This year’s lineup of organized party spots includes all the usual suspects – Mecca, SaSaZu and the Hard Rock Cafe to name a few. However, for those looking for more subtler (and quieter) ways to embrace the Halloween spirit, here’s a roundup of freaky activities worth checking out.
Visit a haunted castle
Out of the hundreds of castles scattered throughout the Czech Republic, there are bound to be a few with eerily sordid pasts. Houska Castle, a 13th-century gothic fortress perched atop a steep limestone cliff 50 km north of Prague was purportedly built to seal off a deep hole said to be the Gateway to Hell. According to legend, eye witnesses reported seeing winged creatures and half-human beasts emerge from a hole beneath the castle’s chapel. Stone floorboards may have sealed the gates to the Under World forever but over time inexplicable human skeletal remains have been unearthed at the site. Coincidence or the work of demons? Also from the Gothic era, Buchlov Castle in southeastern Moravia has a (ghost) storied past of Egyptian mummies and apparitions. Explore the castle’s rare Egyptology collection and watch out for the Lady Catherine, who haunts the castle at night. Though it doesn’t boast a history of hauntings, Berchtold Castle will host a Vampire Ball on October 27!
Czech out a horror flick
What would Halloween be without the likes of Freddy Krueger, Michael Myers, Rosemary’s baby, and good ole Carrie White with her unfortunate vat of pig’s blood? If these guys are a little too old school for you, then you might want to take in a screening at Kino Aero’s Shockproof Film Festival. The special Halloween edition on Nov. 2 promises a horror-filled evening with a lot of “fresh blood” and films that cross the boundaries of “good taste.” Homebodies can curl up on the couch with Juraj Herz’s Spalovač mrtvol (The Cremator), often cited as one of the best Czech horror films (as well as one of the best Czech films, period). And while it isn’t a conventional horror film – it even features some twisted dark humor – the praise is justified; this is a chilling, deeply unsettling film, and a landmark from the Czech New Wave.
Explore an obscure Prague cemetery
Cemeteries, by their very nature, are always a little bit creepy – day or night – and an essential part of the Halloween season. Luckily, Prague is full of them, from the overcrowded Old Jewish Cemetery, the final resting place of Rabbi Loew and his Golem, to the overgrown and lesser-known German Protestant Cemetery in Strašnice, abandoned by the city years ago. The Strašnice graveyard, dating back to the late 18th century, was featured in last year’s One World Film Festival in a documentary about the lives of a homeless couple who’d taken up residency in one of the crypts. “You can say there’s eight of us here,” Jana tells filmmaker David Vondráčk’s camera, “six down below and … the two of us who are alive.”
Dine with the dead
The Czech capital certainly gives you plenty of opportunities to dine with the dead. Klášterní pivovar Strahov, atop Petřín hill, has been brewing its own lager since the 13th century, which is supposedly right around the time its resident ghost started haunting the grounds. Mary lost her children to the plague. On moonless nights, a hymn mysteriously emanates from the chapel on moonless nights to lull her pain. Meanwhile, over in Malá Strana, the ghost of the Obese Merchant hangs out near Valdštejnská Hospoda, while the spirit of the Drowned Maid can be found across the river at Dům U zlaté studny (House at the Golden Well), one of Prague’s best-preserved Baroque burger houses. Those with nerves of steal we double-dog dare you to pop into the cellar at Tavern U krále Brabantského below the Prague Castle grounds; a place so creepy even the staff refuses to enter it. Follow up dinner with a drink at Pivnice U Kata (The Executioner’s Alehouse, U Radnice 12/6, Prague 6), formerly the ancient watering hole of ax-wielding hood-wearers.
Get morose like Marilyn
Some swear that absinthe, that distilled, highly potent green spirit revered in the Czech Republic but vilified in other countries, is the work of the Devil. And who better to share a Halloween drink with? While you can find absinthe on most of the city’s cocktail menus, Green Fairy newbies will likely be more comfortable under the guided supervision of Absinthe Prague, a relatively new tasting group which meets in the cozy cellar room at Groove Bar. The two-hour tastings include samples of six premium absinthes and plenty of snacks to munch on between sips. A bit more gimmicky but no less fun, is Absintherie Praha, a cafe that has made a name for itself with its absinthe-laced confections and cocktails. Find the green stuff in cakes, chocolates, lollies, absinthe coffee and beer and, of course, beverages. Creepiest menu item? “Mansinthe” Marilyn Manson’s signature absinthe. Organ music and the on-site absinthe museum add to the eerie feel.
Be creeped out by Kafka
In an effort to recreate the “Kafkaesque”, the curators of the Franz Kafka Museum have effectively conjured the inner workings of the great writer’s mind and creative process with scary projections, random disturbing paraphenalia such as obituaries, and plenty of shadowy corners. The exhibition showcases eerie vintage photographs of people and places crucial to Kafka’s life as well as his manuscripts and books in strange installations which rely on audio-visual tricks. A fittingly dark ode to a literary hero whose work underscored the utter horror of daily life – and human existence
How will you celebrate your dressed down Halloween?