Dear Residents of 1906 Prince Edward County Road 2,
Wow. Just wow. I wish I could have met you on Sunday, if only to congratulate you on the best private-residence Halloween setup I have ever seen. You are gifted beyond measure -- or seriously twisted, or perhaps both -- and in a world full of greed, negativity and selfishness your front yard is a beacon of blood-curdling fun. No tricks, just a genuinely terrifying treat.
In short, you give me hope!
With just four sleeps to go until Oct. 31 I have a lot on my plate:
1. Watch all nine episodes of the new season of Stranger Things.
2. Prepare my own version of the fantastic Eleven costume (pictured) I encountered last night.
3. Candy shop.
4. Transform the front porch into the stuff of nightmares.
5. Candy shop.
6. Help with my daughters' and wife's costumes (I hope they all want to be ghosts this year).
In fact, my Halloween to-do list is almost as extensive as my Halloween bucket list:
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.
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 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.
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).
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”).
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.
I usually feel like a bit of a Johnny-come-lately when I discover a new Netflix series (despite the 85 emails). But with just 10 sleeps to go until Halloween, I couldn’t have timed my Stranger Things obsession better.
I’ve done the math: Five episodes remain in Season 1, plus an evening to prepare my costume, plus two evenings to help with my daughters’ costumes, plus candy shopping, plus the entire weekend to turn our front porch into the stuff of nightmares, plus more candy shopping, equals…well, the kids had better want to be ghosts this year.
My Halloween to-do list is almost as extensive as my Halloween bucket list, which grew even longer this week when Hotels.com emailed me its “10 travel experiences to confront your real fears.” (Too bad “Luposlipaphobia” isn’t included, as it’s one of my deepest, darkest fears.)
Between Stranger Things and everything else, I can only dream of making an Oct. 31 pilgrimage to one of these phobia-related spots:
Fear of public speaking
What better way to get over glossophobia than by standing on Speaker’s Corner in London’s Hyde Park? Karl Marx, George Orwell and Marcus Garvey are just a few of the many orators who have given speeches in a spot that stands as a symbol of free speech.
Fear of Halloween
Seriously, samhainophobia is a real condition. It’s mostly experienced by young children who don’t understand that the ghosts, vampires and Donald Trumps wandering the streets on Oct. 31 aren’t real. If you’re a grownup who still has that fear, then you may be overwhelmed by Universal Orlando’s Halloween Horror Nights.
Fear of heights
A thrilling way to confront acrophobia is to ride the elevator to the observation deck of the CN Tower in Toronto. At 553 metres, it’s the tallest structure in the Western Hemisphere. If you really want to get over your fear of heights and get a shot of adrenaline at the same time, try the EdgeWalk, which will have you walking along the tower’s roof while safely tethered.
Fear of insects
Prevail over entomophobia by stuffing a few creepy crawlies into your mouth. In the night markets of Bangkok you can get a bag full of deep-fried and salted insects. Grasshoppers are a good choice, but crickets and silkworms are also on the menu.
Fear of the dark
Face a case of nyctophobia by dining in complete darkness in the Blindekuh restaurant in Zurich, where you can only use the senses of taste, touch and smell to enjoy your food. Conceived as a way for sighted people to experience a bit of the life of a blind person, these “dark dining” restaurants have popped up all over the world, including in Vancouver and Montreal.
Fear of dogs
Dogs may be man’s best friend, but they can also be fearsome creatures to cynophobes. This winter, try a dogsledding experience in Canada’s Yukon. There are plenty of tour operators that will fix you up with a team of yipping and barking dogs that will carry you across the frozen land.
Fear of snakes
If you’re going to confront ophidiophobia, do it in the Land Down Under, where it seems like every other creature is out to kill you. Near Sydney you can visit the Australian Reptile Park, where you can sign up for a VIP tour that allows you to see their animals up close.
Fear of flying
By the numbers, flying is a lot safer than driving in a car. To really confront aerophobia, do it in a plane with an open cockpit so you can feel the wind in your hair. One place to do that is at the Canada Aviation and Space Museum in Ottawa, where you can take a quick flight over the nation’s capital in a 1930s-era Waco biplane.
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