10 of the world's scariest travel destinations for Halloween
Deadly travel destinations
From horrible histories to the here-and-now, we've got 10 deadly destinations for Halloween... or any time of year.
1. Transylvania, Romania
Despite the fact that Bram Stoker never set foot in Romania; despite the fact that modern-day tourism has essentially turned vampires into Romanian leprechauns, the very word 'Transylvania' retains the ability to chill.
Bran Castle (bran-castle.com; above) is the building most commonly thought to have inspired Stoker's description of Dracula's abode. The brooding Carpathian Mountains and local superstitions surrounding “strigoi” – people who lead a normal life by day, but haunt local villages by night - add to the eeriness. A certain Vlad the Impaler wasn't named for his gentle disposition, either.
When it all comes together, Bucharest feels a long way away.
Details: Ryanair (ryanair.com) flies from Dublin to Bucharest.
2. Salem, Massachusetts
Where else? New Orleans is said to be the US's most haunted city, and the Blair Witch Project scared the pants off anyone visiting Burkittsville, Maryland, but Salem's very name is a byword for terror and - let's face it - insanity.
In 1692, the town was forever changed when it became the site of a notorious series of witch trials. 19 men and women were hanged in deeply superstitious times (the threat of colonial violence and smallpox didn't help). Happy days, they were not.
Over 300 years later, the name still resonates, providing a brilliantly evocative background to the annual Haunted Happenings - a month-long festival including parades, carnivals, magic shows and much more.
Details: Aer Lingus (aerlingus.com) and United (united.com) fly direct from Dublin to Boston, 25 miles south of Salem. See also hauntedhappenings.org.
3. Loftus Hall, Co. Wexford
It's the Hook Peninsula's very own house of horrors.
A dwelling is said to have occupied the site of Loftus Hall site since 1350 - 666 years - with the best story concerning a dark stranger who called to the mansion in 1765. During a game of cards, the stranger was seen to have a cloven hoof... upon the discovery of which, he bolted through the roof in a ball of fire. As you do.
Recently, Loftus Hall made international headlines when tourist Thomas Beavis, 21, snapped what appeared to be a ghostly apparition in a window of the Hall. During an investigation this March, Irish Ghost Hunters (IGH) says it found "major temperature drops" as well as "significant spikes" in electro-magnetic fields (EMF) in some areas of the house.
Day and night tours are available, there's a paranormal 'lockdown' (€66pp) that goes on until 3.30am, and Halloween events are to die for too.
Details: loftushall.ie; tours from €13/€8pp.
4. Catacombs, Paris
Paris may be known as a city of romance, but it can be a pretty petrifying visit too - if your trip takes you to this subterranean city of six million souls.
Yes, you read that right. Some 6,000,000 bodies are contained within the caverns and tunnels of this awesome ossuary, many of them re-interred from the Cemetery of the Innocents in bone-laden carts draped in black veils.
Tours take 45 minutes and cover approximately 2km underground... it's all pretty claustrophobic, as you can imagine, so those "of a nervous disposition", as the website describes them, might prefer to have a nice cuppa above ground.
Details: paris.catacombes.fr; €12.
5. The Stanley Hotel, Colorado
Its website speaks of "old-world charm", but The Stanley will always be known as the inspiration for Stephen King's 'The Shining' (apparently, the Eureka moment struck on a night when he and his wife were the hotel's only guests).
Paranormal residents include F.O. and Flora Stanley, "who continue to go about the business of running their beloved establishment as though they were alive," according to the hotel. Keep an ear out in particular for Flora's antique Steinway, which can be heard playing in the dead of night.
The Stanley doesn't feature in Stanley Kubrick's movie, but it embraces the association - running murder mystery dinners, a 'Shining Ball' and a masquerade party over the Halloween period. If you see a little boy on a tricycle, leave.
Details: Aer Lingus (aerlingus.com) flies to Chicago, connecting with JetBlue (jetblue.com) to Denver. The Stanley (stanleyhotel.com) is a 1.5 hour drive.
6. Edinburgh Castle, Scotland
When it comes to spooks, few historic set-pieces can match this Scottish spectacular - and dungeon tours are just the beginning.
Back in 2001, the castle was subjected to one of the largest paranormal investigations in history, with nine researchers and over 200 members of the public spending the night. Over half reported having paranormal experiences.
Throw in Edinburgh's library-worth of horror stories (this was the stomping ground of Burke and Hare, the infamous bodysnatchers), and you have some serious scare credentials...
Details: Aer Lingus and Ryanair fly from Dublin to Edinburgh.
7. Universal Studios, Orlando
Greg Nicotero, a Director of Special Effects for AMC's "The Walking Dead"
Master of horror, Jack the Clown, returns to host "the most maniacal myriad of monsters imaginable", say the organisers of Universal Orlando's Halloween Horror nights - and though a theme park may not sound the most terrifying place to spend an evening, the production values at play here are filled with genuine, brown trousers bravura.
Nine haunted houses include live versions of The Walking Dead, Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Exorcist among other movies and TV series, the streets are transformed into five unique scare zones, and that's not even starting on the hordes of chainsaw-wielding assassins waiting around any given corner.
Disney princesses might give this one a skip.
Details: halloweenhorrornights.com/orlando; from $59.99.
8. The Tower of London
Similar to Edinburgh Castle, it's the sheer volume of horrible histories stitched into this structure that contributes to the atmosphere.
At first, it looks all touristy. Then you venture inside, sense the thickness of the walls, see the hordes of ravens, and hear stories of the various souls who have been tortured and killed on this small patch of land... including Anne Boleyn in 1536. Heads have rolled, all right - and that's not even starting on the entrance prices.
Details: hrp.org.uk: £25/£12pp.
9. The bunkers of Berlin
Berlin is a fascinating city above ground, but what lies beneath is pretty unforgettable too. Berlin Unterwelten (a 'Society for the Protection and Documentation of Subterranean Architecture') runs various tours of Cold War Bunkers, civil defence shelters and a seven-story deep 'Flak Tower' - or anti-aircraft shelter - that Hitler built to defend the city from enemy air attacks.
"To date, members of the Berlin Underworlds Association have spent a total of over 8,000 hours removing over 1,400 cubic metres of rubble – and have created in the process ideal sleeping quarters for bats," it says.
The city has its ghosts, and these are the perfect spots to find them.
Details: Ryanair (ryanair.com) and Aer Lingus (aerlingus.com) fly to Berlin. See also berlinerunterwelten.de.
10. Old Jewish Cemetery, Prague
It's hard to believe we've gotten to No.10 without featuring a graveyard - but this one is worth the wait. Prague's Jewish cemetery closed in 1787, but its 12,000 tombstones reportedly contain some 100,000 graves in layers beneath them, due to a lack of space.
The bunched up stones create an unsettling (and highly photogenic) aura that, unsurprisingly, is said to be a hive of paranormal activity. Famous residents include Rabbi Loew, the Maharal of Prague (1520-1609), whom legend says made a creature out of clay (a 'golem') to defend his people.
Needless to say, the Czech capital has no shortage of ghost tours.
Details: Ryanair and Aer Lingus fly to Prague.