8 Spooky Sites Perfect for a Halloween Getaway
In a city famed for witches, don’t miss a visit to the Salem Witch House in Massachusetts
Ghosts, vampires and witches aren’t just for Halloween. Many attractions all over the world are famed for their haunted past – and spooky present. They lure millions of visitors fascinated by the supernatural year round.
If you’re one of them – or just want to amp up your holiday spirit – check out these 8 memorable places perfect for a Halloween getaway.
The city of Salem is famed for something that happened more than 300 years ago. In 1692, Salem tried, convicted and executed 26 people accused of being witches.
Today, Salem makes the most of this heritage all October long. Its annual Haunted Happenings attracts 250,000 visitors. The festival offers a variety of events, including theatre productions, fireworks, costume balls, witches’ circles, street fair and grand parade. There are even movie nights with films such as Ghostbusters.
Don’t miss the Witch House museum as part of your Halloween getaway. It’s the only building left with direct links to the Salem Witch Trials. The former home of Jonathan Corwin, one of the trial judges, it’s now a museum displaying 17th-century life. Visitors take in eerie sights like “witch pins” and a bottle with finger bones. Other museums, including a wax museum, also educate visitors about the town’s spooky past.
Walking tours (some led by modern witches) explore infamous spots including Salem’s earliest cemetery. Not surprisingly, most of the reported hauntings over the years are by people who lost their lives as a result of the trials.
What could be more perfect for a Halloween getaway than visiting Dracula’s Castle in Transylvania?
Dracula’s Castle, Romania
Located in the mountains of the Transylvania region in Romania, Bran Castle has become famed as Dracula’s Castle. Some accounts say that Prince Vlad III was imprisoned in the castle for two months in the mid-1400s. The prince, better known as Vlad the Impaler, inspired Bram Stoker’s famous character.
The castle looks like it’s straight out of Stoker’s novel. Indeed, the author may have based his description on a picture he saw of Bran Castle. Tourists apparently gave the castle its nickname because they thought it looked like Dracula’s Castle should look. The 57-room fortress, built in 1377, eventually became a royal residence.
The castle is open to the public, including on October 31 for a Halloween getaway. More than half a million people visit it each year. There, they discover the similarities between Vlad the Impaler and Dracula. Vlad reportedly impaled tens of thousands of his enemies on stakes. That was common practice in medieval Eastern Europe. But in his native Romania, Vlad is celebrated as a military hero who fought off the Ottoman Empire.
Two Paris attractions are perfect for getting in touch with the Halloween spirit (and spirits). More than one million people have been buried in Père Lachaise Cemetery since it opened in 1804. Celebrities interred at Paris’ largest cemetery include Jim Morrison, Oscar Wilde, Frederic Chopin, Gertrude Stein and Edith Piaf.
A Halloween getaway is a perfect time to explore the cemetery. The colorful leaves falling off trees set a spooky mood. Take a stroll through the 109 acres (44 hectares) and take in the tombstones, mausoleums and statues.
The Paris Catacombs have long fascinated lovers of the paranormal. The underground ossuary was created to store remains from the city’s condemned cemeteries. In the late 1700s, bodies from several burial grounds were relocated in the underground tunnels. Today an estimated six million people rest here.
Open to visitors since 1874, the catacombs attract over one million visitors each year. Some of them say they’ve seen ghosts wandering the underground halls. The catacombs are so haunting that they’ve inspired numerous writers of the macabre, including Edgar Allen Poe.
A tour of one of New Orleans’ famous above-ground cemeteries is a perfect Halloween getaway activity
Some claim New Orleans is America’s most haunted city. For starters, its Halloween celebrations are second only to Mardi Gras as the most festive time of the year. Visitors can experience the Voodoo music festival, masquerade balls, parades and street parties.
And, as one of America’s oldest cities, New Orleans has a history of otherworldly occurrences. Since the 1880s, people have claimed vampires wander the fabled French Quarter. Today, visitors can also wander the Quarter to sample the supernatural at one of its voodoo shops. Or take a ghost tour of the Quarter or another grand neighborhood, the Garden District. Many buildings in both neighborhoods have long been rumored to be haunted.
Adding to the spookiness are the Big Easy’s famous above-ground cemeteries. One don’t-miss grave: celebrated voodoo priestess Marie Laveau. Followers leave offerings there to this day, although she passed away in 1881.
As part of your Halloween getaway, take a nighttime torch-lamp tour of the eerie Manchac Swamp outside New Orleans. You’ll hear about the hundreds of people who died in a tidal wave at the site. And perhaps spy ghost alligators, pirate spirits or swamp witches.
A Halloween getaway to Oaxaca will get you in the holiday mood with its Day of the Dead tradition. The festivities take place from October 31 to November 2 every year. Oaxaca’s celebration is famed as one of the largest and most boisterous in the entire country.
The colorful practices stem from macabre celebrations from Europe and ancient Mayan and Aztec traditions. Mexican families put on costumes and parade to cemeteries to honor the dead. They visit the graves of relatives and build altars there and at home.
The altars often include favorite foods and drinks, flowers, candles, and photos and mementos of the family members. Families gather around the altar, praying and sharing stories of their deceased relatives. It’s intended to encourage visits by the departed loved ones.
Skeletons are the decoration of choice throughout the city. Edible sugar skulls are a traditional food, along with mole, tamales and fruit. Both death and celebration mingle together during the observance.
The Headless Horseman has reportedly galloped through this cemetery in Sleepy Hollow, New York
Sleepy Hollow, New York
One of America’s most iconic ghost stories is The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. A Halloween getaway is the perfect time to visit the novel’s setting: the town of Sleepy Hollow in New York’s Hudson Valley. Dating to the 1640s, Sleepy Hollow is one of the world’s most famed haunted towns.
The tale’s author, Washington Irving, is appropriately buried in the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery. The cemetery hosts both daytime and evening tours. Book in advance to avoid Halloween season disappointments.
Also visit the Old Dutch Burying Ground, one of the U.S.’s oldest cemeteries. It houses the graves of people Irving reportedly based characters on such as Ichabod Crane, Brom Bones and Katrina Van Tassel. But proceed with caution: there have been reported sightings of the Headless Horseman at both cemeteries.
Visitors flocking to the village for a Halloween getaway won’t be disappointed. The town offers evening tours of houses haunted by costumed actors, live performances of the tale by storytellers and shadow puppets, and a display of thousands of illuminated jack o’lanterns.
Valley of the Kings, Egypt
For more than 500 years, the Valley of the Kings was the burial place for ancient Egypt’s royalty and nobility. The heyday of this World Heritage Site extended from the 16th to 11th centuries BC.
Located on the west banks of the Nile are thousands of ornate tombs. They housed carefully preserved mummies and their finest worldly possessions. Although almost all the tombs have been looted over the millennia, this ancient burial ground remains full of mystery today. Since the most famous tomb, King Tut’s, was discovered, public imagination has been sparked by this historic area.
The spookiness of the ancient burial site is enhanced by the Curse of the Pharaohs. Any person who enters a tomb will allegedly suffer. A small handful of tombs do contain warnings to protect the tomb’s purity. But the notion of the deadly curses gained traction when several members of the team that opened Tut’s tomb perished. This eerie history makes the Valley of the Kings perfect for a Halloween getaway.
Today, 5,000 tourists visit the main valley each day without incident, defying those who believe in the ancient curses.
Legend has it that the Tower of London has been haunted for centuries by multiple ghosts
Many of London’s most celebrated attractions have been allegedly haunted for centuries. So it’s a perfect place to consider for a Halloween getaway.
Not surprisingly, many ghosts have been reported at the Tower of London. The best known at the former prison founded in 1066 is Henry VIII’s second wife, Anne Boleyn. She met her end there in 1536.
Visitors to other London landmarks have also observed spirits. Another of Henry VIII’s wives reportedly haunts Hampton Court Palace. Fifth wife Catherine Howard lived at the palace under house arrest before departing this life in 1542.
Westminster Abbey houses more than 3,000 bodies, including 17 monarchs. It also allegedly houses several ghosts. The most frequently viewed is Father Benedictus, a former monk of the abbey. Visitors say they’ve seen him and even had conversations with him.
St. Paul’s Cathedral may be best known as the site of Prince Charles’ wedding to Princess Diana. But in the paranormal world, it’s known as the home to several spirits. The ghost of a whistling clergyman has been reported in the cathedral. The elderly man glides across the chapel, then fades into the wall.
How to Make Your Halloween Getaway a Reality
Did these ideas inspire you? If a Halloween getaway is on your bucket list, contact a Virtuoso travel advisor. They’ll work with you to plan every eerie detail of your trip. The only thing they can’t do is guarantee a ghost sighting.
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