Specters of Travel

“I never drink… wine. ”
— Bela Lugosi

Halloween is the second most profitable holiday, especially popular with costumers, candy makers and special event planners.  We should not be surprised then that there are some travel connections too.

Marigolds adorn most memorial altars during Dia de los Muertos

Marigolds adorn most memorial altars during Dia de los Muertos

In Mexico, Arizona and New Mexico the Halloween season is expanded into Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) and people come from far away to celebrate. In the Christian calendar Halloween (All Hallows Eve) is the night before All Saints/All Hallows Day, November 1. The day after All Saints Day is Day of the Dead when all the deceased (saintly and otherwise) are remembered, often with a sizeable side helping of humor. Especially in the Colonial towns of central Mexico, cemeteries resemble a mixture of a large tailgating party and family reunion as families decorate the graves of their ancestors. There and in their homes they build small altars (ofrendas) decorated with marigolds, favorite foods, and other mementos of the departed relatives. In the Southwestern states people don macabre costumes (Calaveras) with lots of skeleton images on otherwise black clothing. White sugar skull-shaped candies replace the “fun size” candy bars of Halloween. Illustrations and dioramas show skeletons in various amusing poses – like “waiting for Mr. Right to telephone.” Parades (such as Albuquerque’s Marigold Parade) “liven up” the atmosphere to celebrate life and take the sting out of death. Rather than focusing on Halloween’s ghouls, zombies, and ghosts for the fear factor, Dia de los Muertos takes friendly pokes at the condition we will all know eventually.

Sugar skulls are the favored candy for Day of the Dead.

Sugar skulls are the favored candy for Day of the Dead.

Are you interested in the best known characters (fictional or factual) who occupy the misty borderlands separating life and death? Would you like to visit the homeland of the best known vampire – Transylvania in the Carpathian Mountains of Romania? Many locales have been included in various vampire books or movies. True Blood and the Twilight books and movies have given us plenty to think about in recent years in purported US locations. New Orleans lends itself easily to the idea (Interview with a Vampire) but England and the Netherlands have hosted movie versions of Bram Stoker’s version of the Dracula legend.

If you prefer to get your chills getting to know about factual bad guys I have just read that there is a huge market for Jack the Ripper tours in London. The cringe-worthy sights and sounds are very popular in this 125th anniversary year of his exploits. Closer to home, the Boston Strangler is mentioned in Boston’s ghost-oriented trolley tours. Friends old enough to remember those scary days in Belmont might not count this as fun. If you are not familiar with the specifics I recommend Sebastian Junger’s book A Death in Belmont.

Why do some places grow scary tales in abundance and others feel tame by comparison? Maybe all it takes is one silver screen visit to the Bates Motel to start a trend. It doesn’t even have to be true to give us the creeps!

If you want to plan now to get a new perspective on the spectral season next October or any time, just let me know.


Boundaries divide. Travel unites.

31 October 2013

About Travel Unites

A travel agent since 1994, I want people to get together for greater understanding across boundaries.
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