From the fishnets and feathers of the legendary Village Halloween Parade, to the sword swallowing Donny Vomit at Ripley’s Believe it or Not, to a drink with the ghost of Dylan Thomas, this city is hell-bent on fun, flair and frights to mark the feast of All Hallows Eve.
When your parents said you shouldn’t be afraid of the dark, they lied – especially if you are in the dark at Madame Tussauds Wax Museum. This interactive museum will keep you on your toes by day with its scarily lifelike wax replicas of the world’s biggest stars and icons, but by night the museum’s haunted house – Madame Tussauds After Dark: The Haunting – will keep you on your toes and jumping out of your skin, too, thanks to costumed actors placed throughout the dark and spooky walk. Madame Tussauds has a long and macabre history, starting with Marie Tussaud’s stint as a death-mask maker during the French Revolution and her mentor’s famed Chamber of Horrors in London.
Not to be outdone by their 42nd Street neighbors, Ripley’s is making the most of Halloween this year through Ripley’s Boo-lieve It Or Not, a kid-friendly (ages 6 and up) slumber party, featuring a haunted house, a tour of the Odditorium, a scavenger hunt, breakfast and snacks. All Halloween week, kids (accompanied by a full-priced adult) get in free with Ripley’s “After-Ghoul Special.” Ripley’s, as always, features amazing performances by the likes of the Bubble Boy, the sword swallower Donny Vomit and many exhibits of the weirdest varieties.
The Halloween Parade
This now-legendary New York event is the closest thing to a Mardi Gras or Carnival the city has to offer other than the Mermaid Parade in Coney Island (in mid-June). Floats, risqué and ridiculous costumes, giant puppets, freakish fun and lively crowds abound on Sixth Avenue, at the city’s wildest and most creative public event. Founded in 1974, this fabulous and very adult parade is not for most families, but it’s a must for the adventurous tourist or seasoned New Yorker who likes to celebrate in brash and bold style.
It’s scary how much money is won and lost on any given day on Wall Street. Even scarier, the ghosts who haunt the place by night. Wall Street Walks’ Downtown Ghost Tour delights history buffs and ghost hunters/busters alike with its candlelit tour of the Financial District’s darkest back alleys, the haunted cemetery at Trinity Church, haunted taverns and ghosts of the area’s storied past. The 90-minute walking tour’s ghosts are based on real lives and events making it an informative (but still spooky) way to mark the Halloween season.
Sleep No More
If fake blood and plastic fangs don’t exactly send shivers up your spine, you might want to check out the theatrical – and legitimately creepy – Sleep No More, an off-Broadway performance piece based on Macbeth, in which the audience, wearing carnival-style masks, chases performers up and down the stairs of an actual hotel. Audience members often get lost along the way and wind up in some very unexpected and nightmarish places. New York Times’ theatre critic Ben Brantley says this show “messes with your head as thoroughly as any artificial stimulant.”
The White Horse Tavern
They say drinking can bring out the demon in you but in this city there are plenty of bars that will be happy to produce demons for you. The most famous “haunted” watering spot in the city, or perhaps most respected ghostly clientele, is the White Horse Tavern in the West Village. Poet Dylan Thomas practiced what he preached when he urged us “Do not go gentle into that good night”; he went into that good night after he drank his eighteenth straight shot of whiskey at the White Tavern and then died shortly thereafter. As you learn on the West Village Pub Crawl from Uncle Sam’s Tours, the bar is now dedicated to his memory. Sit in the Dylan Thomas room and feel Dylan Thomas watching you from the massive painting on the wall. Listen closely for old-timers who might sit nearby, recalling the days when this bar was a regular haunt for the literary stars of the ’50s and ’60s. The ghosts of onetime locals, Jack Kerouac, Anais Nin, James Baldwin, and Truman Capote might well be at the bar, drinking with Dylan to the living and the dead.
Located in the heart of otherworldly Times Square, near Madame Tussauds Wax Museum, Times Scare is a year-round haunted house, magic show and bar that really comes to life around Halloween. The building itself, a former comedy club, is actually considered one of the twelve most haunted spots in New York City, due to a murder in the early 90s and an old crematory in the basement. The haunted house features a dead butler, a Dexter-inspired “Kill Room,” choice moments of eerie quiet and shocks to follow and frighten. The campy at heart can feast on crypt-themed snacks at the bar while the rest of us keep our eyes peeled for any legitimate ghosts – be they of comics who “died” on stage or otherwise.