When I was growing up, we did not go trick-or-treating on Halloween. In northern Europe at the time, we simply did not know about such a spooky day or the tradition of scary/funny costumes and candy in excess. We were happy to get some candy on big holidays and sometimes even on an ordinary Sunday – nothing spooky about that. Nowadays, of course, the idea of Halloween has spread to most countries, probably even to my home village in the far north.
Over the years, as I’ve traveled the globe, I’ve come across a few spooky moments, all very different, and this might be a good day to tell you about a couple of those.
The first thing that comes to mind is the visit my hubby and I made to Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum in London on our honeymoon trip many, many moons ago. We were fascinated by all the famous figures exhibited there. In the course of walking around and admiring them, my hubby got an idea. He had noted that his long curly hair (yeah, we were neo-hippies at that time) was very similar to the hair of the many famous historical figures of the past. So he decided to stand still next to an exhibition. He stood there completely motionless and it was soon clear that some of the visitors thought he was part of the exhibition. To the point that they started touching his long coat. That’s when he moved his eyes! I could hear people screaming, scared to the bone by this wax figure coming to life! We had so much fun and after a while he stepped down, in order not to attract the attention of the museum guards to his little prank. Before we needed to flee the scene we had enough time to picture me too with my idol at the time, the late President John F. Kennedy. But it was some spooky fun!
The next spooky travel experience came a couple of years later when we traveled in Italy. We stayed just south of Rome in the beach town of Taormina. We enjoyed the days at the beach, cycled on the mountainous roads, which was scary enough in that traffic, but we also spent some time to see the sights in Rome. Among the scariest places I’ve ever visited were the ancient catacombs or underground burial places beneath Rome. There are five catacombs open to public, some have four layers (or stories) of tunnels and a few of them are several kilometers long.
It was very easy to become spooked, scared and even claustrophobic walking in the ancient tunnels deep beneath the city. Some stretches were properly lit, some very dimly lit and others almost dark. The corridors were wide at some points, particularly where they intersected, but there we places where one could hardly pass, moist walls squeezing on both sides. The air was stale and moist too as you can imagine. There we some nice frescos and sculptures, but also sculls and mummified bodies, hundreds of burial chambers and other scary stuff. I could hear the wings of history and feel the sad emotions gathered in these tunnels. It was an unusual and spooky feeling. The thought that I might be left alone there in the underground, walking the burial grounds forever, made it really scary. I definitely started to fear that I may never see the light of day again. But of course I eventually came out of there, totally spooked.
Another place that fascinated me was the Colosseum where the ancient gladiator games were held. The ruins of the dome itself were very impressive, but I also wanted to see some of the inner chambers at the ground level, where the gladiators waited for their turn, and others where the lions were kept. Again I felt the anxiety, the excitement and the cruelty of this place in my bones. It was a hot summer day but suddenly it got freezing cold. I could almost hear the excited shouts of the public, the roar of the lions and the silence of the gladiators waiting. Spooky.
These were some of the travel tales down the memory lane that I thought would be just suitably Halloween-spooky. The scariest thing I now have at home is our little poodle who has turned into a ghostly hound dog for the day.
On a more somber note, I know that this year’s trick-or-treating will be muted or non-existent in many neighborhoods due to the painstaking clean-up and recovery after Sandy’s devastation. I feel for the kids whose homes may have been damaged and whose neighborhoods have been altered by the storm. I hope and pray they will be warm tonight, surrounded by family and friends somewhere safe. There are many ways for us to pitch in to support the recovery efforts. It will be a long road. Happy Halloween.