its celebrity corpse count, but no cemetery on earth is more deliciously eerie than Staglieno. Tumbling down a hillside just outside Genoa, this is 19th century memento mori obsession gone mad. Statues you expect in a graveyard of this size – it’s one of the biggest in Europe – but nothing prepares you for the insane outpouring of monumental grief. Marble women hurl themselves on deathbeds, monolithic carved angels scoop up entire families, grieving mothers take one last walk with their dead children, there’s even a perfectly replicated Pantheon. If it all seems disconcertingly familiar, don’t be too spooked. Staglieno’s a bit of a go-to for indie band artwork – musing on life and death as you do when you’re a tortured artist.
Lucky enough to find yourself in the land where they love a gruesome tale and virtually invented the Wake? Visit Leap Castle. It’s Ireland’s most haunted and claims an ‘elemental’. So if the Bloody Chapel isn’t chilling enough. Descend to the dungeons where a large dog-like creature with the grotesque face of a human is said to roam. You may not see the ‘elemental’ but you can’t miss its rotting flesh breath if it’s about.
Schloss Moosham or The Witches Castle was central to Salzburg’s infamously barbaric Witch Trials. For almost twenty years in the late 17th century, 100s of accused witches (mainly men, oddly) were beheaded here and 1000s more tortured and mutilated, including a horrifying number of abandoned and orphan children. Visitors to the castle have reported all manner of supernatural experiences and, unsurprisingly, the epicentre of haunting is the chief torturer’s own bedroom where a black ‘presence’ lurks and looms. Bored by pretty Salzburg? Head to Moosham and get your chill on. The art collection’s open to the public. As for the rest – don’t say we didn’t warn you.
It’s not the most ghost plagued city in the world – New Orleans wears that crown – but for eeriness par excellence in autumn, Paris can see and raise the young Louisiana upstart any old time. Père-Lachaise is the main event, naturally. It doesn’t disappoint and there are some truly macabre sights. But our money’s on Montparnasse for atmosphere. Zone out the horror of Tour Montparnasse and this graveyard’s perfection. A little smaller and no less poignant is crowded, higgledy-piggledy Cimetière de Montmartre – La Goulue, inventor of the Can-Can is buried here. And for the true ghouls in our number, Paris’s gory Catacombs are always open late for Halloween.
Just as legendary as Père Lachaise, we like Highgate better. It’s more overgrown and less ‘kept’, wilder, tanglier and deeply satisfying to wander late on an October afternoon. 10s of 1000s of Londoners have been interred in the West and East cemetery since 1839. Some are famous, like Karl Marx. Others are infamous like legendary bare knuckle fighter, Tom Sayers, whose loyal dog rests on his grave. And most are just ordinary folks who chanced to die in the neighbourhood. For reliable shivers, take a slow walk through the Circle of Lebanon as dusk falls.
If there’s an ossuary more glamorous than Sedlec we’ve yet to see it. An hour from Prague, this is the world’s most artfully arranged collection of old bones. It’s hard to get past the ‘skeleton’ thing and for some reason the chandeliers are particularly disturbing. But, for all the strange, Sedlec is incredibly beautiful and pretty much top of Prague’s tick-list for Halloween. In the dark fairy tale of the city itself, nowhere is darker than the Old Jewish Cemetery. This isn’t a Highgate or Staglieno, there are no monumental carvings, it’s just a tiny space filled with ancient, jostling gravestones and almost unbearably moving.
Southern cemeteries don’t have quite the same creep as their northern cousins – probably the sun and blue skies. Tragic, cat crowded, master of sinister seduction, Lisbon’s Cemitério dos Prazeres is an exception. But it can’t match Poblenou. To the innocent eye it’s just another Spanish cemetery, wander to the heart and you’ll find ‘Kiss of Death’. Even Staglieno would bow down and honour this monumental horror and if you aren’t shocked, we want to come visit the graveyards you’re used to.
The most haunted castle in Scotland is so greedy for ghosts it steals them – Lady Glamis of Glamis Castle (not supernaturally shy itself) was burned as a witch here in 1537 and her spirit hasn’t made its way home yet. There’s a spectral hound in the graveyard. And, inevitably, a few dozen ghostly pipers and drummers on standby. Paranormal investigators love this place and more than one ‘scientific’ experiment’s been carried out in the forbidding walls. If you see nothing, don’t be too disappointed, the rest of Edinburgh’s more than happy to pick up the sinister slack on All Hallows Eve.
Visit 11th century Warwick Castle in summer and it’s haunted by serious bands of reenactors roving around in viciously pointy shoes, fol-de-rol-ing as if it was 1392 was never dead. Come October, it’s a lot quieter, but not on the ghost front. Bloody battleground in dozens of wars, scene of havoc and mayhem, death and dismemberment, Warwick claims to be England’s most haunted castle. Look for the portrait of Sir Fulke Greville, his murdered corpse has been seen within the picture frame. And down in the dungeons, people pass out just running a hand over the horrific instruments of torture.
Happy Halloween, wherever you’re haunting this year.