Halloween (31st October)

Why do we celebrate Halloween? Because it’s fun! Who doesn’t like to play at being a monster, or a little bit naughty, at least for a while?


Halloween, short for “All Hallow’s Evening”, is a yearly event celebrated on 31st October. It’s thought to be a western equivalent of the many Festivals of the Dead held by cultures around the world. It has its roots in the celebrations of ancient pagan religions, specifically the Celtic Samhain festival.

Samhain marked the end of the harvest and the beginning of winter: the ‘darker half’ of the year. It was believed that at this time of year, the barrier between the world of the living and the world of the dead was very thin. Those still living would dress up in scary costumes to prevent themselves being possessed by the malevolent spirits of those who had died in the previous year. This practice, called ‘guising,’ may be the origin of the modern ‘trick or treat’.

Witches Dance around cauldron

Popularised in the USA in the 1950s, ‘trick or treat’ involves groups of children dressing up and going door to door, asking for treats, usually in the form of sweets. Over the past few years, the ‘All Hallow’s Read’ campaign has promoted the idea of giving away scary books alongside or in place of sweets. If no treat is forthcoming, the children might perform a trick, some small act of mischief, on the homeowners.

Pumpkins are everywhere at Halloween – with their tops sliced off, insides hollowed out and replaced with a candle and scary faces cut into the shell. These so-called Jack-o’-lanterns were originally meant to represent benevolent spirits, ward off evil and simply light the way during dark winter evenings. These days, they are mostly a fun outlet for a bit of creativity.

Among grown up fans of Halloween, dressing up and going out is popular. Here are a few ghastly events that you could go to.

Creepy Club Nights

Evil events

  • Cardiff Castle Ghost Tour Explore the Castle’s history from a completely different angle: through tales of ghostly encounters from times gone past to the present day.

Revolting Recipes

Pumpkin & Ginger Soup Recipe

Toffee Apples

Make your own fun sized KitKat
(but you might not want to give one of those to a trick or treater)

Marvellous Monsters!

You might like to consider dressing up as one of these creatures. If not, it’s best to know about them anyway, in case you meet one in a dark alley. Forewarned is forearmed.

The Great God Pan
Arthur Machen isn’t widely known today, but early in the last century he was king of supernatural horror fiction. One of his biggest fans was the far better known HP Lovecraft (the guy who invented the Cthulhu Mythos) and Stephen King has described Machen’s novella The Great God Pan as “one of the best horror stories ever written”.
Machen was born in Caerleon and much of his fiction was set in South Wales. Vampires may be scary but they live miles away in Transylvania – what greater horrors lurk all around us? Bwa-ha-ha!

Bwca Lwyd
The Mari Lwyd and closely related Bwca Lwyd are peculiarly Welsh horrors, local to Gwent and Glamorgan (uh-oh!)

The tradition is physically represented by a horse skull on a pole with leather and sometimes bells as decorations, and a blanket to hide the person holding it. A party of men will accompany this bizarre effigy through the streets, stopping at every house and singing Welsh songs with the residents – the songs, according to some sources, are asking for beer money. Frightening and perplexing in equal measures, Mari Lwyd haunts Welsh towns and villages around midwinter and New Year, while Bwca Lwyd, a much rarer beast, appears around All Hallow’s Eve. It is said to be good luck to be visited by the monster, provided you are suitably hospitable and generous! Youtube has some footage of the beast.

Terrifying Tunes

Get in the mood for Halloween with these:

Vampires and Werewolves
The link between Wales and any of these creatures is tenuous at best, but the recent TV series ‘Being Human’ featured them all. Being Human was shot in Wales, in the sleepy seaside town (or is it?) of Barry, South Glamorgan.

“There are lots of them in Wales.
Ty Crawshay (on the Treforest campus) is said to be haunted, and Caerleon’s ghost even has a name!

Daleks, Cybermen and Weeping Angels
Doctor Who, perhaps Britain’s best loves children’s science fiction horror TV show, is filmed in Wales. Find out more about the various monsters the Doctor encounters on the BBC website.

The University would like to strenuously deny all reports of zombies on campus. Investigations have revealed that any zombie sightings on campus were probably people attending 9am lectures or survivors of 6am fire drills in halls.