The 50 best: Good ways to have a really bad time

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The Independent Culture
It's that day of the year when children turn into ghouls and parents have nightmares - so why not make the most of it. This week, our panel picks out the best ways to scare yourself silly this Hallowe'en, from horror movies to theme-park rides. Jenny Gilbert took notes



This stark black-and-white thriller, directed by the master of suspense Alfred Hitchcock, radically revised the rules of the genre by killing off its star long before the final reel. The now-familiar plot concerns Norman Bates, a nervy hotel proprietor living under the shadow of his invalid mother, and the fate of Marion Crane, a young woman who stops at the motel after fleeing her workplace with a wad of stolen money. You'll never look at a shower curtain the same way again. "The most important horror film of the 1960s," says Kim Newman.

Where & when: available from most video shops

How much: pounds 10.99



Coachloads of visitors have done little to dispel the ethereal population at this landmark, says Richard Jones. Among the spirits said to drift around the ramparts are Anne Boleyn and Lady Jane Grey, who both met their end after incarceration in the Tower. King Henry VI is said to return to the spot in the Wakefield Tower where he was murdered, and the little princes, Richard and Edward, make frequent "visits" to the Bloody Tower.

Where & when: Lower Thames St, London EC3 (0171-709 0765), nearest Underground, Tower Hill; Sun-Mon 10am-4pm, Tues-Sat 9am-4pm. How much: adults, pounds 9.50, children pounds 6.25



This is the first public-participation ride of its kind in the UK. It involves 40 people at a time, and it lasts eight minutes, but exactly what happens during that time the management would prefer to keep under wraps. Suffice to say that the walls and floor shake, the ceilings shudder, and it's described as "the scariest place under one roof", but it is neither rollercoaster nor ghost train.

Where & when: Drayton Manor Park, Tamworth, Staffs (01827 287979); daily 10.30am to dusk, to 1 Nov

How much: unlimited rides, adults, pounds 10, children under 14, pounds 7.50, children under four, free



Bram Stoker's is far and away the best vampire novel of all time, and contains all the variations of the theme in one book. "It was written by a very repressed Victorian, of course, which is why it's so good," says Christopher Frayling. "The English have always been particularly good at writing from a position of repression. They come at a theme obliquely, rather than head on. It says a lot about who we are."

How much: pounds 2.50 (Penguin)



All the regular theme-park rides and attractions are here. The big difference is that this weekend you can enjoy them in the dark. Thrills include The Vampire, a hanging rollercoaster which takes you over the tree tops and then dives underground into a huge tunnel of light - "You'll feel like you're flying," says a spokesman. There's also Hallowe'en entertainment in the form of stilt-walkers, jugglers and a laser-light show.

Where and when: Chessington World of Adventures, Chessington, Surrey (01372 729560); today & Sun 10am-9pm

How much: adults, pounds 19, children four-14, pounds 15



Based on a novel by Shirley Jackson, Robert Wise's 1963 film remains one of the best haunted-house movies. Dr Markway is a professor of anthropology engaged in experiments in psychic phenomena. He arrives at Hill House, a New England mansion reputed to be full of demons and ghosts, with an elderly spinster, a young lesbian, and Luke, heir to the house. The quartet is besieged by terror - noises and inexplicable events which convince the old lady that Hill House is alive and begging her to stay. "The best ghost film ever made," says Kim Newman.

Where & when: available from most video shops

How much: pounds 14.99



England's oldest medical operating theatre is located in the roof space of St Thomas's Church and "amazingly little changed from when it was in use," according to Richard Jones. Tucked away up there, no one could hear the screams from pre-anaesthetic surgery. Needless to say, the place is hopping with disembodied spirits, and ghostly footsteps are among just some of the strange occurrences staff have to stomach

Where & when: 9 St Thomas St, London SE1 (0171-955 4791), nearest Underground, London Bge; daily 10am-4pm

How much: adults, pounds 2.90, children, pounds 1.50



"The most breathtaking rollercoaster drop in the world," enthuses Andy Hine. Oblivion, which opened earlier this year, claims to be the most technologically advanced white-knuckle ride you will find anywhere. It's the first rollercoaster to use a vertical drop, plummeting passengers a staggering 60 metres into a pitch-black hole. Set to become a Mecca for adrenaline junkies.

Where & when: Alton Towers, Staffs (0990 204060); daily 9.30am to dusk, to 8 Nov

How much: unlimited access, adults, pounds 19.50, under 14s, pounds 15.50m family ticket (two adults, two children), pounds 59



When Mary Shelley's work first came out in 1818 it was very long, and every subsequent edition up to now has been an abridged version. But Penguin gives it the full whack, with several appendices comparing different previous editions. It's rare among gothic classics for being written by a woman, and in the opinion of Christopher Frayling, is "all about feminism, about the dangers of the masculine principle, about someone brought up without a mother." Forget about Hollywood and Boris Karloff - the book still packs a punch.

How much: pounds 2.50 (Penguin, ed. Maurice Hindle)



A family Hallowe'en party, incorporating the historic Festival of Fools. Masked characters will parade along the gaslit streets, enacting early- Christian songs and dances; witches will serve in the shops, ghosts and ghouls will lurk around every corner. Mad Mary Moleskinner and juggler of spells Oswald Pigbladder will do their stuff. Gravedigger Mr Triteudder will award certificates to junior gravediggers. Fireworks will complete the fun.

Where & when: Ironbridge Gorge Museum, Shrops (01952 432166); tonight 6pm-9.30pm

How much: adults, pounds 3 advance/pounds 3.50 on the gate, children pounds 1/pounds 1.50



"One, two, Freddy's comin' for you/ Three, four, better lock your door/ Five, six, grab your crucifix..." Wes Craven's film (the first and best in what became a list of sequels) begins and ends with this children's song. It was the film that introduced Freddy Krueger, the horribly scarred man with the slouch hat and knife-tipped metal gloves, who preys on his victims as they sleep. Far from being an exercise in mindless bloodletting, the film effectively probes the viewer's terror of nightmares. Its success partly hinges on our never being sure whether the protagonists are dreaming or not. "This film used Surrealism to revive the slasher movie," says Kim Newman.

Where & when: any large video retailer

How much: pounds 30.63 plus VAT, as part of a three-pack



Ghost expert Richard Jones assures us that from time to time at this old Berkshire pub the imprint of a child's hand inexplicably appears on one of the window panes. The hand is said to belong to a young boy from Victorian times, who froze to death outside while his father caroused within. The child's last moments were spent pressed to the pub window, imploring his father to come to his aid. If the hand itself doesn't oblige when you visit, the pub management will produce a photograph of the phenomenon.

Where & when: Datchet, Berks (01753 548218)

How much: the cost of whatever you fancy



"Awesome views, awesome ride," is the verdict from Andy Hine. And it really is big. Blackpool's dipper is the tallest, fastest rollercoaster in the world and cost a staggering pounds 12m to build in 1994. The ride reaches speeds of 85mph, has a first drop of 235 feet at an angle of 65 degrees, and is just over a mile in length. Owing to its immense height, the law requires that it sports aircraft-warning beacons.

Where & when: Blackpool Pleasure Beach, Lancs (01253 341033); daily 10am to dusk, to 8 Nov, then weekends only to 1 Jan

How much: pay-as-you-ride, pounds 4.20



Robert Louis Stevenson's novel is the first psychological horror story about split-personality disorder. In the opinion of Christopher Frayling: "It's not about monsters at all, it's about the beast within - what goes on inside your eyes, rather than in front of them. Freud's theories hadn't been invented when it was written, but Stevenson is clearly struggling towards modern psychology. Everyone knows the plot, but that doesn't spoil it - it's only the starting point."

How much: pounds 3.99 (Puffin)



Duelling demonstrations, ghost stories and a children's witch-hunt are planned at Warwick Castle. Visitors can witness a dagger duel between two Puritans disputing whether a certain female is guilty of witchcraft. When she screams for mercy, the audience can help decide her fate. Medieval knights fight with each other over whether Joan of Arc is guilty of heresy (in fact, the Earl of Warwick presided over her trial). Also, in the Armoury there will be story-telling on a castle theme - including one tale about Sir Fulke Greville, who, according to legend, still haunts the Ghost Tower.

Where & when: Warwick Castle, Warks (01926 406600); today & Sun 10am- 6pm How much: adults, pounds 9.25; children, pounds 5.60



This unpretentious thriller kicks off in small-town Illinois on the night of Hallowe'en, 1963, when a young boy in a mask inexplicably stabs his sister and her boyfriend to death. He is incarcerated, but escapes 15 years later (of course) to wreak Hallowe'en havoc on his home community. The psychiatrist Dr Loomis (a wildly over-the-top Donald Pleasence) is in hot pursuit, while bookish schoolgirl Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis) makes the bad, bad decision to stay home alone instead of going to the high-school party. "The key stalk-and-slash film," says Kim Newman.

Where & when: available from any large video retailer

How much: pounds 5.99 (to buy)



Its reputation as the most haunted village in England has made Pluckley a Mecca for ghost hunters, according to Richard Jones. They come in search of the Red Lady, who seeks her dead baby among the graves of the village church, or the highwayman whose screams echo around "Fright Corner". Less assiduous ghost hunters can take tea at the old blacksmith's forge and keep watch for the Tudor wench who is said to turn the spit in the enormous fireplace. Others might care to take a stroll round the village and sample its several unexplained "cold spots".

Where & when: off the A28 between Ashford and Canterbury in Kent



"This is one of the most extreme rides in the world," says Andy Hine, who has tried most, if not all of them. Sited in the depths of a 30-metre hole blasted out of solid rock, Nemesis takes the passenger on a journey to the very limits of physical and emotional endurance. Unlike any other ride in Europe, you ride outside the loop of its skeletal framework, swooping through narrow ravines and tunnels, and are subjected to inverted loops, stall turns and four very long seconds of weightlessness.

Where & when: Alton Towers, Staffs (0990 204060); daily 9.30am to dusk, to 8 Nov. How much: unlimited access, adults, pounds 19.50; under 14s, pounds 15.50; family ticket (two adults, two children), pounds 59



"M R James is quite simply the finest writer of ghost stories ever," says Christopher Frayling. "They're always set in an academic context, about university chaps who find out very nasty things while they're researching. They uncork the wrong bottle, unearth the wrong papers, dig up the wrong place... James was provost of Eton and a fellow of Kings College, and the stories have this wonderful candlelit, academic atmosphere, surrounded by incredible nastiness. Tweedy, but unpleasant."

How much: pounds 1.99 (Senate)



This splendid 17th-century pile is where The Draughtsman's Contract was filmed - and there'll be plenty more spooky goings-on at today's Hallowe'en Adventure (which may be fully booked, so phone ahead to check), with jugglers, stilt-walkers and a fortune teller. Otherwise, you can visit the Enchanted Forest, where natural grottoes are cut into the roots of gnarled old trees, and decorated with bits of mirror and found objects by contemporary artists.

Where & when: Groombridge, near Tunbridge Wells, East Sussex (01892 861444); today & Sun, from 9am to dusk How much: adults, pounds 5.50; children, pounds 3.50



A strange choice? Not at all, says film buff Kim Newman. "The Wicked Witch is one of the most terrifying creatures in the canon of family films," he says. "It's the most frightening film ever made for the under-10s." That hideous cackling laugh, those bad teeth, that greenish skin, plus all those terrifying flying-monkey henchmen, still conspire to send many a child cowering behind the sofa. The closing scenes in the inner sanctum of Oz are impressive, too, to junior eyes. This 60-year-old classic creaks a bit now, but there's not been another movie like it, and there's still no place like home.

Where & when: any large video retailer How much: pounds 12.99 (to buy)



This guided walk, in the company of "Victorian undertaker, the late Thomas Bodie RIP", is among the most reliable of the many London ghost walks - and the only one to be conducted by a man fresh from his grave. Thos Brodie, aka Richard Jones, is a committed storyteller, illusionist and psychic specialist, who shares his enthusiasm with fellow hunters in the dimly lit alleyways, graveyards and hidden courtyards of the City.

Where & when: exit one, Blackfriars Underground station, 8pm, no need to book in advance; walk lasts about two hours, and takes place five evenings a week (info: 0181 530 8443)

How much: pounds 4.50



"The sheer anticipation before the launch is enough to send your pulse racing," says Andy Hine. PlayStation catapults riders vertically up a 210ft tower at 80mph, then thrusts them back down again for an incredible free-fall descent. Survivors report an experience "comparable to ejecting from a fighter plane".

Where & when: Blackpool Pleasure Beach, Lancs (01253 341033); daily 10am to dusk, to 8 Nov, then weekends only to 1 Jan

How much: pay-as-you-ride, pounds 2.10



"This is the book that invented the horror genre and spawned a thousand imitations," says Christopher Frayling. "The plot is based on a dream which Horace Walpole wrote down when he woke up. In the 1740s, it caused a real craze for people inducing nightmares by such means as eating undercooked meat last thing at night, hoping to make a similar fortune. Set in the Middle Ages, it has all the features of Gothic: a haunted castle, a haunted suit of armour, a fully fledged medieval battle... Gothic is one of Britain's greatest inventions. Hollywood took it over. But we started it."

How much: pounds 6.99 (the Three Gothic Novels omnibus is published by Penguin)



Real train enthusiasts, young or old, won't be fobbed off with fey fairground rides. This is the real thing: a special Hallowe'en trip in the dark on the Kirklees Light Railway, running between Clayton West and Cuckoo's Nest stations. The spooks commence even before you board, with an incident on the platform involving the driver (they won't say more). Characters in costume will be posted up and down the line, and another tableau will unfold as you wait for the engine to turn at half-time. Fancy dress is encouraged, though not required. Patrons can recuperate and soothe frayed nerves in the ghostly station cafe.

Where & when: Kirklees Light Railway Station, Clayton West, West Yorks (01484 865727); tonight & Sun 6pm, 6.45pm & 7.30pm

How much: adults, pounds 5, children, pounds 3.50



Stephen King's American-gothic novel is the basis of Stanley Kubrick's powerful, but at times slightly camp horror flick. Jack Nicholson plays the ex-schoolmaster who, looking for peace and quiet to write a novel, takes a job as the off-season caretaker in a Colorado hotel. Wife (Shelley Duvall) and son (Danny Lloyd) get to go too. When they arrive, the father is warned that the isolation of the Overlook Hotel in winter can unhinge a man: the last caretaker axed his family to death. Sure enough, soon Jack Nicholson is bedevilled by thoughts of chopping flesh.

Where & when: any large video retailer How much: pounds 10.99 (to buy)



Fell walkers heading for England's highest peak could encounter some of the many spectres said to inhabit Cumbria, says Anne Jenkins - in particular, a galloping horse at Burnmoor, near Wasdale Head. Last century a young Dalesman was being carted to his funeral when the horses took fright. The dead man's mother died of shock and the horse which later carried her coffin bolted at the same spot. The second horse was never found and is said to gallop past anybody foolish enough to be out on the moor. Up in the mountains, Sty Head Pass is said to be haunted by a 13th-century outlaw.

Where & when: Scafell Pike, near Wasdale Head, Cumbria, off the A595 (Cumbria Tourist Board info: 01539 444444)



The world's first medieval horror museum gives a grisly view of European history as a litany of torture, disease, death and damnation. As well as installations offering a "Jack the Ripper Experience" and "The Theatre of the Guillotine", it now features a "Judgement Day Ride" during which visitors travel through Traitor's Gate on a boat ride to Hell.

Where & when: London Dungeon, Tooley Street, London SE1 (0171 403 0606); daily 10am-4.30pm

How much: adults, pounds 8.95, students, pounds 7.95, children and senior citizens, pounds 6.50



"Chunky volumes of the Stephen King school may be okay for the beach, but they don't impress me," says Christopher Fowler. "I prefer my horrors closer to home and a little less cute." This annual publication is a modern take on the old Pan Books of Horror - not your traditional ghost stories, but tales of weird happenings in Nineties Britain: in the home, in the workplace, even on the Internet.

How much: pounds 16.99 (Gollancz)



Among the creatures patrolling the corridors today and tomorrow is an assortment of ghouls, ghosts, zombies and a blood-sucking count with funny teeth. Generous to a fault, these characters will be handing out Hamley's trick-or-treat goodie bags to all children who can keep their nerve. There's also a treasure hunt with prizes of pounds 50 in Hamley's vouchers, as well as face-painting on the Hallowe'en theme, puppet making and pumpkin carving.

Where & when: County Hall Riverside Building, London SE1 (0171 967 8025), nearest Underground, Waterloo; today & Sun 10am-6pm, last admission, 5pm How much: adults, pounds 7; children, pounds 5



Kim Newman is convinced that "a whole generation were traumatised as children by the wicked Queen". Disney may have softened the original Grimm Brothers' story in this early masterpiece of animation, but there remain sequences of pure terror, especially in his treatment of Snow White's stepmother (voiced, as were all Disney's memorable villainesses, by an insinuating Eleanor Audley). Elsewhere, the film overcomes its own cuteness by making each character believable and distinct: a feature which broke new ground in its day.

Where & when: any large video retailer How much: pounds 5.99, or pounds 10.99 widescreen (to buy)



This Jacobean hall, built on the site of Anne Boleyn's family home and now owned by the National Trust, is said to be haunted by the hapless queen carrying her severed head. It forms part of a seven-day motoring itinerary devised by the East of England Tourist Board, which starts at St Albans and also takes in the Fens, where unwary travellers are traditionally lured to their doom. The Board also proposes routes which explore East Anglia's witchcraft connections.

Where & when: Blickling, Norfolk (01263 733084) on the B1354 NW of Aylesham; today & Sun 1-4.30pm. Itineraries from the East of England Tourist Board (01473 822922)

How much: admission is pounds 6



"This is the best stand-up rollercoaster in the world," says Andy Hine, "as well as being the only one in Europe." The pounds 4m white-knuckle ride whirls passengers to a dizzy height of 120 feet, then swirls them through nearly four times the force of gravity in a series of loops, corkscrews and turns, including a heartline spiral unique to this type of coaster.

Where & when: Drayton Manor Park, Tamworth, Staffs (01827 287979); daily 10.30am to dusk, to 1 Nov

How much: unlimited rides, adults, pounds 10, children under 14, pounds 7.50, children under four, free



William Peter Blatty's novel is often overlooked in favour of the flashier film (which, incidentally, caused such moral outrage after it was released in the mid-1970s that it continues to be refused a licence to transfer to video). But, in the view of Christopher Fowler, "the less sensational book remains an intelligent, serious exploration of good and evil. Be warned: it still has great power to disturb."

How much: pounds 5.99 (Corgi)



Time to dig out the hairy- hand gloves, the fright wig, or the satin basque and suspenders for a party in honour of the cult Seventies stage show, currently being revived in the West End. Fancy dress is not obligatory but strongly recommended, as there are tickets to the Rocky Horror Show itself to be won.

Where & when: Capital Radio Cafe, Leicester Square, London WC2 (0171 930 3191); tonight 8pm

How much: pay bar, entrance is free



Kim Newman describes this "Vietnam-era zombie movie" as "probably the most influential horror film of the last 30 years". Despite its mostly amateur cast, its home-made special effects, and cheap, grainy black-and- white film stock, director George Romero succeeds in creating and sustaining a genuine sense of dread. Its plot is pretty standard: a group of strangers trapped together in a small house are attacked by the living dead. But Romero manages to give his flesh-eating zombies metaphor and meaning.

Where & when: available from any large video retailer

How much: pounds 10.99 (to buy)



"York's ghostly apparitions have Roman origins," says Richard Jones. "In 1953, a plumber working in the cellar of the 17th-century Treasurer's House heard a trumpet blast and fell off his ladder when a troop of Roman soldiers marched past and through the wall opposite." The York guides on this walk forgo theatricality and gimmicks in favour of historical accuracy and traditional storytelling.

Where & when: meet at The King's Arms, Ouse Bridge, York (01904 764222); nightly 8pm

How much: adults, pounds 3; children, pounds 2



"You fly like a bird on this amazing scary ride," says Andy Hine. Others have described it as "a parachute jump without the parachute". It's short - lasting only a few seconds - but absolutely terrifying. Passengers are secured in a harness (up to three together) and hoisted to a height of 160 feet, then dropped at 60mph. A child as young as four has reported an enjoyable experience. Others may need persuading.

Where & when: American Adventure World, Ilkeston, Derbyshire (01773 531521); daily 10am to dusk, to 1 Nov

How much: adults, pounds 12.99; children under 3ft tall, free; children under 11, pounds 9.99; senior citizens, pounds 2.50. Extra charge for Skycoaster: pounds 15 for up to three people.



The film starring Mia Farrow (above) was a benchmark in celluloid occult horror, but Ira Levin's novel, in the view of Christopher Fowler, "displays a more insidious darkness. The reason the book chills you to the marrow is because it truly understands the heart of its protagonist." The plot preys on the fears of all soon-to-be-parents who wonder how their unborn child will turn out - though devilish little eyes and budding satanic horns don't normally feature in their wildest nightmares.

How much: pounds 5.99 (Signet)



For a wild mix of live and undead music, get on down to the Frat Shack at the 333 Club. Bands playing for this Hallowe'en special include Saturn V & Orbit, the 5678s and the Wildebeests. The DJs will be spinning a mix of boogaloo rock'n'roll, R'n'B stompin' soul, and Sixties garage twist beat. This is a night out with adults in mind, and fancy dress is "encouraged".

Where & when: 333 Club, Old Street, London EC1 (0171739 1800); tonight 10pm

How much: entrance costs pounds 10



Jacques Tourneur's film is that rare thing: a literate, understated horror movie. Although earlier works had linked horror with sexuality, this study of a woman tainted by an ancient Balkan curse (the newly-wed heroine believes that if she consummates her marriage, she will turn into a panther and kill her husband) is more explicit than anything that came before it. Superbly, subtly acted by the lead Simone Simon, the film testifies to the triumph of imagination over budget in great cinema. "A first-rate psychological monster movie," says Kim Newman.

Where & when: available from any large video retailer

How much: pounds 5.99 (to buy)



The ghost of Princess Mary, wife of William of Orange, is said to haunt this 1630s hotel. Those of a suggestible bent and sharp hearing may catch the sound of the carriage sent from Brixham by the King to meet her during their courtship. It's said to echo through the courtyard of the hotel from time to time. More disconcertingly, one of the hotel rooms occasionally fills with smoke for no apparent reason. The fug is said to emanate from an old sailor, long deceased.

Where & when: The Quay, Dartmouth, Devon (01803 833033)

How much: B&B starts from pounds 96.90 for a standard double room; pounds 63.45 per person single occupancy



"Prepare for the blast of your life on this one," says Andy Hine. A ride on Eruption begins "in the bowels of a volcano", then hurls passengers 200 feet in the air through smoke and "lava", with a heart-stopping acceleration of 0-60mph in only three seconds. Your heart is left in your mouth as you then drop back to earth, apparently weightless.

Where & when: Fantasy Island, Ingoldmells, Lincs (01754 872030); daily 10am-4pm, to 1 Nov

How much: free admission, then pay as you ride - no more than pounds 5 per ride



"Not for Poe the nameless lurking horrors that infested Lovecraft's landscapes," comments Christopher Fowler. "He was much more fascinated by the disturbed contours of the human psyche" - as revealed in such shadowy tales as "The Fall of the House of Usher". This impressionistic, American-gothic fable of murky family dealings had an influence on numerous other artists and writers, particularly in Europe at the turn of the century. Claude Debussy even used the plot for an opera.

How much: pounds 2.99 (Penguin Classics)



Stephen Mallatratt's stage adaptation of Susan Hill's ghost story is now in its 10th year in the West End, and shows no sign of letting up. To cut a complex story short, it's set in the 1890s and concerns the strange and occult events that are triggered when a young man attempts to settle an old lady's will. Don't let anyone tell you what happens at the end: the final twist still leaves audiences quaking. "Take tranquillisers," warned Time Out; "A truly nerve-shredding experience," said the Daily Mail.

Where & when: Fortune Theatre, Russell Street, London WC2 (0171 836 2238); Mon-Sat 8pm; matinees Tue 3pm, & Sat 4pm

How much: pounds 8.50-pounds 23.50



This John Carpenter movie is a remake of the 1951 The Thing From Another World, about a shape-shifting alien which turns up in a research base in the Antarctic. The importance of the film, says Kim Newman, is that it's the most effective of the wave of FX films which emerged in the 1980s. "Advanced technology meant they didn't need to hide the creature in the shadows any more, they could bring it into full view and you still couldn't see the zip." Kurt Russell is the star. For the rest, it's "mostly middle- aged actors looking worried".

Where & when: available from any large video retailer

How much: pounds 5.99 or pounds 10.99 widescreen (to buy)



This Grade I listed neo-Gothic hotel has some unusual long-term residents. In the library, it's alleged that a book flies out of the bookcase of its own accord, always falling at the page which bears these lines of verse by Wordsworth: "A merry place, 'tis said, in days of yore/ But something ails it now - the place is cursed!" In the Stour Suite, lights switch themselves on and off, the telephone plays up, and there have been sightings of a "grey lady", thought to be the ghost of a servant girl who died there.

Where & when: Alderminster, on the A3400 nr Stratford-on-Avon, Warks (01789 450123)

How much: B&B starts from pounds 185 for a standard double room; pounds 125 per person single occupancy



"Say goodbye to your stomach on this one," says Andy Hine. The Bullet ride, which has petrified visitors for the last seven years, has recently undergone mechanical changes which give it an extra boost. Its unique propulsion effect rockets passengers to the top of the highest roller-coaster drop of its kind, before plunging at speed into a 360-degree revolution.

Where & when: Flamingo Land Theme Park, Malton, North Yorks (01653 668287); weekends only 10am-5pm

How much: unlimited access, adults & children over four, pounds 9.95, under fours, free, senior citizens, pounds 5, family ticket, pounds 34



"I can whole-heartedly recommend this new anthology of urban unease," enthuses its author Christopher Fowler, "and not simply because it includes a grim Christmas short story written for The Independent, but because I spent two years writing the damned thing!"

How much: pounds 8.99 (published by Serpent's Tail)



Hertfordshire's most prominent historic house (haunted, of course) opens this weekend for Hallowe'en. For families, Gothic Goblins Tours is offering a 90-minute tour in the morning (booking necessary), and the ticket allows you to stay on to explore the park, pet cemetery and maze. At nightfall, Twilight Tours proposes a Hallowe'en drink in the Jacobean banqueting hall, followed by a tour which dwells on Knebworth's ghostly superstitions and sightings.

Where and when: Knebworth House, nr Stevenage, Herts (01438 812661); today 10am-3pm, for Gothic Goblins tour, 6.30pm for Twilight Tour

How much: morning tour, pounds 5; twilight tour, including wine, pounds 15


Kim Newman, novelist, film journalist and editor of the BFI's Companion to Horror (pounds 19.99), selected our scary videos.

Professor Christopher Frayling, Rector of the Royal College of Art and a champion of the gothic novel; and Christopher Fowler, author of modern urban chillers such as Soho Black (pounds 8.99) and Disturbia (pounds 5.99, both Little, Brown), chose the most frightening books in print.

The Late Thomas Bodie RIP, aka Richard Jones, director of Discovery Walks, which leads ghostly tours of various British cities, recommended the best haunted places to visit. His book, Walking Haunted London, is due to be published in March next year.

Andy Hine, founder and chairman of the Roller Coaster Club of Great Britain, chose the scariest theme-park rides. Anne Jenkins, of the English Tourist Board, recommended Hallowe'en events. Our thanks to them all.