We approach the season of horror, folklore, and tradition as the pumpkin spice latte and early Christmas decorations attempt to distract us. What better way to celebrate the witching season than with celebrating life with the dead, tracing the steps of a notorious serial killer, and seeing the village where the Salem witch trials took place in 1692? We’ve rounded up the top 5 spookiest, ookiest, kookiest Halloween destinations in Canada, the US, London, and Mexico to summon the spirit of All Hallow’s Eve.
1. New England, USA where the Salem witch trials took place
Legend has it that in 1560, Pope John Paul II coined the term “the Witching Hour,” the time of night that falls between 3 a.m. and 4 a.m. when witches were at their most active and when their powers were at their strongest. In the Roman Catholic Church, there were times throughout the day set aside for prayer and devotion called canonical hours. They took place in the day and evening… but not after midnight. It was thought that the lack of prayers during this time only made the witches’ powers that much stronger.
In 1542, English law passed the Witchcraft Act, a law that made it a crime for a person to claim to have magical powers. The Witchcraft Act would be revised throughout history in 1563, 1604, and 1735 when witch hunting was at its peaks. In 1692, witch hunt hysteria spread from Europe to much of colonial New England where the Salem witch trials began. Those who were found guilty of witchcraft were punished by death.
For those interested in this dark period of history can visit the villages in Salem where the witch trials took place. Many of the accused witches were held in the jail in Salem town (modern day Salem), as well as jails in Ipswich and Boston. The Salem witch trials began in Salem Village which is now called Danvers, a small suburb just outside of Salem.
Did you know? It’s illegal to exercise witchcraft, sorcery, enchantment, and conjuration in Canada. It’s an offence punishable by law and outlined in Canada’s Criminal Code, section 365.
2. London’s alleyways where you can trace the steps of Jack the Ripper
When Scotland Yard received letters signed by someone who called himself Jack the Ripper, London investigators were ready to close the books on this open case. The man responsible for terrorizing London’s impoverished East End in 1888 with the gruesome bloody murders of five prostitutes had finally confessed and identified himself as the one and only killer. There were at least two problems wrong with this situation, 1) they had to catch him and 2) they had to catch him before he could fulfill his promise to kill more people. While Jack the Ripper claimed the lives of five people, some say it was more but the actual number is unknown.
Jack the Ripper mutilated his victims’ bodies with precision leading investigators to believe he had formal background knowledge in human anatomy. After a span of about a month, the murders suddenly stopped. Now more than 125 years later, the real identity of Jack the Ripper has still never been revealed and he remains one of London’s notorious unidentified killers.
Take a walking tour through the East End of London where Jack the Ripper emerged from the dim gaslit alleys and terrorized his unsuspecting victims.
3. Mexico’s el Dia de los Muertos celebrations
Death is coloured with life and life is coloured with death in the morbidly joyous Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), a holiday that originates in Mexico and celebrates the lives of those no longer living. Traditional illustrations of skeletons, laughing, drinking and dancing, festive sugar skulls, papeles picados, streamers of brightly coloured flags cut into intricate designs with tissue paper, and flowers for the dead are seen during the celebration.
Ofrendas (altars) are set up in the homes and final resting places of loved ones and decorated with papeles picados, photos of the deceased, alcohol, food and water to honour and entice the deceased to come back for a visit. The Aztecs developed this ritual about 3,000 years ago and did it to welcome the return of the spirits of their ancestors to the land of the living once a year. The Aztecs believed in celebrating the lives of their ancestors, not grieve over loss. In fact, mourning wasn’t allowed because it was believed that tears make the path from the dead to the living too slippery.
Dia de Los Muertos takes place on November 1 and November 2 across Mexico.
4. The Fairmont Empress in Victoria, BC where restless souls roam the hallways
The Fairmont Empress opened in 1908, making it one of the oldest hotels in Victoria, BC. It’s well known for its Afternoon Tea and its regal interior and like many of the Fairmonts it looks like the inside of the Queen’s Castle. There’s over 500 rooms, the Q at the Empress is one of the best restaurants to enjoy some of the best dining in the city, and the customer service is always outstanding.
But with more than 100 years of history, you can bet that there are a few folks who checked in… and never checked out.
Since it opened in 1908, there have been regular ghost sightings at the Fairmont Empress. Like the room attendant who stepped out onto a fire escape to clean the windows on the sixth floor but fell to her death after not realizing the stairs had been removed during construction, 1909. Sir Francis Rattenbury, the architect who designed the Empress, was murdered by his chauffeur (and wife’s lover) when he went back to his homeland in England, 1935. There also have been a few sightings of one of the hotel’s carpenters who died during the construction of the hotel.
The Fairmont Empress says it’s not unusual for guests staying at the Empress to leave comments about unusual sightings and odd events. Maybe the architect has a few words he’d like to share?
Trust that the dark, twisted imaginations that run the horror biz (and probably invented irrational fear) will put on the most frightening exhibits you’ve only had nightmares about. Universal Studios in Hollywood and Orlando both offer Halloween Horror Nights, some of the year’s scariest, most intense Halloween events. Try to make it out of the American Horror Story haunted house while encountering Bloody Face from Asylum, Salem witches from Coven, and the cannibals of Roanoke. Knock on the door of room 237 at the Overlook Hotel in the Shining haunted house, or – if you’re feeling very brave – try to make your way out of claustrophobic spaces of one of the most terrifying games you’ll play in the SAW: The Games of Jigsaw haunted house.
Ready to be so scared that you’ll return only able to sleep through the night with all the lights on? That’s the spirit. We have plenty of spooktacular savings to Mexico and the Caribbean, Europe, Canada, and the US! Don’t let the savings haunt you. Contact a Flight Centre Travel Agent, call 1-855-796-8359 , or visit your closest Flight Centre store.