I don’t like to play favourites (actually, I don’t know why I said that, because I totally do), but Halloween is probably my most beloved holiday…at least in terms of atmosphere and decor. With that in mind, I do write about a lot of weird/creepy places on here, so I thought I’d link you to some of them in one central location, in case you’re looking for places to visit in October. Like the content of the blog itself, most of the places are in the UK or Ohio, but there are some options for Continental Europeans as well!
Mansfield Reformatory in Ohio is the subject of one of my most popular posts (right after the Arnold Museum, of course), and it is a really cool place – it’s so dilapidated and dark inside, you feel as though you’re trespassing, even though you’re not. In the month of October they are open for special ghost events and their haunted house, but I do think it’s also well worth visiting during their summer season, when you’re left on your own to explore.
On the subject of jails (or gaols), the Cork County Gaol in Ireland is another cool one. They not only have audio tours on Walkmans (in the colour of your choosing!) but also have wax figures, and re-created cells. The whole building is damp and cold, as if you can still feel the misery of the prisoners held here.
Kelvedon Hatch in Essex is creepy in a nuclear apocalypse sense – we were the only visitors on the day we went, and there’s not even an admissions desk, so we were really able to get the experience of being the last survivors of a nuclear holocaust. Plus, you’re trapped underground, and you’ve no idea what might be waiting at the other end of the tunnel!
Eyam, in Derbyshire, is a village that was completely decimated by the 1665 plague, carried here from London via fleas in a box of cloth. Most of the original plague houses remain, and the village is home to a nice little museum all about the epidemic. It’s also quite near to Bakewell, so you can stop for a seasonally appropriate tea afterwards.
The Dr. Guislain Museum in Gent, Belgium, is housed in a still working mental institution. Need I say more? Well, the extremely excellent museum includes art done by the mentally ill, and horrible torture devices used to “treat” mental patients of yore. A must-see if you’re in Belgium!
I also adore the Royal London Hospital Museum in Whitechapel. I’m really interested in Joseph Merrick’s life, and the museum is THE place to see his skeleton and some of his possessions. Lots of other medical stuff too, and the museum is free!
If you’re creeped out by dolls, then Pollock’s Toy Museum in London is not the place for you (unless you’re trying to scare yourself, which I guess is pretty much the point of this whole post, so never mind). Split between a Victorian and a Georgian house, which are side by side, Pollock’s involves a journey up narrow, winding staircases to view cases crammed with sad-eyed Victorian toys. Just watch out for the doll room!
Even though almost nothing is in English, the Police Museum of Copenhagen is still incredible (and incredibly gory). The wall of murder weapons is not to be missed, even if it raises more questions than it answers (what IS the deal with that meat grinder?!).
Finally, here’s some other places I LOVE (some of which can be found in my Favourite Places page), but haven’t got around to blogging about yet:
Mutter Museum, Philadelphia: The best medical museum I’ve seen yet (and I’ve seen a lot, as you’ve probably gathered). There’s a giant colon, a lady whose fat turned to soap, and the liver from the original Siamese twins.
Thackray Museum, Leeds: Love the Thackray! They are the gold standard in authentic smells, and wax figures, and what I’ve compared every “street of yesteryear” to since (most of the other ones have been found lacking). Oh yeah, did I mention it’s a medical museum?
Hunterian Museum, London: Yet another medical museum (sorry, I know I have a problem), this one excels at stuff in jars. And has some cool war medicine stuff.
Museum Vrolik, Amsterdam: This is the last medical museum (for now), I promise! Museum Vrolik specialises in weird fetuses, including cyclopes, all manner of conjoined twins, and genetic abnormalities you never knew existed.
Museum of Witchcraft, Boscastle: I probably shouldn’t be putting this museum in a Halloween roundup, because they aim to distance themselves from old stereotypes of witches, but this place is awesome, and I wanted to give it a mention. Lots of witchy paraphernalia in a very picturesque village.
Hever Castle, Kent: This was Anne Boleyn’s childhood home, and even though the interior hasn’t been done any favours by the owners since, the exterior is still lovely, as are the gardens, They have a yew maze, and do some autumnal decorating, but I am pretty much including it here because I spotted ghost cupcakes in their tearoom, and cheesy Halloween touches like that are hard to find in England.
Hampton Court, Surrey: This is meant to be one of the most haunted places in Britain, if not in the world. I’ve never seen any ghosts, but that hasn’t stopped me from making many return visits to gawk at the rooms Henry VIII (and his many wives) inhabited.
Hellfire Caves, Buckinghamshire: These man-made caves are where members of the Georgian Hellfire club met, and, if the rumours are to be believed, took part in orgies and/or satanic rituals. Even if the stories aren’t true, the caves are full of mannequins and spooky sound effects, and make an excellent day trip from London.
Lakeview Cemetery, Cleveland: I couldn’t end this list without including a place from my hometown, and Lakeview is probably my favourite cemetery in the world. Splendid Victorian monuments abound, including Garfield’s tomb (you can see his and his wife’s coffins in the crypt), and the Haserot angel, which is guaranteed to give nightmares to Doctor Who fans. Cleveland’s Little Italy, which is just a street over, grew up around it because so many Italian stonemasons were hired to help build it, which should give you an idea of its size. And that means you can get cavatelli and strawberry cassata cake after your visit. What more excuse do you need?