One of these years, however, I will combine my love of Halloween with an Oct. 31 pilgrimage to one of these spots:
Halloween rivals Fat Tuesday in what’s known as “America’s Most Haunted City,” what with all the French Quarter’s spooky cemeteries and centuries of voodoo lore. Newer additions include the Voodoo Experience music festival, which has a pretty darned spectacular line-up this year. Throw in Mardi Gras-esque parades (pictured at left) and after-hours parties with names like “Vampire Stripper Sluts from Outer Space,” and, um, how much would a last-minute flight cost? Just asking.
Oct. 31 is when Sin City nails down its reputation. Just about every Vegas attraction, from Madame Tussauds to Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition, embraces the Halloween theme by adding ghost tours, haunted houses and the like. But it’s the adult entertainment that will make jaws drop. And why not? Oct. 31 is a holiday in Nevada (it’s “Statehood Day”). The kicker this year: Phish is playing the MGM Grand Garden Arena. The bad news: Resale tickets start at more than $400 online. Damn you pathetic freelance income! Damn you to hell!
The Stanley Hotel, Estes Park, Colo.
Plenty of hotels are said to be haunted, but how many of them inspired the creepiest suite of all time? Turns out Stephen King came up with the idea for his classic horror novel, The Shining, in Room 217 of this neo-Georgian Rocky Mountain property (pictured below), which has since hosted TV crews for Ghost Hunters and The Shining mini-series. Then there's Stanley Kubrick's film adaptation, arguably the scariest movie ever. None it of was actually shot at the Stanley. The similar Timberline Lodge in Oregon provided exterior views, but apparently requested that Kubrick change the sinister room number in King's novel so customers wouldn't avoid the real Room 217. Little did they know that fans of the franchise would flock to the Stanley and Timberline, as well as to the Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite National Park, whose interior inspired much of the movie's set decoration.
Long Beach, Calif.
Good on this Californian city for making the best of a scary situation. The RMS Queen Mary ocean liner, retired from service and moored in Long Beach harbour since 1967, has been the site of numerous murders, drownings, fatal naval accidents and other grisly goings on, and has earned a reputation as a paranormal hot spot. Throw in some eye-popping costumes, props and pyrotechnics, along with fright-filled mazes and creepy live bands, and you’ve got the annual Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor extravaganza (pictured below).
For a look at how some people take Oct. 31 very seriously, head to this English village where a giant Neolithic stone circle snakes through town. For certain pagan groups, Halloween is known as Samhain, and marks the turning of the calendar from light into dark. At this time of year Avebury’s standing stones draw druids (pictured below) from all over the world to conduct strange rituals that always seem to involve weird headgear. So strap on some elk antlers — I know mine are around here somewhere — and get a sneak peek at some epic weirdness.