Considering that Halloween has its roots in the Celtic world, which included what is now Ireland and the United Kingdom, it should come as no surprise that Britain is a hot spot when it comes to spooks, ghosts and souls that refuse to remain dead.
It is believed that the Celts, who lived in the area about 2,000 years ago, celebrated their new year around Nov. 1, marking the end of the harvest season and the beginning of cold, dark winter.
The Celts believed that on the day before the new year, ghosts returned to earth, sometimes to cause trouble and damage crops. Celtic priests built bonfires where people would gather and burn sacrifices to the gods to drive away the evil spirits.
The fires might have frightened the spirits, but it did not get rid of them. Legend has it that ghosts continue to walk Britain’s city streets, wander its back country and visit old haunts. Especially on Halloween.
In that spirit, Cambridge Ghost Walks is conducting a special walk during the final weekend of the month. The city, near RAF Mildenhall and RAF Lakenheath, also offers tours throughout the summer.
Tours last 90 minutes and leave at 6 p.m. on Oct. 28-31 from the Guildhall on the Market Square. The cost is 5 pounds (about $9) for adults and 3 pounds for children. Reservations are advised. For details and reservations, call (+44) (0) 1223-457574 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Credit card payment is accepted.
London also offers a special Halloween ghost walk as part of its regular series exploring the city’s gruesome history. Ghost author and researcher Richard Jones, who leads many of the regular walks, will conduct one Oct. 27, and his assistant, “The Woman in Black,” will conduct one Oct. 31. Both start at 7 p.m. at the Bank Underground Station, exit 3, and cost 6 pounds per person. For details, see the Web site www.london-ghost-walk.co.uk or call (0) 20 8530- 8443. Reservations are required.
Other Halloween options:
• If you’d like to spend a night with a ghost, check out Haunted Accommodations (www.hauntedaccommodations.com), a guide to staying in haunted castles, hotels, inns and bed- and-breakfasts in England, Ireland, Scotland.
• At Comlongon Castle in Galloway, Scotland, the ghost of Lady Marion Carruthers, who took her own life by leaping from the lookout tower where she was being held captive, is said to commonly appear. Find out how to join her at www.celticcastles.com/castles/comlongon.
• At Ballygally Castle in Country Antrim, Ireland, the ghost of the former lady of the manor, Lady Isobel Shaw, is reputed to knock on the guest room doors of this 17th-century estate. Details at www.hastingshotels.com.
• The Old Hall Hotel in Cheshire, England, built in 1656, is considered one of the most haunted buildings in Britain. Details at www.theoldhallhotel.com.
Germany is also getting into the Halloween spirit. During the past dozen years, German trick-or-treaters have become more visible and commercial places from stores to amusement parks are playing up the spooky angle.
Holiday Park in Hassloch is holding special events as part of its “Shocktober” program. Throughout the month, it is hosting a combined live and animation program. Masked characters wander the park doing their best to frighten visitors.
Parades are held each Saturday during the month and there will be a grand Halloween party on Oct. 31. And throughout October, anyone wearing a costume will receive 2 euros off the entrance fee. More details at www.holidaypark.de/hp_englisch/indexset.html.
And finally, there is the big party at Frankenstein Castle in Eberstadt, near Darmstadt. Started by Germans and Americans in the Darmstadt Kontakt club in the 1970s, the event has been taken over by German organizers.
Now, on the last two weekends of October and the first one in November (plus on Halloween) the old castle will host stage shows and a collection of scary creatures roaming the grounds.
Because the event draws such big crowds and parking is limited, participants must take a shuttle bus from nearby Pfungstadt up the hill to the castle.
Advance tickets, 18 euros each, are available at www.burg-frankenstein.de (in German) or through USO Rhein- Neckar at DSN 395-2082 or 0621-730-2082.
Frommer’s Newsletter contributed to this report.