Cheap thrills for a haunting Halloween

Tue, Oct 23, 2012, 01:00

From costumes and conkers to creepy creatures great and small, there’s plenty for children to sink their fangs into this Halloween without horrifying your wallet, writes AOIFE CARR

Egyptian mummies, old bones and scary stories: admission to our national museums and galleries is free and nearly all have Halloween events of some description


The big night falls on a Wednesday this year and with most kids off school for a full three days beforehand there’s plenty of time to fire their imaginations and unleash their inner Vivienne Westwood. Being creative with face paints, cardboard boxes, tights, old clothes and a basic sewing kit can yield impressive results. Attention will be absorbed and money saved. Teeth or fangs fashioned from orange peel are a cheap and surprisingly effective finishing touch guaranteed to pull even the most thrown-together costume together.

For the time-pressed who can’t tell one end of a sewing needle from the other, costumes are widely available at prices from €3.99. Dunnes Stores have costumes for about €12, with spooky vests for tots at €6 for two. Adult costumes, including the Grim Reaper or a vampire, are €20, and decorations are from €5. Mothercare have 20 per cent off selected costumes until Halloween. Penneys have costumes from €7, scary T-shirts from €4 and decorations from €1.50. An adult tiger costume will set you back €13. Aldi and Lidl have costumes from €3.99 and €4.99 respectively while Marks and Spencer are doing three for the price of two on decorations and treats, with costumes from €14.


Before they rush around the neighbourhood trick-or-treating, try some traditional Halloween games. If you’re stuck for inspiration or need some more to add to your repertoire, the Museum of Decorative Arts in Dublin is holding a workshop on Halloween games and traditions this Thursday from 11.30am-12.30pm (; booking is required). Some old favourites include Blind Man’s Buff, Snap Apple and bobbing for coins or apples in a basin of water.


There are a number of child-friendly Halloween-themed films showing at cinemas over the midterm break. Tim Burton’s Frankenweenie tells the story of a young boy who loses his pet in an accident and tries to bring him back to life. In Hotel Transylvania, Dracula’s secret bolthole is invaded by some annoying humans. Paranorman promises a spooky comedy about an ancient zombie curse. All are rated PG. For those Halloweened out, Madagascar 3 is also playing. Most multiplexes offer a 10 per cent discount if tickets are booked online, and there’ll be plenty of swag in the house after trick or treating to avoid extortionate cinema prices for popcorn and jellies.


Dublin Zoo will be hosting their annual Boo at the Zoo this Sunday and on Halloween. For three hours from noon on both days there will be festive face painting, scary arts and crafts, special keeper talks and a monster disco on the lawn in front of Haughton House.

Make sure to see the adorable new red panda cubs. The twins were born in June but ventured out of their den during the day for the first time last month. Endangered in the wild, they are the second red panda litter born at the zoo in the past year.

In Cork, Fota Wildlife Park is hosting scary Halloween nights this Saturday to Wednesday, with a train ride around in the dark to see the animals and a number of festive characters rumoured to be popping by (€15 for an adult, €10 for a child; not suitable for children under six; tel: 021-4812678, ext 219 to book).

Causey Farm in Co Meath has a programme of Halloween events targeted at children of all ages. From learning to ride a broomstick to checking out a ghostbusters disco, small ghouls and goblins should be suitably entertained (

Belvedere house in Mullingar, Co Westmeath, is running bat walks this Friday from 7pm. Learn about Irish bats before using bat detectors out on the grounds after dark. Admission is free and no booking is necessary. There are also trick-or-treat trails, spook walks and a scarecrow festival over the bank holiday weekend (tel: 044-934 9060).


Head for the great outdoors and work off the contents of the trick-or-treat bags. See coillteoutdoors.iefor details on forest parks and 150-plus recreational areas around the country. The attitude of the most slothful might be improved by a competition to see who can find the most conkers – although they’re thin on the ground this year because of a disease called bleeding canker that has been attacking the country’s horsechestnut trees. For those feeling particularly competitive, the 13th Irish Conker Championship Festival takes place on Sunday on the village green in Freshford, Co Kilkenny, with stalls selling mulled wine, food and crafts. This is a national competition and is open to anyone from eight years of age – with no upper age limit (tel: 087-2736405 for details).


Witch-sculpting workshops, rocket-building and -launching, scary arts and crafts, and a range of digital theatre shows are on offer at Armagh Planetarium from this Saturday until November 2nd. Prizes on offer for the best Halloween costume. Some shows are free but prebooking is necessary (tel: 028-37523689 or see armaghplanet.comfor details).


Admission to our national museums and galleries is free and nearly all have Halloween events of some description.

If you’re struggling with a costume, the National Museum on Kildare Street is holding mask-making workshops next Tuesday. Suitable for children aged five and up, places are allocated on a first-come, first-served basis. Alternatively, pop across to the Natural History Museum on the same day, where author and illustrator Don Conroy presents Animal Magic at the Dead Zoo from 11.30am to 12.30pm. Suitable for children aged seven to nine (tel: 01-6744862 to book).

On Halloween, children over seven can meet Egyptian mummies, examine old bones and hear scary stories at the National Museum on Kildare Street from 11am to 12pm. No booking is required and costumes are welcomed.

At the Museum of Country Life in Turlough Park, Co Mayo, help is also available from 2-4pm on the 31st to create Halloween masks. No booking required.

Arachnophobes should avoid the National History Museum on November 1st, when children can come along from 2-4pm to inspect some spiders, find out why they have such a bad reputation and make one to take home with them. No booking required.

The National Gallery in Dublin is hosting a Ghosts, Goblins, and Furry Fiends art workshop on Saturday from 3-4pm. Places are allocated on a first-come first-served basis. There are other workshops for children throughout the midterm break at the gallery. See nationalgallery.iefor details.

The Tall Tiny Tales interactive book experience is running throughout the midterm break at the Ark in Temple Bar, with events organised daily (see And on the day when the shadows are darkest and the wind carries the cry of the banshee (Halloween to you and me) . . . master storyteller Niall de Búrca will be at the centre from 3-4pm, with spooky tales for all the family.

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