‘Tis the season to get spooky! Even us ghouls like to get out of the house from time to time. London is an absolute riot of Hallowe’en fun if you know where to look. Aside from being one of the oldest and most haunted cities in the world, the city is also stuffed with creepy screenings, ancient cemeteries and all sorts of horror-revering events. Read on for my top scary picks!
Or more accurately, a witch supply hunt. Whether you’re a regular enchantress like myself, or you just want to explore the occult a little more, London has you covered. More specifically, Seven Dials has you covered. If you wander around the Seven Dials area, you’ll find numerous shops selling crystals, tarot cards, spell candles and magical books. (I might have a little guide to my favourite in the works!).
One of my first ever Hallowe’ens at university involved going to a screening of The Shining at BFI Imax (aka the absolutely massive cinema). It was incredible. Horror films really lend themselves to the big screen; you’re enclosed in darkness, trapped in the theatre, the soundtrack is reverberating around and the images so big you can’t escape. I’m rarely as scared when I watch a horror film on my laptop from the comfort of my bed.
The London offerings of this season haven’t been quite as endless as in previous years, but there’s still a good amount of selection for horror junkies like myself. Backyard Cinema have got Hallowe’en films at their new Snow Kingdom venue. The always reliable Prince Charles Cinema have got an incredible line-up of classic horror films as part of HorrOctober. Let’s just take a minute to contemplate the late-night Hallowe’en screening of The Exorcist, shall we? If you like your horror contemporary then head to the FrightFest Hallowe’en Event at the Empire Cinema in Leicester Square.
If you really can’t handle the fear, then why not try Winnie-The-Poohs Spooktacular Shorts at the Barbican? Things That Go Piglet In The Night is sure to be a classic of the genre.
Just can’t get on with scary films? Why not try the theatre – live horror! For theatre lovers, the Old Red Lion Theatre hosts London Horror Festival. It’s happening currently, and there are productions until the 4th November. If you’re not from London then go see The Woman In Black – London’s original terrifying play. Anyone who went to school within a ten mile radius of London will recall seeing this up to four times whilst studying drama and/or The Gothic in literature. Still terrifying.
Talks on the mysterious, ghoulish and unexplainable inside a historic chapel next to a graveyard? Erm, yes! I’m a bit late to the party on this one as events have been going on all month. London Month of the Dead are hosting some of the coolest talks I think I’ve seen on a line-up for a while! The events are almost completely sold out – but there’s occasionally tickets on the door. Your ticket cost includes a cocktail and helps towards the restoration of the chapel.
I’d personally say the link between Harry Potter and Hallowe’en is minimal at best – sure, witches and wizards, but Harry and co are about as scary as Dad’s Army. If you’re looking for a tamer Hallowe’en then play it safe with an exhibition! The British Library’s exhibition, Harry Potter: A History Of Magic, opened last week. Also a rare chance to see some of their ancient magical items on display.
London is chock full of haunted pubs, so there’s no reason not to get a round in with the undead. The Grenadier in Belgrave Square, The Flash in Highgate, The Ten Bells in East London are all reputedly haunted by former pub owners, wenches and regulars. My personal favourite, The Viaduct Tavern, is complete with original gin booth and at one point was a “ladies parlour”. I’d add “every pub in Soho” to the list of haunted pubs as well. The older the building is, the more likely it’s got some stories to tell.
Well, sort of. If you like your creepy pub outings a little more formalised, then head for East End Tours. Technically, their themed walking tours (including The Krays, Jack The Ripper and Sweeney Todd) run all year, but if you can invest in a gruesome history lesson and a Victorian ale at Hallowe’en, why not?
Ok, you don’t have to go for a first date but I always thought that would be a cool way to get to know somebody. Just jump in at the deep end! There are cemeteries all over London but there’s two that have a special place in my cold black heart. Nunhead Cemetery for those of you below the river; it’s huge, beautiful, with some truly ornate Victorian (and earlier) plots. This time of year is my favourite to visit as parts of Nunhead are basically forest; whistling wind through the trees and leaves scratching along the path. It doesn’t get much more atmospheric. For Northerners, head to Highgate Cemetery. Filled with winter trees (at this time of year, it’s a kaleidoscope of orange and red berries). Highgate Cemetery is the final resting place for a lot of famous figures, and you’ll need to pay a small entry fee and can additionally ask for a guide.
Let me know what you get up to and if there’s anything of gruesome note that I’ve missed. Hallowe’en is ON, people!