It’s spooky time down every street soon. London has long embraced the eve of All Saints’ Day, when ghosts are believed to be all around. Some of the most heart-stopping Halloween moments in the capital can be found within easy reach from the Strand Palace Hotel.
The National Gallery is just around the corner from the Strand Palace. There’s no shortage of well-executed horror here, from Francisco de Goya’s The Forcibly Bewitched and Salvator Rosa’s Witches at their Incantations, to Two Followers of Cadmus devoured by a Dragon by Cornelis van Haarlem, and a whole host of other macabre masterpieces in between. This venerable building on Trafalgar Square is chockfull of chilling thrills. The Tate, also a stroll away from the Strand Palace, has its share of spine-tingling sketches, best experienced in the Blake Room. One of England’s greats, his poems were visionary and unsettling, and his paintings no less so. See Ghost of a Flea, tempered with gold onto mahogany in delicacy but bloodthirsty and mind-blowing all the same.
After a surreal spell at the National Gallery, hop on to a Ghost Bus Tour at Trafalgar Square. An old Routemaster cloaked in black paint instead of the customary bright blood red, this is a tour bus designed for a terrifying ride taking in tales of the demon barber of Fleet Street, Newgate Prison (haunted by more than the legendary black dog), the Cross Bones Graveyard at Southwark, and other scary stops. Actors, cabaret stars and comics add to the strange vibes.
OK, not so much the high seas but the autumnal splendour of London’s Regent’s Canal. Join GoBoat for a treasure hunt and an ode to pirates, with pieces of 8 to find along the way. Not super scary, but very exciting and somehow otherworldly, with a host of bounty to discover amidst dusk along misty waterways. Prizes for the most supernatural costumes, a quest involving clues to solve, an immersion in some of London’s most secluded and seductive quarters – this is all kinds of Halloween special.
London’s grisly dungeons are reimagined just over the river from the Strand Palace, on the South Bank. Steeped in the capital’s perilous past, they feel like veritable dens of iniquity even now. Found at the end of a cobbled and narrow lane, the dungeons are as grim as you’d hope for on Halloween. An immersive tour with some rather charismatic players in costume bring London’s seedy past to life, with accounts of tyrants and torture.
Just across the road from the Strand Palace Hotel, a boat taxi awaits at Embankment Pier to whisk guests on a trip down the river to the Tower of London, site of many an execution and executive murders. From Traitor’s Gate to the torture tools in the White Tower, this is a site synonymous with the capital’s historic dark secrets, making it a perfect place to spend a few Halloween hours.