Since its inception in 2009, the nationwide Museums at Night weekend has traditionally taken place during May. This year, however, a second event has been added and what better time to nocturnally explore many of the country’s most spectacular and atmospheric buildings than over Halloween?
Across our region one of the real highlights runs on 29-31 October at the Georgian Fairfax House, in the heart of the allegedly heavily haunted York. On a tour apparently led by the eponymous Viscount Fairfax – who passed away during 1772 – visitors will be treated to an unvarnished, candlelit insight into 18th century life.
Further spooky goings-on are expected a little further east on 30 October when another original inhabitant, this time Dame Margaret Constable, is tipped to return to Hull’s Burton Constable Hall. Considering previous visitors to the Elizabethan mansion house have reported sightings of ghostly nuns and vanishing labradors, it’ll be a night to expect the unexpected.
On the same evening Halifax’s Shibden Hall features a Spooktacular Halloween Walk around the atmospheric, wooded estate. For those who dare brave the expected visitations (and the changeable weather West Yorkshire offers up during late October) there will be a firework finale, rides and various other forms of entertainment.
On All Hallows’ Eve itself the wonderfully atmospheric Brontë Parsonage in Haworth has candlelit tours alongside a selection of macabre tales courtesy of the Brontës’ original housekeeper, Tabitha Aykroyd, who sadly left us in 1855. Situated alongside the village’s St Michael and All Angels’ church, departing the venue may prove as unnerving as the yarn-spinning spectre inside.
Also in West Yorkshire on Halloween, but with a somewhat more 20th century feel, the Royal Armouries in Leeds presents a Night of the Living Dead. Running around a narrative of a military training exercise gone bad, proceedings open with special effects and the chance to be zombified by makeup artists, followed by a screening of the classic 1968 George A Romero horror film. Visitors are encouraged to wear ghoulish fancy dress (with comfortable shoes) but give proceedings a miss if you’re claustrophobic or of a nervous disposition. You have been warned.
Following a similar theme Leeds’ Thackray Medical Museum is, with remarkable prescience, predicting that the evening of Halloween will find the entire premises quarantined following the discovery of an incurable virus. Those surviving a trip through the building’s infected interior will be rewarded with a zombie disco, complete with fully stocked bar and a selection of presumably undead-friendly bar snacks. An 18-plus occasion, the event runs until half past midnight for those interested in staying right until the death.
“The beauty of Museums at Night is it opens our most treasured venues at a time when our imaginations have permission to fly,” explains campaigns manager Nick Stockman, summarising the broad variety of events. “It’s dark outside but warm indoors and there’ll be ghost tours, creepy craft and ghoulish stories for all the family. Then, as the night closes in, the adults come out to play, so whichever venue you end up in I guarantee you’ll have a memorable time. But just make sure you watch out behind you.”
Museums at Night runs 30-31 October, various venues
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