Juliet Kinsman: When I was told our second show would…
This Halloween we’re seeking out high-end haunted house hotels, vampy Transylvanian stays, ghostly guesthouses and the most spooktacular events. Our boutique hotels are renowned for being out of this world, but our pick of spine-chilling stays have an added air of mystery – from southern Gothic-style New Orleans’ guesthouses close to the ‘Cities of the Dead’ graveyards, to a cosy cabin in the woods in a Colorado ghost town. With suites that are dressed to kill and five-star meals you could murder, these luxury hotels will leave you grinning as wide as a Jack o’lantern.
SONIAT HOUSE New Orleans, US
Rocker-dotted porches, down-home Southern dining and charismatic Creole-chic await at this French Quarter fancy. It’s a graceful place to spend an afternoon in hand-fan-cooled calm, but voodoo and vampire lore are built in to New Orleans’ DNA – you don’t have a travel far to find Southern Gothic scares.
Halloween haunt Chilled-out Chartres street is ideally placed for a scary stakeout. Start at the Voodoo Museum – a 10-minute walk away on Dumaine Street – then take a New Orleans’ Graveyard Tour through St Louis and Lafayette; both offer a grimly intriguing look at the tombs of pirates, musicians and voodoo practitioners (Marie Laveau’s fetish-draped mausoleum is a must-see).
For the vamp Ann Rice’s toothsome tomes The Vampire Chronicles (and the Interview with the Vampire film) have put the bite into New Orleans’ tourism; a visit to Boutique du Vampyre, a 10-minute walk away, will set you up with goth goodies and Vampyre Lesson Kits.
THE THREE SISTERS Tallin, Estonia
This 14th-century boutique hotel has a touchy-feely, but friendly ghost; the tactile ‘lady of the night’ is known to tap guests on the shoulder in the bar; however, phasmophobics needn’t fear – nine times out of 10 it’ll be the ever-ready staff ensuring you have all you need. Cherub-adorned ceiling frescoes, sympathetically styled mod interiors and a even a petite gym in the ancient basement make this trio of quirky houses more treat than trick.
Halloween haunt Patarei Prison is an Eastern Bloc Alcatraz in Tallin Bay. A hit with urban explorers, this decaying prison still has former prisoners’ graffiti. Creepy and crumbling, it’s one of the most unique and atmospheric places to spend Halloween and the three-hour tour ends with a meal and Schnapps to soothe your nerves.
For the art fiend Niguliste Museum is an art museum in a 13th-century church. Beside ornate burial slabs and baroque altarpieces, there’s an era-spanning collection of artwork, including Bernt Notke’s shimmying-skeleton-filled Danse Macabre.
OUNDLE MILL Northamptonshire, UK
On first glance, Oundle Mill looks like the kind of rustic retreat where the ghosts of doomed literary heroines tap mournfully on your window. On the inside it’s as far from Wuthering Heights as you can get, with clean-cut, minimalist decor and Philippe Starck-style furnishings; however, the underlit floating bed in the Lucom Room is somewhat ghostly.
Halloween haunt Fotheringhay is a 13-minute drive from the hotel. This scenic village has a surprisingly macabre history – the castle, which was razed in 1627, was the birthplace of murderous monarch Richard III and Mary Queen of Scots was beheaded close by. Only the castle’s motte remains, but Mary lay in state at the church nearby, which still stands.
For the Jane Austen revivalist Perfectly preserved village Stamford, a half-hour drive from the hotel, may look familiar to period-drama fans; Middlemarch and Pride and Prejudice were both filmed here. A Halloween ghost tour tells of the usual ghastly ghouls, plus some more esotericl hauntings where cabinets have become possessed and cutlery flies around of its own accord.
AMBERLEY CASTLE West Sussex, UK
This sprawling mediaeval castle comes complete with a moat. If the turreted entrance gate doesn’t impress you, the lavish decor – which is in keeping with the kingly surrounds – will woo you like an errant knight. Carved four-poster beds, suits of armour and coats of arms are decadent without feeling like a mediaeval Disneyland. It’s also one of our most-haunted hotels, with a wayward teenage ghost, who’s known to disturb the odd sleeping guest.
Halloween haunt The Arundel Jailhouse is a creepy Victorian clink, where paranormal investigators frequently forage for bumps in the dark and unexplained ‘boos’. Their Halloween Eve event is hosted by a possessed doll with an array of candlelit chills.
For the ghoulishly green-fingered From 4:30pm on 31 October, the tranquility of magnificent National Trust-owned Woolbeding Gardens, is interrupted by grisly ghouls on a family-friendly trail of terror.
DUNTON HOT SPRINGS San Juan Mountains, US
This remote collection of wooden cabins in the Colorado rockies is a former ghost town brought back to life as a boutique hotel, with hot springs and homey interiors. Admittedly there are no recorded hauntings on the site, but the reclusive rural setting will get a knowing nod from any Evil Dead fans.
Halloween haunt What better way to spend Halloween than a campfire pow wow sharing ghost stories and roasting s’mores.
For the intrepid archaeologist Puebloan dwellings carved into the cliffs of Mesa Verde National Park, a 90-minute drive from the hotel, date back to 750–1300 AD. The mysterious and magical Cliff Palace and other enduring crag-carved homesteads can be seen by guided tour from 8am to sunset.
BINGHAM HOTEL London, UK
A trendy, taupe-hued hotel with unadulterated views of the River Thames and manicured gardens. There are no spectres, but stylish four-poster beds, art deco furnishings and whirlpool baths in some suites, make this designer den devilishly good.
Halloween haunt Ham House, a 20-minute walk from the hotel, has a colourful cast of spirits living a five-star afterlife in an elegant National Trust home. The Duchess of Lauderdale is said to still sweep down the staircase and the ghost of her little lap dog scurries through the upstairs hallways. There’s a more contemporary Hammer-horror-themed event from 7pm–11pm on Halloween with film screenings, ghost tours and a ‘Ghouls just wanna have fun’ pop-up bar.
For those bitten by the nature bug The WWT London Wetland Centre, a 15-minute drive from the hotel, are getting up close with spiders – the creepiest of crawling things. Rather than fuel the fear, they’ll be debunking spider myths and introducing some eight-legged friends; even the most hard-core arachnophobe will be feeling fond afterwards.
L’HOTEL Paris, France
Before he died in a room at this lavish Left Bank hotel, Oscar Wilde famously quipped ‘My wallpaper and I are fighting a duel to the death. One or the other of us has to go’. Since his death the room has been redesigned to look like his London flat, and like the rest of the hotel it’s opulently bedecked in fine fin de siècle-style furnishings in rich hues. Perhaps that’s why he likes to pop back every once in a while (or it could be his outstanding debt of 26,000 francs); his ghost has been seen in the room he died in, so you could be in scintillatingly spooky company.
Halloween haunt Pay homage to the Wilde-at-heart playwright by stopping at his kiss-covered tomb at Père Lachaise graveyard. Jim Morrison might be the most famed internment, but many of the graves are by turns poignant and playful, from Georges Rodenbach’s zombie-like mausoleum sculpture to Victor Noir’s over-excited effigy.
For some avant-garde interior designer inspiration The Museum of the History of Medicine has some of the strangest things you’ll see in the City of Lights (that includes the sprawling catacombs) – armoured prosthetic hands, conch-shell hearing horns and the pièce de résistance, a table gifted to Napoleon III, which is made of petrified brains, blood, lungs, ears and even a human foot.
COPSAMERE GUESTHOUSE Transylvania, Romania
Yes it may be as obvious as Count Alucard’s pseudonym, but where better to spend Halloween than in the birthplace of the daddy of dracs. This cosy guesthouse is festooned with foraged plants from the surrounding countryside and the bucolic rooms with exposed beams and wide windows are a world away from the faded grandeur of infamous Bran Castle.
Halloween haunt We recommend a tour of the constellation of ancient villages that surround Copsa Mare. Red-roofed fortified churches, ornate Saxon stonework, glass-icon-trimmed Orthodox churches, petite village restaurants and olde-world charm abound in Saschiz, Malancrav, Viscri and more. Ask your hosts to organise a tour.
For the dedicated goth It is a four-hour drive from the hotel, but we’d be amiss to leave out Romania’s monster mothership; on 2 November, Dracula films are being screened at Bran Castle, with festive freaky libations such as black vodka cocktails and red wine. With 12th-century surroundings, a candlelit ghost tour and an after party, like the fanged count himself this is demonically debonair.
CLASKA Tokyo, Japan
This hotel, housed in a Rubik’s cube of a building above a pet salon, is white as a ghost, bright and modern. The style throughout is traditional Japanese minimalism, with low beds and louvered screen doors, but a few quirky statement pieces – pebble-shaped pouffes and hot-air-balloon-shaped lights – spare it from looking sparse.
Halloween haunt Haunted Tokyo Tours cover the origins of the many follicularly-challenged phantoms that pop up in J Horror films and other uniquely Japanese terrors such as droopy-eyed demons and vertical graveyards.
For a hip Halloween costume Metamorphose Temps de Fille, a 40-minute ride on the Yamanote line from the hotel, has a spectacular selection of Georgian-style Gothic Lolita dresses, parasols, jewellery, gloves and even bloomers for those looking for an inimitably classy Halloween party getup.
THE MUDDY DUCK Bath, UK
This moody pub has sultry rooms soft lit with candle or fire light and a weathered, wisteria-clad façade. Their cosy locally-loved bar is allegedly the most haunted in Wiltshire, but it seems that the less quaffable spirits are a genial bunch; one phantom, a monk, is fond of playing practical jokes on the bar staff. Even with a crew of creepy caperers running amok, you’ll undoubtedly sleep soundly – the hotel’s ornate sleigh beds have plump pillows and plenty of sprawling space.
Halloween haunt Longleat Safari & Adventure Park is a 30-minute drive from the hotel. They’re holding a family-friendly Spooktacular Festival until 4 November 2013, with a ghost train, pumpkin trail, a real-life bat cave and hammed-up horror shows.
For the spooked-out sybarite Get some respite from eerie occurrences at the Roman Baths – perhaps the only place in this Regency town that doesn’t have a phantom to its name. Twilight tours among graceful Roman ruins, misty thermal spas and filling fare in the Roman Baths Kitchen make for a starry-eyed Samhain.
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