What is a catacomb? The simple definition is an underground cemetery connected by tunnels. The term is derived from “ad catacumbas,” meaning “near the hollows.” From the Holy Grail to a gilded Titanic, catacombs around the world hold an aura of mystery and legend. Here are some of the cities with the creepiest catacombs.
There are more than 40 catacombs beneath the city of Rome. In addition to the early Christian catacombs, the city contains Jewish and pagan ones as well. Originally thought to be the burial sites of martyrs, historians now agree the more than 6.5 million burials must have been for laypeople too. Roman law required cemeteries to be outside city limits. As space ran out, corpses were moved underneath the city. Many of the catacombs contain rooms with benches where families would have meals with the dead. Here are some of the most famous ones in the Eternal City:
- Catacombs of St.Callixtus: 16 popes were buried in St. Callixtus. It was the official cemetery of the Church of Rome. These catacombs take up an area of 90 acres, with 12 miles of tunnels on four levels that are more than 20 meters deep.
- Catacombs of Priscilla: Called the “Queen of Catacombs,” a great number of martyrs were buried here. It is the oldest catacomb mentioned in ancient Roman and Christian print.
- Catacombs of St. Domitilla: Rediscovered in 1593, the Catacombs of Domitilla extend about 17 kilometers on four levels.
- Catacombs of St. Sebastian: The burial of the martyr, San Sebastian, gives these catacombs their name. Both Christians and pagans were buried in the loculi wall tombs. The basilica above the burial site houses marble footsteps attributed to Jesus. In addition, the arrow that killed San Sebastian can be seen.
The Catacombs of Paris are famous for walls lined with skulls and bones. Similar to the Roman catacombs, these underground burials solved the problem of overflowing graveyards. Built much later, the Parisian catacombs burials began in the 18th-century. The tunnels were already in place below the city from 13th-century mining.
Prior to the catacombs, Parisian cemeteries stunk of rotting corpses. During a heavy spring rain in 1780, the walls of the Les Innocents cemetery broke flooding the streets with dead body parts. Thus, the city began moving the deceased to already existing mining tunnels. It took 12 years to move the six million bodies. Throughout the Parisian catacombs, the bones are arranged in macabre displays. Here you’ll find the largest population of skeletons on display.
Romans occupied Tunisia from 146 BC to 439 AD. Christianity was considered a threat to the empire. Early persecuted Christians used Tunisian catacombs to bury their dead and for hidden worship. The Sousse Catacombs contain approximately 15,000 bodies and extend five kilometers. They were discovered in 1888 on the site of the ancient, coastal city of Hadrumetum.
The Catacombs of Sousse are located west of the Medina. They are better preserved than the Catacombs of Rome. Also known as the Catacombs of the Good Shepherd, the walls of the tunnels and galleries include niches for oil lamps. Some of the graves are bricked over; others have been excavated where you can view human remains.
With a total length of approximately 2,500 kilometers, the Catacombs of Odessa are the longest in the world. The oldest tunnels date from the 17th-century. Like other catacombs, the tunnels were originally constructed beneath the city for mining. Later, they were used by smugglers. During WWII, the Ukrainians used the catacombs to launch surprise attacks on Nazi invaders.
Unlike other catacombs, the Odessa tunnels were not used for massive burial, although corpses of smugglers can be found. The tunnels are rumored to contain murdered Jews, a solid gold replica of the Titanic, and executed Nazis. In 2005, a teenage girl got lost in the tunnels during a New Year’s Eve Party. While her body was allegedly found two years later, there is some doubt of the veracity of this story.
Roman laws prohibited burial within the ancient city of Melite, as was common throughout the empire, so burials went underground. The St. Paul Catacombs offer the earliest evidence of Christianity on the island. They were actively used into the 4th-century and consist of more 30 hypogea, or underground chambers. The catacombs of St. Paul are the largest catacombs on Malta with an area of 2000 square meters. They offer a wider variety of tomb architecture. For example, unique baldacchino, or canopied tombs, are prevalent in the main chamber. Pagans, Christians, and Jews were buried side by side here.
Brno, Czech Republic
The Brno Ossuary is the most recent underground burial discovery. In 2001, 50,000 skeletons were discovered beneath the Church of St. James. Piled in neat rows, the bones were thought to have been moved from above ground cemeteries to make room for new burials in the 1600-1700s. The deaths were caused by the medieval plague, cholera epidemics, and the Swedish Siege of Brno during the Thirty Years’ War. The Brno Ossuary has the second largest quantity of skeletal remains in Europe behind the Parisian catacombs. Lacking tunnels, this burial site is considered an ossuary, a room that houses the dead. The Brno Ossuary consists of three rooms completely filled to the ceiling with skeletons. For preservation purposes, the bones were removed, cleaned and rearranged before opening to the public in 2012.
An estimated 25,000 to 70,000 skeletal remains line the walls of the catacombs below the San Francisco Monastery in Lima, Peru. These catacombs were in use until 1808 when a cemetery for commoners was built outside city limits. Famous for the intricate layout of bones in circular patterns, the San Francisco Catacombs were rediscovered in 1943. They connect to Lima’s cathedral and other churches via tunnels under the city. The placement of the bones in mandalas and geometric designs are evidence of a mysterious, metaphysical ritual unknown to modern scholars.
Catacombs can be found throughout Italy. Besides Rome, some of the most spectacular examples of these underground burials are found in Sicily. The Capuchin Monastery in Palermo houses the corpses of dead monks that underwent natural mummification. In 1597, new catacombs were built in ancient caves. Upon moving bodies to this new location, the monks discovered the natural mummies. The mummified friars’ faces were still recognizable. Their natural preservation was considered an act of God, and they were honored as relics. Wealthy Sicilians paid for mummification by the friars until 1783. It was considered a status symbol sought by the privileged class.
Beneath the Church Christ Cathedral in Dublin lies the largest crypt in Ireland. Famous for a mummified cat and rat playfully named “Tom and Jerry,” this medieval catacomb is the earliest surviving structure in Dublin. It houses Ireland’s first copy of the Magna Carta. You can rent the crypt for your own private event or take a ghost tour at night.
Another infamous catacomb of Dublin is found at St. Michan’s Church. Mummies of famous and historic figures, such as a 400-year-old nun, fill the chambers. Other mummified inhabitants include an 800-year-0ld, six and a half foot tall crusader who had to have his feet cut off to fit in a coffin, as well as a thief whose hands were chopped off. Limestone walls and methane gas from rotting vegetation maintain the perfect climate for mummy preservation. Dracula author, Bram Stoker, visited these catacombs potentially inspiring his thrilling book.
In 1900, a donkey fell down a hole and discovered the Catacombs of Kom Ash Shuqqafa. This is the largest Roman burial site in Egypt. Started in the 2nd-century and considered one of the Seven Wonders of the Middle Ages, the name of these catacombs translates to “Mounds of Shards.” There are piles of broken pottery in the area left behind by tomb visitors. It was bad luck to bring home a clay vessel that had been used while visiting the tombs, so family members would break them upon leaving. Art found in the burial site blends ancient Egyptian, Greek, and Roman styles. This is the only catacomb in the world where a mix of these three cultures’ art can be found.
Originating in Mexico, Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) is a mix of religious and cultural elements: indigenous Aztec (the festival for Mictecacihuatl, The Lady of The Dead) and Catholic (Spanish conquistadors, All saints and All Souls Day). Preparations begin October 31st, and from November first through the second, the dearly departed are honored in festive and symbolic ways.
Altars are a focal point, whether in the home or at the cemetery. Decorations – or “ofrendas” (offerings) – include sugar skulls, flowers, and candles. The ofrendas also feature favorite objects of the honoree like musical instruments, food and beverages, clothing, and books.
Families also spend hours in cemeteries tending the graves of the deceased. Weeds are pulled, grass is cut, and ofrendas – especially marigolds, which are thought to attract the souls of the deceased – are arranged. Prayers, remembrances, and laughter, accompany picnics of calabaza en tacha (candied pumpkin), tamales, and pan de muerto (a sweet bun-shaped roll with a sugar topping).
Some of the most recognizable images from Día de los Muertos are calacas (skeletons) and calaveras (skulls). These sassy bones are often living the whimsical life – hanging out with their cat, talking on their smartphone, performing as rock musicians, or drinking beer. Whether purchased in figurine, chocolate, wrestler, oilcloth, candle holder, sugar skull, or balloon form, these icons have a growing place in the mainstream North American consciousness.
An Artful Fiesta
Leading up to the holiday, we checked in with Veronica Olivares-Weber, art teacher, community organizer, and Guadalajara native, on her preparations for the annual Arts Council of Princeton Día de los Muertos celebration. When prepping for the festivities, it’s all hands on deck, including Veronica’s husband Oscar, along with their daughters, Valeria and Kyara.
JC: How elaborate are your plans prior to the big fiesta?
Veronica: We start the planning of activities and events months in advance. The actual preparations, and implementation of the planning stage, start three to four weeks in advance. With the support of the Arts Council of Princeton, the help of Princeton High School student volunteers, and community members, we work on the arts and crafts, make the sugar skulls, and create the decorations needed. We also work on the altar, which is the most important part of the celebrations. We make it all from scratch. I also start contacting and securing food vendors, the mariachi band, other participants, and the dancers (whenever they are available). While it is long, it is actually a fun process. I would like to thank the Princeton Shopping Center for sponsoring this event for many years now and for providing a unique venue for the celebrations.
JC: What has it meant to you, as young Mexican-American women, to be such a big part of the preparations?
Valeria and Kyara: Being a part of the preparations has allowed us to connect and learn about one of the most important parts of our heritage. It has been very important to us, especially due to the fact that we do live in a predominantly white town. It has also meant we can share our culture and traditions with our community, which is something that has always been important not only to us, but to our family. The interesting thing about Day of the Dead, is it is not a religious celebration, but instead, a celebration of life and death. A celebration consisting of colorful music, flowers, altars, food, and families. Our ancestors believed in welcoming death, and celebrating the life of those who have passed onto a better life. Something that we also really love about Day of the Dead is the fact there is the central figure of “La Catrina,” otherwise known as the “Lady of the Dead.” Being a part of the organization of the celebration has been an amazing experience for both of us, as well as our family.
Día de los Muertos in Princeton, NJ takes place Saturday, November 4, 3-5pm, Princeton Shopping Center, 301 N Harrison St. The event is free of charge and family-friendly. Enjoy strolling mariachis, decorate sugar skulls, get your face painted, and snack on food from Surf Taco.
This year, the Arts Council will introduce a Catrina/Catrin Contest. Work your best version of José Guadalupe Posada’s iconic “La Calavera Catrina” and you might win a prize.
From Alabama to Wisconsin, there’s bound to be a celebration in your state – click here for listings of other Día de los Muertos celebrations throughout the U.S.
When my seven-year-old son asked me to take him to a haunted house attraction along the boardwalk in Santa Cruz while we were on vacation, I happily obliged. That was stupid. It wasn’t even *that* scary, but 1) I hate horror movies, haunted houses, and being freaky scared and 2) who even takes a seven-year old into a house of horrors? Bad decisions, Mommy. Bad. Decisions. Which further begs the question of why I would pitch this story, when researching it would mean I’d have to find the goriest, most heart-stopping, anxiety-inducing haunted houses that exist in this free country of ours? It’s not like the Internet doesn’t have pictures of these places posted on its pages, you know. And you can’t un-see that stuff. Anyway, if you’re the kind of person who likes that sort of thing, here you go. I guess I’ve obliged the horror-seeking once again. Whoops.
Dent Schoolhouse, Cincinatti
Charlie the janitor was not a nice guy. Legend has it he killed the children who taunted him. Now, his spirit haunts the Dent Schoolhouse, where his crazy, creepy. clown friends and other tortured teachers roam the hallways, too. This house of horrors is located in an actual school built in 1894, so the lunch room and gym are appropriately grim, but it’s the basement and boiler room – Charlie’s personal domain and gore factory – that will really get you screaming.
Haunted Hoochie, Pataskala, Ohio
The Haunted Hoochie at Dead Acres bills itself as a “full sensory assault,” so you can expect to be literally grabbed by the throat and fully terrified. Actors, not animatronics, do the shoving and chainsawing here. According to one review, “I got a little blood on me,” is a common comment during the tour.
The Mortuary, New Orleans
This self-guided haunted house takes visitors through a huge, historic, New Orleans mansion that was actually an operating mortuary for 80 years. Surrounded by real cemeteries, The Mortuary is a heart-stoppingly scary setting for the deranged mortician, vampires, witches, zombies, skeletons, and other ghoulish creatures waiting to accost you inside. Whatever irrational fears your head may harbor, this haunted mansion will bring to life. Oh, and there will be live snakes, bats, rats, cockroaches, and spiders. Also ghosts – the place is said to be crawling with paranormal activity.
Terror Behind the Walls, Philadelphia
This event is so freaky, it already earned its own article on this blog, but no respectable list of terror factories would be complete without it, so I’m mentioning it again. Terror Behind the Walls takes place in an actual abandoned prison that is, of course, said to be haunted. The hidden passages and cell blocks you’ll find yourself stuck in aren’t decorated to look decrepit and creepy, though – that’s the actual interior of the rundown, Eastern State Penitentiary. It’s a massive and intimidating. gothic complex. Better pull yourself together, though, if you’re going to survive the zombie riots, jailbreaks, infirmary experiments, and general carnage going on inside.
McKamey Manor, Nashville and Huntsville, Alabama
The mother of all haunted houses, Makamey Manor, is a truly terrifying, full-immersion experience. Twenty-one and older only, please, plus a 40-page waiver, proof of health insurance, a note from your doctor (not kidding), and a background check are all required before you step inside. Once you do, expect extreme physical contact, as well as lots and lots of blood. You may be dragged, dropped, shoved, gagged, or bonded. Side effects include immense anxiety and wanting to go home. The event used to be a five-hour tour you could do with friends, but owner Russ McKamey has upped the stakes. Depending on how well you do, we’re talking 10 hours or more of barely legal fun.
Stupid Scary Haunted House Locations
- Dent Schoolhouse -Cincinnati, OH
- Haunted Hoochie -Pataskala, OH
- The Mortuary -New Orleans, LA
- Terror Behind the Walls -Philadelphia, PA
- McKamey Manor -Nashville and Huntsville, AL
When the leaves start to turn and outfits begin to start doubling in layers, we are reminded by a chilly finger tapping us on the hooded shoulder that Halloween is next up on the musical calendar. All time OG acts like Alice Cooper and KISS sliced through conventional ideology of what a concert could be back in the 70’s, opening the casket lid for modern acts to shock, excite, and bring tongue-in-cheek levity sprinkled with bravado to the masses. Halloween is just about a week away and there are plenty of acts to fill that trick-or-treat vibe for you day of, but it doesn’t have to end there. From the musically creative to the outright grotesque, these are some bands that won’t disappoint while bringing the Halloween spirit.
Bands like Arcade Fire have no regard for calendars when decreeing a performance should be more than just showing up, listening for a bit, then going home. Arcade Fire tweeted before their Reflektor tour, “Formal attire or costume (is) MANDATORY. (Formal wear = suit, dress or fancy something…).”
Richard Reed Parry, multi-instrumentalist for Arcade Fire, explained it like this:
“We’re trying to make a show that feels like an event, that’s fun, that people want to be at and participate in. We’ve found from shows that we’ve done that people like to dress up, people like to put on a mask. Like, people love Halloween. I wait all year for Halloween.It’s great, the costume part of that and the dressing up part of that just enhances the feeling that it’s a special event that you’re investing it and trying to have it be an elevated experience from the every day…” says Arcade Fire.
Gwar, on the other deformed, oozing hand, want to convince you they are interstellar demons sent to earth to turn humans into sex slaves for their ultimate hedonistic desires. Audience members are subjected to gross outs and sloppy antics that set the cheese factor to full on Limburger. With band members having names like Balsac The Jaws Of Death, Oderus Urungus (RIP), and Beefcake The Mighty, Gwar brings the corny and gross to crowds all at once. Think of it as if Kiss smoked dust and co-opted Troma Studios for a schlocky outer space slasher flick.
If the darkness is what calls you to the ceremony, then groups like Ghost BC, Portal and Sunn O))) may be your siren’s call. These bands take themselves more seriously in regards to power riffs and the occult flowing deeper and darker throughout their song catalogues. Ghost BCs lead singer, Papa Emeritus, rocks a skeleton priest get up reminiscent of a satanic pope from Bizarro World. While the music itself leans more towards poppy, accessible metal, the spectacle created by band members named “Nameless Ghouls” and decked out in cloaks and faceless masks is enough to satiate even the most hardcore fans of Beelzebub.
Portal and Sun O))) both represent downtuned groups that create a true sense of aural horrorcore. Portal, an Australian black/death metal band, doesn’t attempt to scare the audience. They outright succeed in frightening crowds with deep guttural grunting and sound effects in place of lyrics, all the while donning wizard hats and executioner’s masks, obscuring their faces, adding to the cacophony of uncomfortable confusion.
Sunn O))), a Seattle outfit that creates a doomy, dark ambient drone, tops the list as the most competent musicians when talking about a theatrical horror group. The band is famous for monolithic soundscapes, lack of percussion, and wearing robes whilst surrounded by fog. They’re easily one of the loudest bands performing today, which completes the brutal assault on all of the senses.
It doesn’t have to be All Hallows’ Eve to shake the devil’s hand; you can find the haunting fun of autumn any time of year. So whether you’re looking for a fun jaunt into escapism through a musical costume or want to become someone else for a night by wearing a literal costume, any one of these bands can bring Halloween to you regardless of the weather.
Harvest season yields the sweetest crops – and the best festivals. We recently told you about our favorite spots for leaf peeping and eating throughout the Northeast; now, we’re spreading the love a little wider. Fall means pumpkins, and pumpkins mean fun, so here are our top picks for festivals that pay homage to these plump, happy gourds from coast to coast. From good eats to spooky treats, there’s a little something for everyone.
Circleville, Ohio Pumpkin Show (October 18–21)
Just 25 miles south of Columbus, Circleville, Ohio hosts a stunning fall festival that draws 400,000 visitors each year. Dozens of amusement rides, arts and crafts, and amazing fair food are all part of the draw. But the seven parades – focused on babies, pets, bands, and more – are all worth watching, too. Who will be crowned Miss Pumpkin and Little Miss Pumpkin this year? And how much will th elargest pumpkin weigh? You won’t know, unless you go.
Great Pumpkin Farm, Clarence, New York (through October 31)
The Great Pumpkin Farm‘s first claim to fame came in 1996, when its inaugural World Pumpkin Weigh-off landed it in the Guinness World Book of Records for the first 1,000-pound pumpkin. Since then this festival has continued to grow with rides and events. It’s the perfect place for some wholesome fun, fresh cider, and warm donuts. If that doesn’t sound good enough, head over to Oinktoberfest, a barbecue cook off and beer garden, or enter one of the farm’s wacky contests.
Pumpkintown U.S.A., East Hampton, Connecticut (through October 31)
Pumpkintown U.S.A. is cheerful village of pumpkin people with painted faces full of personality. Open for six weeks each fall, this totally non-scary spot is fun for families or curious visitors – who now come from all over the world to visit. Stroll through this old-fashioned country village, which includes a restaurant, saloon, jail, and church, then hit the Harvest Shop for handmade butters, spreads, candles, and more. Kids will also love the games, face painting, and bounce house.
Siegel’s Cottonwood Farm Pumpkin Fest, Lockport, Illinois (through October 31)
Good old-fashion fun is what you’ll find at Cottonwood Farm’s Pumpkin Fest. This fourth-generation family farm in Lockport, Illinois offers hayride tours of the farm where you can hop off and pick your own pumpkin right off the vine. Dozens of other attractions include zombie paintball, a 15-acre corn maze, a haunted barn, a massive trampoline field, and a visit with farm animals, plus tons of seasonal food.
Craven Farm, Snohomish, Washington (through October 31)
In 1983, Craven Farm created the first pumpkin patch in their region, with a vision of helping kids and families understand the importance of farming. Since then, their fall festival has developed into an agri-entertainment business that has kept the farm economy sustainable, even in uncertain times. Today, the 20-acre pumpkin patch, multiple corn mazes, mini-golf, and loads of other fun and games have delighted locals and tourists alike.
Jack-o-lantern Spectacular, Providence, Rhode Island (through November 5)
This incredible spectacle brings 5,000 carved pumpkins to the Roger Williams Park Zoo in Providence, Rhode Island. Artfully and intricately designed, collections of pumpkins are grouped into themes such as dinosaurs, the ice age, Egypt, Rome, and the history of technology. New this year: A soaring zip line that takes you 115 feet in the air to view the entire event.
Autumn at the Arboretum, Dallas, Texas (through Nov 22)
The Dallas Arboretum is a gardener’s dream, and this stunning fall show has become a nationally acclaimed event, with 4,500 chrysanthemums and 150,000 other fall-blooming plants. This year’s theme, “The Wonderful World of Oz” brings Dorothy and her friends to the arboretum’s Pumpkin Village, with fantastical houses and displays made from more than 90,000 pumpkins, squash, and gourds.
From Jack the Ripper to the Tower of London, the city along the Thames has a long, sordid, haunted past. In October, museums in London, England celebrate their ghostly heritage by opening after hours. The 2017 Museums at Night events are filled with spooky activities like mummy unwrappings and canal rides by torchlight.
Twice a year the United Kingdom’s museums, historical sites, and galleries participate in after-hours events for the “culturally curious.” The 2017 fall Museums at Night takes place October 26-29. There are 33 events in London. Here are five spine-tingling activities, workshops, sleepovers, and mysteries not to be missed.
The Amazing Halloween Experience-London Canal Museum
Located near King’s Cross, the London Canal Museum hosts a frightening trip in a narrowboat. During the Amazing Halloween Experience, a witch tells spine-chilling tales on the 50-minute ride through the Islington Tunnel. In the museum, explore the Corridor of Fear, listen to ghost stories, and enjoy special kids’ activities. This family-friendly event costs £11 for an adult and £8 for a child, including the boat trip and the museum. Advanced booking for the boat trip is recommended.
Dickens After Dark: A Halloween Special-Charles Dickens Museum
For one night only, on October 26, you can visit the townhouse of renowned storyteller, Charles Dickens, for Dicken’s After Dark: A Halloween Special. To celebrate All Hallow’s Eve, a night dedicated to telling stories of the dearly departed, explore where Oliver Twist, Pickwick Papers, and Nicholas Nickleby were written. In this classic Victorian home, a housemaid will read your fortune, a magician will entertain you in the parlor, and adults can “ward off the chills of this dark and mysterious night” at a candlelit bar. This all-ages event costs £16.
London’s Night Owls Halloween Sleepover-Museum of London
Spend the night in one of London’s most popular museums featuring the city’s history from Roman to modern times. On October 27, the Museum of London asks, “Are you brave enough?” to join in London’s Night Owls Sleepover? This family-friendly, costume-wearing sleepover includes trick-or-treating. Children answer historical questions as they wander by candlelight through the galleries. Infamous, frightful London tales, like “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” and “The Barber of Fleet Street,” are told. Gothic masks are made before bedtime. After breakfast, enjoy a screening of Hocus Pocus. Advanced booking is required. The fee is £60 for children and adults.
The Case of the Missing Monsters-Dorich House Museum
What happens when monsters jump out of their stories? Running all three nights of London’s Museums at Night Festival, the Dorich House Museum hosts The Case of the Missing Monsters, a combined theater and monster hunt. The museum was the home of Russian sculptor, Dora Gordine. It currently promotes and supports women’s creativity, including spooky stories. This Halloween family adventure begins with the telling of haunted tales, but there is a hitch. The monsters escape from the books! Search all over this unique museum to recapture them. Children are encouraged to come in costume. Advanced booking is required. Discounts are given for families.
Archives at Night: Cabinet of Curiosities-The National Archives
On October 27, the National Archives will open their Edwardian Cabinet of Curiosities as part of Archives at Night. Inside the cabinet, you will find Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s letters on mediums, as well as learn about witch trials and sorcery history. The Cemetary Club will provide talks on the Three Curses of Tutankhamun, Witchcraft and the King in Medieval England, and the Second Pendle Witch Scare. Perhaps the most exciting event at the Archives at Night is the unwrapping of a mummy! During this re-enactment of a mummy unwrapping party (no mummies will be harmed), Egyptologist John J. Johnston will perform the operation and instruct viewers on how mummies were procured for such events in the 19th century. Additionally, you will learn about which guests would attend the unwrapping, what they saw, and what happened to the remains afterward. This event costs between £17.60 to £22, advanced booking is required, and is for adults only (18+).
5 Must See London Museums at Night Dates
- Dickens After Dark: A Halloween Special-Charles Dickens Museum; Oct. 26
- The Case of the Missing Monsters-Dorich House Museum; Oct.26-28
- Archives at Night: Cabinet of Curiosities-The National Archives; Oct. 27
- London’s Night Owls Halloween Sleepover-Museum of London; Oct. 27-28
- The Amazing Halloween Experience-London Canal Museum; Oct. 28-29
New Orleans is a city filled with history, and some say many historical events left behind evidence of the paranormal kind. In the French Quarter, the cemeteries, and just about every corner you turn in The Big Easy, ghosts abound. So do ghost tours, but not all tours are for all people. To find the tour that’s right for you, check out these options.
Good for Families with Younger Children
The Cemetery and Voodoo Walking Tour from Gray Line goes easy on the scares. A climate-controlled bus transports guests to St. Louis Cemetery #1 for this two-hour, daylight-only tour. During the drive, a guide tells tales about people from the French Quarter’s long ago past who may still be hanging around today as ghosts (but there are no ghosts in the bus, of course). At the cemetery, a professional, licensed guide continues the stories with tales of the famous and infamous people who are buried there, as well as the evolution of Voodoo.
When guests get to the tomb of New Orleans Voodoo Queen, Marie Laveau, they’ll learn how she was able to be in two places at once. They’ll also be able to make a wish or cast a spell at her tomb. A little history lesson happens, too, when the guide explains the above ground burial customs of the region and the origins of some of the tombs.
Guests walk away with a souvenir “Gris Gris” bag containing a Voodoo amulet.
- Tour departs from the Gray Line “Lighthouse” Ticket Office at Toulouse St. & the Mississippi River at the Steamboat Natchez Dock
- Price: Adults $27.00; Children ages 6-12 $15
- Dates and times vary depending on time of year – confirm with website
- Reservations are recommended 24 hours in advance
Good for Families with Older Children
The Ghosts of New Orleans Tour from Ghost City takes guests on a tour in hopes they will encounter a ghost along the way. Guests visit the most notorious haunted locations in the famous New Orleans’ French Quarter on this 90 minute tour. The tour visits haunted restaurants, hotels, and more. Along the way, guests will hear the true story behind the haunted LaLaurie Mansion, home to many tortured ghosts, and also visit sites of grisly murders and crimes where the victims are said to still haunt the living.
- Tour departs from 798 Chartes Street
- Price: Ages 12 and up $19.95; Children ages 6-11 $9.95; 5 and under are free
- Tours begin nightly at 6pm and 8pm
- Advance ticket purchase is required
Good for Giving You Nightmares
The 4-in-1 Ghosts,Voodoo,Vampires and Witchcraft Walking Tour from Witches Brew Tours encourages guests to take multiple pictures with flash photography because more often than not, something inexplicable finds its way into a photo during this dark-of-night ghost tour. The tour leads guests through the historic French Quarter and stops at buildings well known for paranormal activity and tragedies.
What makes this tour especially scary is that many of the stories told on this tour are true, so it may not be suitable for kids under 10. Tour guides take guests to the location where one of the world’s oldest vampires spent time in New Orleans in the 1920s. They also visit New Orleans’ most haunted house, the residence of Madame Delphine LaLaurie – the inspiration for Kathy Bates’ character in American Horror Story. In between there are stories of hauntings, spirits, and paranormal activity that have happened over the centuries in New Orleans.
- Tour departs from the corner of Royal and Conti Streets, directly across from Latrobe’s restaurant
- Price: Adults $25; Students, military with I.D, and seniors $20; Children ages 6-12 $12
- Tours begin at 5pm and 8pm
- Advance ticket purchase is recommended; walk ups are welcome to stand by
Good for a History Lesson
Saints and Sinners Walking Tour from French Quarter Phantoms doesn’t water anything down when it comes to the colorful history of New Orleans. This tour takes guests through the best and worst of the strange city with a dark, dark past. Not so much a ghost tour as it is a tour through the city highlighting the unique and interesting rumors of conspiracy, witchcraft, and vampires. It also highlights the truths of a Voodoo priestess and other historical figures through the centuries in this city that has had more than its fair share of saints and sinners.
- Tour departs from 718 N Rampart St. at the corner of Orleans Street and Rampart Street
- Price: $20 ages 17 and up. No one under 17 is permitted on this adult-themed tour
- Tours begin at 1pm daily
- Advance ticket purchase is recommended
Remember, no matter which tour you take, tour guides work hard to learn the history of New Orleans so they can pass on the information to you in a fun, educational, and a little bit spooky way. They always appreciate a tip at the end of the evening if you appreciated their expertise.
If being terrified brings you joy during the Halloween season, head to Philadelphia immediately to experience one of the scariest seasonal haunted attractions in the country. Terror Behind the Walls invites thrill seekers into the abandoned Eastern State Penitentiary, believed by some to be haunted by many of the prisoners who died there, to experience six separate scary attractions – all for one admission price.
Once inside the Fairmount neighborhood’s gothic-like prison built in 1829, brave guests will find themselves wandering through 10 acres of the old penitentiary for six different nightmare experiences.
- The Lockdown: Rioting zombie inmates have taken over the penitentiary. The zombie guards have lost control. Visitors may just become the next zombies.
- The Machine Shop: This interactive attraction takes visitors into cellblocks that the public has never been in before. Hidden deep inside the cellblocks is a long-forgotten machine shop. Evil pervades this space – an evil with one mind but with many bodies.
- The Infirmary: The Infirmary takes the fear of hospitals to a whole new level. Visitors discover the world of prison medical treatment, including shock therapy, hydrotherapy, and other torturous experiments gone wrong.
- Blood Yard: Visitors go deep within the prison to find a colony that leaves behind a trail of gnawed bones and decaying flesh. It’s hunt or be hunted. The carnage sends a clear message: you could be next.
- Quarantine 4D: This attraction takes a look into the world of prison medical treatment. Visitors experience mind altering effects and blurry vision. Flat walls appear to have depth, creatures emerge from nowhere, and fears will be faced.
- Breakout: Visitors find their own way out of Terror Behind the Walls, surrounded by inmates who may use them in any way imaginable to gain their freedom.
One of the scariest things about Terror Behind the Walls may be learning about the treatment of the former prisoners. After finding their way out, visitors have complimentary access to the no-contact visiting rooms for inmates where they can watch a video about the penitentiary’s history and also read about its past.
To Touch or Not
Everyone who enters Terror Behind the Walls gets the option to go through the attraction untouched by the actors or to get marked as someone who is willing to be fully immersed in the experience. Those who chose the mark may be grabbed, taken into cellblocks, separated from their group, and possibly become part of the show itself.
Those who want to be treated more importantly while they’re having the pants scared off of them can pay for one of these extra experiences.
- The Quick Pass: Gives guests front-of-line access at their appointed time. Without the quick pass, the wait me be half an hour to get in.
- The Hex Challenge: Before entering each of the six attractions, Hex challengers enter a secret room where they step further into the story, become part of the action and join forces with the zombies. It’s a physically challenging extra with requirements to crawl and fit into tight spaces. Those who aren’t up to the physical challenge or pregnant women are not permitted to participate.
- Fright and Bite Dinner Packages: Make a reservation at one of the participating neighborhood restaurants for a Halloween-themed meal, and the Terror Behind the Walls tickets are delivered with dessert.
- After Dark VIP Tour: Before entering the attractions at the front of the line, the tour is an hour-long, guided flashlight walk through the penitentiary that may include cellblocks, underground punishment cells and the operating room.
All proceeds from Terror Behind the Walls goes to the Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site, Inc., a 501(c)(3) charitable nonprofit that helps operate and preserve the penitentiary – a National Historic Landmark.
Terror Behind the Walls runs on select evenings between September 22 and November 11, 2017. Tickets vary depending on the day and time. General admission tickets range from $19-$45 online ($25-$50 at the door). Weekends are more expensive with the three weekends leading up to Halloween are the most expensive and mid-week visits the least expensive.