Yes, I´m back with more Halloween-inspired travel tips! Actually, I can see myself writing a new list every year to be honest. After all, it´s years of weird travel research, peopleeeee. But, come on, some of these can be fun even for those who aren´t intrigued by the horror. I do interpret some destinations in the last post and also in this one as cultural experiences.
So, let´s get to it!
Salem´s Festival – for a wicked Halloween month
Salem is a coastal city in the state of Massachusetts, but I bet that many of you who have heard of Salem before had no idea it was a city by the sea. And I tell you why: all we hear about this city in documentaries is about dark history, punishment, persecution and magic. Now, these words don´t go along with the picture of a nice sunny breezy day by the water, does it?
Nope. The witches have ruined it for Salem as a spend-the-summer-on-a-boat kind of destination. They made Salem a hit for fall season and especially around Halloween time though. Summer who?
So, where does this witch craze come from, and why did Salem become famous for it? It all started in Europe, actually. From the 14th to the 17th century, Christianity was very powerful in the continent. It was believed that the Devil had servants on Earth, witches, who would be given powers to hurt other people. Thousands of women were executed under these accusations.
In the 17th century the hunt arrived in Salem, USA. At that time, the majority of the town´s residents were Puritans, who were in conflict with newly-arrived refugees from the English-French war in American colonies of the north. All they needed was someone to blame for all the mess they were living in….and so they blamed the Devil and his servants. The poor and the homeless started paying the price; but it wasn´t long until paranoia set in and pretty much anyone could be accused of witchcraft. Scary times.
Things are much better now and you can wander around town without fear of being thrown into a bonfire or being hung on a public square. Still, the bewitching atmosphere comes alive in autumn: people use the city´s historic reputation to transform it into a big Halloween celebration stage.
On Halloween week, for example, you can participate in the Salem Horror Fest, a horror short film festival happening virtually this year (the virtual pass costs around $120). If your feet are killing you, just let the Ghosts and Legends Trolley take you on a frightening ride to places like the oldest cemetery in town. There´s also the unmissable Psychic Fair & Witches´ market, where you can buy some enchanted gifts, and let a psychic read your future to tell you where you are headed next!
If you think your work calendar is full, you should check Salem´s Haunting Happening´s calendar page, where you get a glimpse of all the events you can attend there during and after Halloween season. There are night historic walks where goosebumps are guaranteed, séances, seasonal-themed trails (one promises more than 1000 jack o´ lanterns!), dinners with the dead (say what?!), galleries paying homage to the dark side of art, craft events where you can make your own broom…just hide them well if visiting a theater, because there are plays where you (yes, YOU!) will live through (or not) a witch trial.
You name it, Salem has it. Seems like other towns have a LOT of catching up to do.
Annabel´s Mayfair Halloween Party – where the rich & famous celebrate
Now, there are parties and there are parties. Annabel´s Mayfair Halloween is definitely one of the latter. If you haven´t heard of this club´s legendary parties, let me introduce this place to you.
Annabel is a private members club in London, originally founded in the 60´s by a rich entrepreneur. Even though it was sold in 2007, the new owner kept it pretty much the same: exclusive and lush. It is said that many royals are members. And money can buy you endless entertainment: Annabel is an all-night and all-day club where you can easily run into a Hollywood celebrity or world-famous singer.
So, you might be asking yourself how is this in a traveler´s Halloween bucket list, since it´s basically impossible to get in in case you are with the majority of us who are not asked for autographs everywhere we go. Well, the thing is, in case you are in London around this time of the year, it is worth it to at least drop by Annabel´s in order to check out what you will find there. I bet (high) you would be in awe.
See, the rich and the famous are not easily impressed. These people have been to the Oscars, monarchy weddings, the Met Gala….So, if you are throwing a party for them, you better go above and beyond. And Annabel´s does go above, beyond and after that.
The annual Halloween party revolves around a different theme every year. In 2021, the theme was “The Circus of Horrors”, with performers, DJ, scares, treats (and I´m sure a few tricks too), installations and exclusive drinks. Yes, they create special drinks for each of their parties. Guests attending the celebration would have to dare enter the mouth of a huge scary clown set up on the front of the building. Of all the events I have talked about in these Halloween posts, this decoration is by far the most impressive of all.
Oh, and they nail their publicity too:
So, yeah, I won´t ever be going to a Annabel´s party (did I just jinx my chances?). Still, if I´m in London around this time of the year, I would sure pass by their door to check out what their Halloween party is going to be, and take a cool picture of one of the most amazing Halloween buildings décor I will ever see.
The Haunted Bedroom at Talliston – for some not-so-sweet dreams
In case you are wondering, the title is exactly how this AIRBNB is announced. The first time I saw it was on a tv show, and I knew I had to go after the whole story.
Once upon a time, the owners of a pretty much regular house in the town of Great Dunmow got bored. So, they decided they would do some work inside of the property and make it interesting. Did they buy a new couch? Yep. Did they paint the walls? Sure. But they did a lot more than that.
They decided it would be fun to remodel each of the rooms according to a different era and place, making every room unique and definitely a special stay for tourists. What they recreated is basically a time and space travel Disneyland. Every place you look has something peculiar which is adding to the whole whimsical atmosphere. By the way, most objects were outsourced from different parts of the world. The new house took 25 years to be completed. Phew….
I could talk for paragraphs and paragraphs about the New Orleans´ kitchen (in love), the Japanese tea house, the Victorian living room (dreamy), the Italian staircase (insane!) the cabin in the woods room or the boathouse bathroom (gorgeous). Seriously, this house deserves a post of its own. But it´s Halloween and we will make a visit to the Haunted Bedroom. Oh, did I mention the Cambodian tree house? Stop! Concentrate.
The Haunted Bedroom is the master of the house reflecting a pretty damn good picture of the Edwardian era home. According to the owners, “it recreates in nightmarish detail the bed chamber of a seven-year-old Edwardian child complete with books, toys and ephemera”. Even though some of you might be disappointed to hear that the place is probably not actually haunted, it has such a dark vibe that I can´t imagine sleeping soundly in here. If you book this room, you can also have access to the common areas mentioned above like the kitchen and the living room.
You know those museums you have visited in Europe that show the bedroom of royals and you always imagined how it would feel to sleep in one of those luxurious over-decorated rooms? Here´s your chance, without having to break into a museum.
New Orleans French Quarter parade – let´s interview some vampires!
New Orleans is that kind of place that intrigues visitors all year round. The mysticism the city exhales probably comes from the religious beliefs, music and culture West African slaves brought with them when trafficked there in the 18th century. By the way, by 1803, enslaved and free people of color already made up 51% of New Orleans whole population.
Under Spanish rule, slaves were given the right of some rest days. It was then that they gathered on Congo Square to enjoy themselves with music and dance. Though some traditions persisted untouched, others mingled with the local ones, giving birth to, for example, jazz and voodoo. The latter is a mixture of religious practices from West Africa with Catholicism, and its followers believe in a connection with spirits, to whom they ask for protection and intervention. Voodoo was boosted especially in the end of the 18th century with the Haiti slave revolt, when many Haitians who practiced voodoo made their way to New Orleans, fleeing the civil war.
The city´s particular history and mysterious flair made it the perfect setting for one of the most known vampire movies of all times – the 1994 Interview with the vampire. Since then, many tv shows with the vampire/horror theme were filmed there, like American Horror Story. But, don´t let Hollywood fool you: not everything is fictional. American Horror Story, for example, has Kathy Bates play the infamous Madame Delphine Lalaurie, who was very, very much real. This woman, who lived in New Orleans in the 19th century, used to keep slaves chained in her attic for the pleasure of torturing them. If only one of the vampires had taken care of her sooner…
Lalaurie´s house (which was reconstructed since an angry mob burned it down after knowing what she did) is available to be visited in one of the many ghost tours you will find in New Orleans, together with some eerie cemeteries (yeah, plural – seems like there are many visitable ones there). For those who like to get their creep on, there are some haunted houses set up at this time of the year, like the New Orleans Nightmare and the Mortuary. You can also learn more about Marie Laveau, a free woman of color who became the Voodoo queen. For this, visit the Voodoo Museum ($7 entry fee). Besides, if you are brave enough, there are many voodoo shops around town waiting for a curious soul to drop by…
Now one thing that you cannot miss is the annual Halloween parade: Krewe of Boo! The floats, the performers, the costumes are another level, and there´s a reason for it: everything is organized by the renowned Kern Studios, a creative company who specializes in bringing imagination into life.
As if nightmares couldn´t become dreamier, the parade is kicked of by the Zombie run – major bucket list item for me. The run takes place in the morning of the Krewe of Boo, aiming at getting people in the mood for the parade later on. Get your dead suit on and run for your
life death as you pass by zombie killers.
Fairmont Banff Hotel – to rest
The Fairmont Banff Springs is a huge hotel in – guess?- the alpine town of Banff, Canada. You don´t have to have your creepy radar on to realize that the hotel looks straight out of a horror movie. You know, the classic “gigantic-empty-secluded-hotel” vibe where families in horror movies go to spend a dreamy vacation and are all dead by Sunday. I don´t know if it´s the imposing sight of it, emerging from the foot of the mountain among the trees, or if it´s the “chateau” style architecture of the hotel that sends chills down the spine. Probably both.
In fact, the hotel is so big, it is called “Castle in the Rockies”. Still, it is not empty, even though it offers 757 rooms. As a matter of fact, it is one of the most famous hotels not only in the region, but in all Canada. The property has been serving guests for more than 130 years and established quite a reputation for itself. The stay here is so special, some guests haven´t left since 1920´s.
Yep, you guessed it. Ghosts.
The most famous ones of the Banff are the bride and Sam, the bellman. Allegedly, the bride fell on the marble staircase of the hotel after tripping and broke her neck. Guests and staff report seeing her dancing in the ballroom. Sam, on the other hand, seems to not have died in the hotel, but was so attached to it he decided to continue working there after his burial. There are reports of guests being helped by an older bellman wearing a 60´s uniform matching Sam´s description.
Not all ghosts are this friendly, though. There´s a horrible story of a murder that might have happened in room 873, where the father killed his family before committing suicide. After guests being freaked out by the paranormal activity there, the room was supposedly sealed forever and turned into a wall.
I don´t know about you guys, but I wouldn´t really mind running into Sam. He seems like a helpful fella. I would be horrified to be put into a room with paranormal activity though. I have my limits.
If you don´t, and think the Banff Springs would be a good destination for Halloween, keep an eye on their social media. They used to host Halloween gala parties and this year there´s an event in their bar.
HAPPY HALLOWEEN EVERYONE!