Posted on 3rd October 2012 by Tim Prevett
Castles, historic homes, grand houses, factories, atmospheric ruins, all have echoes of centuries past, lives lived with all their ups and downs, triumphs and tragedies. Halloween is now the second most popular festival after Christmas and gives a unique opportunity to enjoy the spirit of heritage.
Whether it’s gentle day-time family activities, some hair-raising evening tours or a late-night vigil to investigate claimed paranormal experiences, Halloween-themed events can help attract new audiences and draw them back to experience your venue in a different way.
Pumpkin carving and craft activities provide great family fun and fit fine with usual opening hours, especially in the half term run up to 31st October itself. Apple bobbing and toffee apples suit the vibe very well too and talks about bats and fungi foraging dovetail in nicely.
Storytelling of creepy encounters linked with the property in a suggestive atmosphere evoke spine-chilling imaginings. I suggest being completely honest in terms of reported experiences though.
You could also stage a fictional, theatrical event. Last year, Quarry Bank Mill in Cheshire recreated a tour through the property parodying a paranormal investigation programme and the infamous BBC Ghostwatch show from 1992. Such an event can use local drama, theatre or school groups.
Do you have a particularly famous ghost? Be mindful of anniversaries of events at the property, the births and deaths of significant people linked with it and use them. If there’s said to be someone well known lurking talk about them. Some have said that ghosts are like children: all they want is a bit of attention.
Combermere Abbey on the Cheshire-Shropshire border has a famous spectral image from 1891 of the Second Viscount Combermere seated in a chair in the library. The thing is, only half of him is visible, the rest is see-through and it was taken at the same time as his funeral was happening a couple of miles away. Combermere Abbey is hosting ghost tours for the first time this Halloween.
Or have you ever considered hosting paranormal vigils? It’s worth noting that some people doing ‘ghost hunts’ will want to use video recording and many will want to use cameras with flash. The latter is to get ‘orbs’ - see-through or coloured spherical objects on photos. Some will take their presence as evidence of spiritual activity.
How does it fix in organisationally? Would you put on your event on Halloween itself? Or on the nearest Saturday night? Whatever you go for, there will be staffing issues as well as health and safety, and reduced light and the possibility of some folk getting very spooked and wanting to run off (It’s very rare but it does happen!) need to be taken into account.
But don't be scared off by this. Halloween is a chance to have fun, delight your visitors and bring history to life (or should that be back from the dead?). Maybe even have a fright or two...
If you intend to visit a property on Halloween, there will be another blog post especially for you later in October.