Halloween: scary stuff from around the world

It's that time of year again, when pumpkin heads grimace at you from windows, 'ghoulies and ghosties and long-legged beasties' are out and about, and when the doorbell rings after dark you aren't quite sure who – or what – you'll find on the doorstep.

Day of the Dead, Mexico
The Day of the Dead celebrations, Michoacan / © Bruce Herman 

It doesn't matter whether you call it All Saints, All Souls, the Day of the Dead, Witches' Thanksgiving or Halloween, for most of us – stars and celebrities included – October, particularly the last night of the month, is an opportunity to dress up and party. Devils and witches walk among the undead in terror-filled celebration all over the world. Here are just a few of the places where you'll be sure of a scary welcome.

Meet the witches of Salem

Salem, Massachusetts, was the setting for the famous witch-hunts in the seventeenth century that, centuries later, inspired Arthur Miller's play The Crucible. Today the town has forgotten nothing of its heritage and lives it up all through October with a varied programme of Haunted Happenings including the chance to spend the night in a haunted mansion, take a ghostly trolley tour, or party with vampires.

Monstrous good fun for the family

Theme parks around the world are entering into the spirit of things to make sure everyone has their fair share of scares this Halloween. As if by magic, in Disneyland Paris, Frontierland has been transformed into Halloweenland, and Fantasyland has been invaded by pumpkin men. Spain's Port Aventura has some fantastically frightening new shows until November 21st – as well as some terrific bargains with discounts of up to 50% on all-in packages.

The horrors of London 

The British capital has its full quota of historical horror, making it an ideal destination for some frightening fun. Why not follow on the trail of Jack the Ripper or Sherlock Holmes, take a river trip on a haunted ship on the Thames or go ghost hunting in the Tower of London? Gather your courage and check out the events arranged by London Walks, The London Dungeon and London Horror Tours. There's even more information on macabre London attractions from Visit London.

The Big Apple's big parade

At half past eight on October 31st, the biggest Halloween parade on the planet gets under way in New York. Monsters, ghosts and the most fantastic supernatural creatures imaginable will be moving to the beat of music in the street. The whole city participates in a truly spectacular show where surprises await around every corner.

Transylvanian terror

The Romanian region of Transylvania, once home to the bloodthirsty Vlad the Impaler, is now the setting for a tour that blends fact and fiction as it follows the steps of Bram Stoker's Dracula. High spots on the tour include the fourteenth century town of Sighisoara, birthplace of Vlad, the Snagov Monastery, where legends says his remains were buried, the ruins of the Poenari fortress, considered to be the real Castle Dracula, and Bran Castle. More information from the Romanian Tourist Board.

Mexico's Day of the Dead

In Mexico, it isn't so much Halloween that is celebrated as the Day of the Dead. The tradition goes way back to pre-Hispanic times and is celebrated across the country in places such as Janitzio (Michoacan), Puebla, Catemaco and Tecomitl on November 1st and 2nd. One of the most interesting celebrations is that of San Andres Mixquic, which includes everything from music, dance and theatre, to guided tours and a variety of traditional elements, with a particular focus on gastronomy.

And a handful of horror museums...

We usually picture Prague as a city of romance and Berlin on the cutting edge of culture, whereas many wouldn't even recognise the name of the Lithuanian city of Kaunas. But they all have one thing in common: they have terrific horror museums and are perfect destinations for an autumn break. Prague has its Ghost Museum, Berlin has its Gruselkabinet – chamber of horrors – located in a Second World War air-raid shelter, and Kaunas has its Devils' Museum with around 3,000 exhibits of devils from around the world.