It isn't too late to book a quick jaunt to Europe to experience Halloween in a haunted hotel or a castle with a gory history. Several castles offer specially designed tours and Halloween themed events to get you into the spirit of the holiday.
The appropriately named Chillingham Castle (www.chillingham-castle.com) is a grand 12th-century stronghold, twenty minutes from the seaside in the stunning Northumbrian countryside of northeast England, around 70 miles from both Newcastle and Edinburgh. Historically it was the 'base-camp' for the 1298 conquering attack on William Wallace (remember Braveheart?) by "Hammer of the Scots," King Edward I. Wallace had previously raided the property, burning the women and children to death in the local abbey.
Chillingham is known for its various ghosts and numerous sightings over the centuries. There were no less that eight famous, well recorded, executions here -- some were hanged, drawn and quartered and while alive, they were cut down from the gallows, to have their entrails removed, then their heads were displayed on city gates, as a warning. Other simply had their heads chopped off. Two well-known apparitions are that of a Radiant or Blue Boy, and Lady Mary Grey, the scorned wife of a crusader knight, whose husband ran off with her sister during the reign of Charles II.
Two-hour tours of the haunted areas of the castle and grounds are available throughout the year by arrangement for £20 per person starting at 8pm, but on Halloween this year there will be a number of ghostly activities and celebrations including a bonfire, fireworks display, a trick or treat pumpkin trail, apple-bobbing, fancy dress competition (children and adult), best Guy competition, best pumpkin competition, and children's ghost tours from 5-8pm. Tickets at the door are £6 for adults, £3 for children and £15 for a family of four. There will also be the 8pm ghost tour that night.
You can even sleep on the premises with rooms and apartments available in the guard rooms, the tower, the dairy, the lookout and coaching rooms, starting from £100 per night for a single night for two brave souls. Prices are reduced for longer stays. You can get to Edinburgh this Halloween flying Air France (www.airfrance.us) from New York for $695 including taxes.
Muncaster (www.muncaster.co.uk) in England's Lake District is considered one of Britain's most haunted castles. Its most famous ghostly resident is Tom Fool, a spirit that tends to play tricks on visitors to the castle. Hauntings often occur in The Tapestry Room with visitors commenting about disturbed nights, hearing footsteps outside their room, seeing door handles turning, and doors opening seemingly on their own. A child is frequently heard crying, and sometimes a lady heard singing. Visitors have also felt cold bursts of air for no apparent reason.
Other stories concern the 'Muncaster Boggle' or White Lady who haunts the gardens and roadways around Muncaster. She is supposedly the ghost of Mary Bragg, a young girl murdered in the early 1800s on the road near the Main Gate. The Muncaster 'Ghost Sit' is a unique opportunity for up to six people to stay overnight in the Tapestry Room. Your overnight visit begins with a private tour of the castle and an introduction to our ghostly residents. A full English breakfast in served in Creeping Kate's Kitchen the following morning and all guests are asked to complete a log, sharing their experiences.
An overnight stay is priced at £495 per group for a Saturday night, £460 for a Friday or Sunday night and £425 for a Monday to Thursday night. For an entire week surrounding Halloween (October 25 to November 1) visitors can experience the castle at night and learn about its spooky history with ghost tours every evening. There is also a Ghostly Grotto, daily children's activities include face painting, the Mysterious magic show and spooky talks on Halloween stories and traditions. Darkest Muncaster illuminations occur each evening, from dusk until 9pm, with a Halloween themed light and sound show on the front of the castle plus two fire shows with special guest 'Juggling Inferno' every evening, and an optional Scary Garden walk, into an unlit area of Muncaster. The cost is £11.50 per adult and £5.50 per child in costume. There is accommodation available in the Gardens of the Castle and also in the nearby villages of Ravenglass and Calder Bridge with prices starting from £75 for a room based on double occupancy. The nearest airports are Manchester and Newcastle with airfares from New York during the Halloween week starting at approximately $700 to either of those destinations with one stop, flying either KLM (www.klm.com) or Air France (www.airfrance.us).
Located on the Antrim coast, 26 miles from Belfast, Ballygally Castle (www.hastingshotels.com/ballygally/index.htm) dates back to 1625 and is unique in that it is the only 17th century building in Northern Ireland still used as a residence. Converted into a four-star hotel, it is reputedly haunted by a friendly ghost. Brave guests can visit the 'ghost room' in one of the towers to see for themselves. With 44 beautiful bedrooms and many of the castle's original features and antique furnishings, the hotel offers a uniquely haunted atmosphere.
The ghost that haunts Ballygally Castle is said to be Lady Isobel Shaw, who enjoys herself knocking on guest room doors. There are still guest rooms available here for Halloween weekend with prices starting at £70 per night for a double or £80 for a room with full Irish breakfast. Getting to Belfast starts from $700 flying US Airways (www.usairways.com) with two stops, or around $800 on Continental (www.contental.com) with one stop from New York including all taxes.
Synonymous with the legend of Dracula and its historical basis Vlad the Impaler, Romania, and more specifically Transylvania has long been a destination of choice for those seeking an authentically scary Halloween experience. Visit Transilvania Travel (www.visittransilvania.ro) runs Dracula-themed tours throughout the year but the Halloween week tour is particularly popular and places are still available for this year's adventure.
The tour includes Bucharest airport transfers; six nights' accommodations, some meals and a special dinner, a Halloween party, and transportation in fully equipped minibus or coach with private driver, as well as boat transportation to the Snagov Monastery. Visit the medieval cities of Brasov, Sibiu, and Bistrita. Highlights include a city tour of Bucharest, the grave of Vlad, Poienari Castle (the real Dracula's castle), Bran Castle (the Bram Stoker novel's castle location), and the monasteries of Cozia and Horezu. The tour is priced at €750 per person based on double occupancy. Museum and monument entrance tickets are additional. The company also offers a shorter three-day/two-night version of the Halloween tour costing €375 per person that includes many of the same major sites and the Halloween dinner and party in the medieval citadel of Sighisoara. Mysterious Journeys (www.mysteriousjourneys.com) has a special Halloween version of its standard Transylvania Dracula tour from October 27 to November 3, 2009. Their tour is priced at €895 per person based on double occupancy and that includes transfers to and from the airport or railway station; seven nights' accommodations in three and four-star hotels and in private houses in the village of Aref; land transportation in deluxe buses; breakfast and dinner daily; a Halloween party; museums fee; shows; and guide and driver expenses. Flights to Bucharest via another European capital like Amsterdam, Rome or Prague start from $728 including all taxes out of New York with Delta (www.delta.com) or $736 with KLM (www.klm.com).