There is nothing new about Halloween. It has its origins in Celtic times. Even trick or treating has its forerunner in the Middle Ages in Great Britain. Halloween has long had associations with souls, the dead and various superstitions.
Today, Halloween is very much associated with witches and ghosts. So if you want to give yourself a fright to remember, there are few places better than Salem in America and the haunted Castles of Great Britain.
Salem, Massachusetts, America
In 1692 in Salem, Massachusetts, the infamous witch trials resulted in hundreds of women being jailed and twenty being put to their deaths for being witches. The Reverend Samuel Parris had found his daughters being taught witchcraft by his slave Tituba, whom it turned out had been teaching the same occult arts to a number of local women. All of Tituba’s students were promptly found to be bewitched. The first of these women to be killed was the owner of the local tavern, Bridget Bishop.
Walk the streets of Salem and feel the tingle on your neck as your hairs rise in their primordial reaction to fear. Visit the Old Town Hall and see the History Alive Theater Company recreate Bridget Bishop’s trial. Follow that with a drink in the Lyceum Bar and Grill, built on the site where Bridget had an apple Orchard. You might just see Bridget’s restless, ghostly presence, especially if you dare to look in the last window of the bar.
What would Halloween be without a visit to a cemetery? At the Howard Street Cemetery in Salem you might just be (un)lucky enough to see the ghost of Giles Corey who was accused as a witch and with his final words uttered the chilling imprecation: ‘I curse you Salem’
If you decide to step over the threshold of the House of Seven Gables, don’t be surprised if you feel uneasy. You’re not alone. Many visitors report experiencing a feeling of disquiet, a sense of foreboding that seems irrational but they just can’t explain it. And if the rocking chair rocks all by itself, that might be Sarah Good – imprisoned for seven months where her new born child died and later hanged – in the room with you.
The Haunted Castles of Great Britain
Britain has a large number of haunted castles. Here’s three of the best for a Halloween fright.
The ghost of Emily, a poor servant girl, haunts Amberley Castle in West Sussex, more Manor House than castle, and now a hotel. Emily was seduced by a dissolute Bishop, made pregnant then abandoned. Emily jumped to her death from a tower. You may not see Emily, but her presence can most definitely be sensed in the Herstmonceux room.
Carlisle Castle is haunted by a woman who has no name and whose identity is as much a mystery as her death. In 1830, the skeleton of a woman was found bricked up in the castle. She had rings on the bones of her fingers and she wore the remains of a silk tartan dress. Twelve years later, a soldier on duty challenged a woman who approached him. She ignored him and when he thrust at her with his bayonet the woman disappeared. The soldier feinted, was revived and then died.
Leeds Castle in Kent is haunted not by the ghost of a human being but by the ghost of a dog. The black dog is said to be the result of a spell cast by Eleanor of Gloucester, aunt of Henry VI, in the fifteenth century. Eleanor was found guilty of practising witchcraft, amongst other things. The dog’s appearance is said to be a bad omen and will be followed by bad luck and possible death. There is, though, a happy story told of a woman who moved from where she was sitting when she saw the dog disappear through a wall. Seconds later a wall collapsed next to where she had been seated.
Halloween has a long history but it is just one day in each year: there’s only so much fear that mortal flesh can take.
David Johnson, who is a writer and traveller, wrote the article. He suggests his readers from Pennsylvania visit one of the scariest haunted houses in pa, Field of Screams, for unlimited fun and terror.