Creepy destinations at home and abroad

A bat-like flitter through some of the scariest places for a Halloween break

Transylvanian terrors

Fancy a free fright? Boo! Seriously though, Romanian Holidays is offering free excursions to super spooky Bran Castle in Transylvania, home of Bram Stoker’s legendary character Dracula. Sure, he was fictional, but the house couldn’t be creepier, seeing as in real life it was home to none other than Vlad the Impaler – a local ruler known for the severity of his punishments (the clue’s in the name). The company’s flagship fully escorted Halloween tour lasts seven days and includes a special Halloween party. To book your free break, however, certain terms and conditions apply, namely, you don’t have a reflection in the mirror, you decompose when sunlight strikes you, and you are over 200 years old. Otherwise it’s €1,289 half board.

romanian-holidays.ie

Towering terrors in UK

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Closer to home but equally goose-bumpy, Alton Towers, one of the UK's best known theme parks, has its annual Scarefest shenanigans. Do you know what iatriophobia is? Well, visit The Sanctuary. It's a super creepy 1950s medical facility where, appointment or not, the doctor will see you now. Unfortunately. You'll have white coat syndrome ever after, guaranteed. Depending on your heart rate, you'll then have the chance to ride the world's first 14 loop roller coaster in total darkness, and find your dizzied bearings in the park's terrifying scare-mazes. Tickets from £36.90/€46.90 online.

altontowers.com

Shakespearian scares

Staying in the UK? Get thee to Stratford for a suitably freaky encounter at Shrieve's House, a grim place reputed to have witnessed everything from witchcraft to murder. It's also the oldest lived in house in Stratford, with cobble stones in its driveway that the bard himself will have trod, in his little pointy shoes. More important for us, however, is that it's reputed to be one of the most haunted buildings in England. The Tudor World museum next door regularly hosts ghost hunts here, with plenty of paranormal sightings on record. Lanternlight ghost tours take place at 6pm each evening, tickets £7.50/€9.50 per person.

falstaffexperience.co.uk

Twisted theme parks

The twisted minds at Universal Orlando are expert at turning terror into top-notch entertainment with their annual series of haunted houses and Halloween horror nights. This year it has added its largest haunted house ever and a host of new experiences to ensure your living nightmare lasts even longer. Die laughing at Giggles & Gore Inc, visit Roanoak – Cannibal Colony, and man up to the decaying walls of the Dollhouse of the Damned, or experience spine tingling newbies such as Alien Vs Predator and Dracula Untold: Reign of Blood, Face Off: In the Flesh and Purge: Anarchy, all based on film and TV shows. General admission tickets $95/€74.74.

universalorlando.com

Bone weary in Czech Republic

Churches can be creepy places – all that gothic architecture, all those morbid relics – but none, surely, is creepier than the Bone Church of Kutna Hora, near Prague. It’s more or less exactly what it says on the tin, in that one of its chapel interiors is made entirely of the bones of 40,000 people exhumed in 17th century when the grave yard reached full capacity, in order to make space for new bodies. It’s not just skulls and bones piled in heaps, though it has those too. It has actual furniture made up of bones, including its unique and macabre centrepiece – a chandelier containing at least one of each bone in the human body. Strings of skulls and bones are festooned from the ceiling, there’s a skull candelabra and monstrances, plus the signature of one of its monk interior designers’ signatures, made up of finger bones. Happy Halloween.

ossary.eu

Devils in Dublin

The Hellfire Club, high in the Dublin mountains, is creepy enough in bright sunshine, but for full effect you’ll need to board the Hellfire Express and see it at its worst, by night. Head out from the city centre to the haunted hunting lodge dating from 1725 and infamous for its association with Satanism, the supernatural and the occult. The devil himself is said to have made an appearance here, abstractedly showing his cloven hoof during a game of cards. You’ll hear all about it on this two and a half hour, €25 tour, plus the history of the lodge, its destruction of ancient megalithic monuments, the exhumation of demonic statues, dwarf skeletons, black masses, animal and human sacrifices, and still have time to go clubbing afterwards.

hiddendublinwalks.com

Chance of a ghost in Cork

Be among spirits of the kindred kind at the 14th World Ghost Convention in Cork City Gaol (again with the spelling) on October 24th. Organisers reckon it’s the perfect venue, given that it has its own resident ghosts many of which, or rather whom, can be relied on to turn up for the event. Well, it is billed as a ghost convention, to be fair, not a ghost hunter one. In any case, even if the ectoplasm doesn’t emerge, there’ll still be plenty of chance supernatural subjects discussed and opportunities to talk about that time you felt a presence at the edge of the bed or took a picture of yourself with red eyes. Oh sorry, that’ll be the photography convention. Admission €20.

worldghostconvention.com

Creepy castle in Oldcastle

Serious scaremongers will sign up for one of Ghost Hunt Ireland's overnight ghost tours to Ross Castle, on the banks of Lough Sheelin near Oldcastle in Co Meath. The company provides all the technical equipment you'll need to have you out there ghost busting with the best of them, including EMF (electromagnetic field) meters, EVP (electronic voice phenomenon) recorders and night vision scopes. Of course it's not all high tech, there'll be good old fashioned, tried and trusted methods too, including automatic writing, mirror scrying – the old smoke and mirrors, ahem, method, and a seance, of course. Or you can go fishing; it's a lovely B&B.

ghosthuntireland.com

Made in Meath

Meath has an entire festival devoted to Halloween, called Spirits of Meath (October 17th – November 2nd). It makes sense given that the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, precursor of it all, was first celebrated at the Hill of Ward, near Athboy. Commemorate this fact on its traditional torchlit procession up said hill on Halloween night. Or go straight for your own jugular and sign up for not one but two seriously scary Halloween events just up the road. Farmaphobia at Causey Farm has such topical delights as Contagion, its virus-based scarathon, while the Haunted Spooktacular at Grove Gardens gives you the chance to star in your own private horror movie set across 10 acres of hell. Tickets €18-€26.

farmaphobia.com

hauntedspooktacular.com