It’s time for the spookiest time of the year—Halloween and the Day of the Dead—and, as such, thoughts of ghouls and ghosts start to fill our minds. Whether you’re on team vampire or werewolf, whether you prefer zombies or devils, it’s all part of the graveyard goodtime.
Dark tourism is popular no matter what time of the year it is. There are some wonderfully impressive cemeteries throughout the world that offer a creepy atmosphere to enjoy, some of which I’ve visited and definitely recommend.
Cimetière du Montparnasse, Paris
Head to Paris and most will visit Père Lachaise, where Oscar Wilde and Jim Morrison are laid to rest, but definitely make time to visit Cimetière du Montparnasse. This is the eternal resting place of many famous people, including Serge Gainsbourg and Julio Cortázar. The landscape is exceptionally charming, resulting in a calm, peaceful place ideal for an enteral slumber…or an afternoon stroll for tourists.
Les Catacombes, Paris
In 1785, Paris decided to solve the problem of its overflowing cemeteries by exhuming the bones of the buried and relocating them to the tunnels of several disused quarries, leading to the creation of the Catacombs. Located 65 feet underground, these corridors stacked with bones contain the remains of six million Parisians. During WWII, the tunnels were used as a headquarters by the Résistance. Lots of history here—definitely a must-see on any trip to Paris.
The exit is at the end of 83 steps on Rue Remy Dumoncel, where a guard will check your bag for “borrowed” bones.
Capuchin Crypt, Rome
Rome has many wonderful sites to behold but head beneath the surface and discover the world of the dead at the Capuchin Crypt. Creep down the stairs where around 4,000 dead Capuchin monks are laid to rest here with their bones decorating the crypt. The skeletons on display are still dressed in their religious robes, emphasizing the fact that death comes for us all in the end. This place is utterly creepy, and I definitely recommend it to anyone visiting the Eternal City!
Cementerio de la Recoleta, Buenos Aires
The most important and iconic person to be buried here is Eva Perón aka Evita, the lady who won the hearts of the Argentinian people. There are many other important people laid to rest in Cementerio de la Recoleta, which makes it a popular site to visit in Buenos Aires. Its wonderfully serene neo-classical entryway, beautiful crypts, and fragrant tree-lined footpaths make it especially memorable.
Highgate Cemetery, London
If there is one cemetery destined to send shivers down your spine, it is Highgate Cemetery in London. This impressively Gothic cemetery includes Karl Marx, George Eliot, and the parents of Charles Dickens as residents here, among 170,000 others. Highgate is considered England’s greatest example of funerary architecture, and is also a nature reserve for the UK.
Colonial Park Cemetery, Savannah, Georgia
Considered one of the most haunted places in the city, Colonial Park Cemetery is the oldest burial ground in Savannah and is located within the heart of Savannah’s historic district. Burials here began in 1750, making it the final resting place of many of Savannah’s earliest residents. The numerous apparitions and mysterious sounds are believed to be the thousands of victims of the Yellow Fever Epidemic and the dueling deaths that were too numerous to count.
Other cemeteries may not be creepy but worth a visit for their stories, atmosphere and views. Here are some to keep in mind: Waverley Cemetery, Sydney; Panteón Civil de Dolores, Mexico City; Bonaventure Cemetery, Savannah; Stull Cemetery, Kansas; and Old Jewish Cemetery, Prague.
Which one would you choose as your next BOOOOOO destination?
If you’re like me, you enjoy uniting your love of reading with the festivities of Halloween. Time to break out the candy corn and scary books!
Join me this year in participating in All Hallow’s Read, a phenomenon originated by author Neil Gaiman and his fans that celebrates scary stories through community, sharing, and best of all: gifting! This Halloween, we’re forgoing the tricks for the treats: You can give your closest bookworm a spooky paperback…and if they’re anything like me, receiving a scary book is the best Halloween present anyone could ask for!
At a loss for what to grab from your closest bookstore’s shelves? Here are my top recommended novels that will haunt any reader this magical season.
The Night Circus is an elegant, captivating tale that takes place throughout the late 1800s to early 1900s about two magicians poised against each other in a live chess match manifested through a unique black-and-white, nocturnal circus. Though I didn’t find this one particularly frightening, Erin Morgenstern’s crisp prose and weird happenings are scary good! This one is perfect for the more mature booklover who loves getting swallowed up in elaborate tales and substantial romance, and have fantasies of joining the circus themselves.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane is Neil Gaiman’s short, barefaced novel about a man, summoned back to his hometown by a funeral, recalling strange events in his childhood about three immortal witches and a sickening monster who is after not just his family, but his life. Its scares rose on me gradually, creeping onto me until it shocks. For adults like me who love to reminisce, macabre, and out-of-the-box elements, this one is tailor-made for us!
Carrie is a horrific tragedy that takes place in 1979 about a high school girl who is ruthlessly bullied to the point of breaking, using her newfound telekinesis to get revenge on a monumental scale. Stephen King himself has said the tale has a “surprising power to hurt and horrify." As a novelist myself, any work by the master of horror is a must-read, and I devoured King’s breakthrough novel in just a few days. Give this one to the reader who is open to rawness, loves thrills, and maybe has imagined teaching their tormentors a thing or two.
World War Z is a post-apocalyptic piece by Max Brooks about a global disaster that is the zombie plague, following multiple characters around the world but focusing particularly on a male UN agent. Though scary only in its heart-pumping, close-to-home hits, I find this zombie story is perfect for the action-lover who dreams of just what they’d do if disaster were to strike. This could also be a gift for someone who loved the recent movie version!
“The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” by Washington Irving—a short story set in 1790. Most of us know the story through movies, shows, and recreations, but nothing can compare to the original. Sleepy Hollow’s most famous supernatural phenomenon is the ghost of the Headless Horseman, who lost his head on the battlefield. The Horseman is believed to be always in search of his head. I love this quick read for its ability to frighten and thrill!
A few honorable mentions include The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, Horns by Joe Hill, Wicked by Gregory Maguire, and The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket. And of course, don’t forget the classics! Dracula, Frankenstein, Phantom of the Opera, and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde are all chilling winners—both on my list and among the All Hallow’s Read community.
Halloween approacheth! Time to swoop in to Barnes and Noble or Half Price Books to invest in smiles and goosebumps for your victim…er, recipient.
Happy Halloween Read!
One of the most important self editing tips I can give you is to read your work aloud. Writing is not a visual art. It is more like a symphony than an oil painting. Words make sounds—even when read silently—and it is the way you string these sounds together that satisfies or irritates the reader.
Think about it. You probably hear many grammatical errors in conversation. You might not know the grammatical rule that defines it, but you know it sounds wrong. You have developed an ear for grammar. The same holds true for writing. Reading your work aloud will help you to develop your writer’s ear. It is a quick way to identify any problem areas.
When something doesn’t sound right, there are several things that you can try to make music with your writing.
Vary the length of sentences. Short sentences can increase urgency and excitement or build tension. Long sentences will slow down the story and create a particular mood. Your ear will tell you when you need more sentence variety.
E.g. The sun had already set. He went around to the back of the house. Everything was quiet. He got his gun from the cabinet. He headed for the woods. It had to be here somewhere. He just had to keep looking. His breathing was ragged. The gun slipped in his sweaty hands.
Do you see how this rhythm is annoying after awhile? You’d better hope that something exciting happens fast or you will lose your reader. Variety is the key. Save the short sentences for a really exciting part. Even then you will only want to use a few in a row and you’ll want to vary the length a bit among them.
Vary sentence construction. It keeps the reader from becoming bored by the monotonous drone of several sentences with the same construction strung together.
E.g. Mike thought about what he had to do. He couldn’t do anything about the past. He could do something about now. He picked up his instrument. He walked onto the stage.
These sentences are somewhat varied in length but they all have the same simple sentence construction. The rhythm is annoying. The one caution here is to avoid starting sentences with gerunds (ing verbs) just for the sake of variety. When a sentence begins with a gerund, it means that two actions are occurring simultaneously. Eg. Singing Jingle Bells, she stirred the soup slowly. This is correct because she can sing and stir soup at the same time. Slamming the truck door, she ran to the house. These actions do not occur at the same time. She slams the door and then runs for the house.
Try to use complete sentences. Used sparingly, sentence fragments make writing sound more natural and can add emphasis. If overused, they become ineffective. Don’t let rules inhibit your writing but break them only if there’s a reason to do so.
Repetition. If used properly repetition can be powerful, but don’t fall into repetition because you are too lazy to find a synonym. Be equally wary of overusing an unusual word. Uncommon words stand out and if you repeat one of these, even with a couple of paragraphs separating them, the reader will notice.
Listen. Make a habit of listening to your words the way you would listen to a band rehearsal. Is something out of tune, off the beat? A sound can be inappropriate--just as laughter is a good sound in the school yard but not so good in a math test--or it can simply interrupt the rhythm of the story. Listen for things that are out of place as you read your work aloud.
It is always helpful to have another person read your work, aloud if possible. If they stumble over words, or you find them going back to re-read something because they don’t understand it, you will know there is a problem. But when you don’t have someone to share your work with or you are pressed for time, reading aloud can give you the emotional distance that it takes to find awkward spots. Taping your story and playing it back is an excellent way to find inconsistencies in your text, repeated words, dialogue confusion, switched subjects and so on that the eye misses.
If you were wondering about my passion for cooking here is my latest creation.
A secret ingredient in award-winning recipes, dragon fruit, is finding its way into our kitchens all over the world. This sweet and refreshing fruit is the latest exotic fruit to make an appearance in local area markets. Usually available in late autumn and early spring, dragon fruit is a delightful addition to salads, sorbets, sauces, salsa, creamy desserts, dips and frozen fruit drinks.
Also known as Pitaya, the dragon fruit is native to Mexico as well as Central and South America, and was introduced to Southeast Asia by the French. And now the fast-growing plant thrives there. This exotic fruit presents dark green, fleshy stems that stretch over 20 feet. The dazzling dragon fruit cactus employs sturdy aerial roots to climb trees, rocks and walls.
An ornamental plant prized for its spectacular blossoms and edible fruit, the dragon fruit plant produces 12-inch, white and creamy yellow flowers that only bloom at night. When dehydrated, the flowers are used to brew an antioxidant rich tea. The flavorful fruit ripens approximately 30–50 days after flowering. Pitaya plants present up to six fruiting cycles per year.
The fruit is oval with yellowish to dark red skin and edible flesh that may be red, pink or white depending on the variety and is similar in texture to a kiwifruit.
The fruit boosts the body’s metabolism, builds strong bones and teeth and improves memory. It also lowers blood glucose levels naturally, as well as lowering blood pressure and cholesterol levels. The fruit is low in fat and high in fiber. And the list goes on.
Buying and Storing Tips
Fiery Dragon Fruit Salsa
1 cup ripe dragon fruit chopped in small pieces
1 scallions chopped fine
1 cup ripe mango chopped in small pieces
1 cup ripe pineapple chopped in small pieces
1 tablespoons of finely chopped Cilantro
1-2 Jalapeno Chile peppers finely diced
Juice of 1 freshly squeezed lime
Juice of 1 freshly squeezed lemon
Sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
Prepare and store in a covered glass container for one hour prior to serving allowing the flavors to blend. Fresh Fiery Dragon Fruit Salsa is a delectable accompaniment to seafood, pork and chicken.