Halloween haunts that are sure to raise the spirits

On ghost walks all over the country around October 31 nervous youngsters and parents bravely stifling screams will hear tales of ghouls and ghastly deeds. Some are a real laugh – but others could have you quaking in your boots. 
I’ve been on a couple of cracking walks in London and Bath and there are others I’d like to try in Edinburgh, the Isle of Wight, Newcastle, York and Stratford-upon-Avon.
Some of the more alarming tales are told on the Isle of Wight – or Isle of Fright as some wag christened it recently. The island is reputedly one of the most haunted places on earth and I’m much relieved I never stumbled across one particularly horrific spirit when I visited in the summer.
There are countless stories of the island’s shipwreckers, smugglers and pirates, but the tale which sent the biggest shiver down my spine was of an embittered woodcutter who, in 1736, axed his grandson to death and set fire to his cottage.
He was discovered hiding in the woods, duly hanged and his body suspended in a cage from a gallows erected on the downs near Arreton. His rotting, stinking corpse – complete with maggots and mouldering mouth set in a grisly grin – is said to return to the scene to scare downland walkers.
If that sounds rather too unsettling, a number of suitably atmospheric country house hotels are staging fun Halloween breaks that promise to leave you mildly spooked rather than heavily traumatised.
Frightening films and adventures – and even creepy cocktails – are on the cards for families at Rudding Park, near Harrogate. There are ‘spooktacular cocktails’ for the whole family, goodie bags for children and scary family films showing each day in the hotel’s private cinema. 
In addition, everyone gets half-price entrance to Halloween Adventure at the historic Stockeld Park estate nearby. Daily activities here include Halloween face-painting and tattooing, pumpkin carving, a Halloween fancy dress parade, crafts, story-telling in the woods and a light and fire performance over the weekend. 
The cost of £181 per night includes dinner and breakfast for two adults, while up to two children under 12 enjoy free B&B over half-term week (October 28-November 4).
Ghosts galore are believed to reside at 16th-century Hintlesham Hall in Suffolk, making it the perfect setting for Halloween jollities. Guests are invited to dress in suitably ghoulish attire for Halloween Party Night on November 1. Included are a specially-created spooky cocktail and canapés, a three-course dinner and dancing to a disco. 
The party with overnight stay and breakfast is at a special rate of £97 per person sharing a superior room. 
Braver souls at Hintlesham might like to explore the upper stairways and corridors where the sounds of ghostly children chattering and giggling are regularly reported. 
One guest claimed his pillow was being pulled from under his head by a mischievous little girl sitting on the side of his bed. Others have seen an elegantly-dressed Regency lady and gent walking across the entrance hall and disappearing through a wall.
Don’t know about you, but given a choice of staying at Hintlesham or encountering the Isle of Wight’s mouldering mad axeman, I’d settle for the good-looking couple walking through a wall any day.
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