Happy Halloweek, fellow readers (all 17 of you! hi Mom!). If you, like me, were raised on a steady diet of Happy Meals and American pop culture, chances are that at some point in your life, you felt the urge to put on a scary costume and go trick-or-treating, but were too afraid that your local babushka will call the cops on you or that a group of neo-nazis will denounce you for being “anti-patriotic”. Yup, the early 2000s were a wild ride in Eastern Europe.
But anyway, you’re all grown up now and have moved away from the Halloween haters, only to find yourself in Paris, where the predominant attitude to the holiday of the undead is…inconsistent, at best. While a lot of small children and their millennial parents seem to have fully embraced it and would dress up, carve pumpkins and even organize trick-or-treating events in their schools or communities, the spectre of the All Saints seems to have passed right through us unfortunate twenty-something souls.
Don’t get me wrong, a lot of people still have Halloween parties, especially since November 1st is always a holiday in France, but for the majority of people, it seems like just another casual excuse to party (or, for bars and clubs, to charge you extra for the same services). A lot of people don’t even wear costumes, let alone fully immerse themselves in the spooky holiday atmosphere.
But fear not, cause I’m here to right those wrongs and bring the undead back to Paris. Here is a list I have compiled of the top 7 activities you can do this week in Paris (or any week, for that matter – Halloween is not a date on the calendar, it’s a state of mind!) in order to feel the spirit of Halloween.
1. Explore the Mysterious and Dark History of Some of Your Favorite Parisian Landmarks With “Sous les Pavés”
Photo: Sous les Pavés, Facebook
Uncover the mysteries of the infamous Père Lachaise cemetery with the help of a vampirologist? Find out all about the centuries-old legends of witches and ghosts haunting the Montmartre? Go on a night walk in the Latin quarter to learn about medieval Paris’s history of occultism, worship of the Devil and the danse macabre? No, I didn’t make this up while tripping on acid – these are all recurrent guided walks and visits by the collective Sous les Pavés that you can sign up for online!
Since these tours are often organized and led by struggling actors with some vague claims of historical background, the authenticity of the presented information may be a bit dubious, but who cares? If you’ve seriously never wanted to get a taste of the darkness that lies beneath the City of Lights (again, not talking about an acid trip at an underground techno club) and the ghost stories that haunt its Gothic cathedrals and dark street corners, you’re either lying or you’re just no fun.
The Sous les Pavés tours do come at a price though – no, not your firstborn or the blood of a virgin – but a relatively modest price of around 15 to 25 euros. Most of their guided tours this week are already fully booked, but the good news is that they do them all year round, so you can keep the Halloween spirit alive at least until Christmas. Alternatively, you can go through their events for inspiration, then do some research online and go chase the fantoms of Paris on your own for free. Just try not to get sucked into a satanist cult, or worse, a French decadent poet society, while you’re at it.
2. Finally Find the Time to Visit the Catacombs
Photo by Travis Grossen
Is there anything that screams “chilling Halloween vibes” more than an 18th century underground ossuary which holds the remains of more than six million people who were taken out of their graves or sometimes even murdered and then buried in a dark long tunnel to address the city’s cemetery overflow problem? And if that’s not enough for these damned souls, their skulls and bones are now very publicly displayed as part of a popular tourist distraction to the same people who were shaking hands with Mickey Mouse or taking engagement photos at the Eiffel Tower just an hour ago.
I don’t know about you, but if I were one of these poor 18th century suckers, I’d be rising out of my common grave and haunting the shit out of the tourists. And even if this doesn’t happen and the Catacombs turn out to be just like any other museum full of dead people, only poorer, at least Halloween would be a good excuse to finally get around to visiting this landmark, which, if you’re anything like me, you’ve likely been putting off since you moved here two years ago. Why not even get a bit wild and go to Versailles or the Bois de Boulogne while you’re at it? Gotta crunch those #cultured insta stories.
3. Go to the WHSmith Bookstore and Café for a Very Potterhead Halloween
I don’t know about you, but for me, there’s no better time to do the annual Harry Potter marathon and reconnect with your inner Potterhead than Halloween. Okay, fine, maybe winter break is even better for that, but still, I feel like the potential of J.K. Rowling’s franchise for summoning your Halloween spirits is frequently understated. For these lucky wizard kids that live among ghosts, mythical creatures and a constant sense of mortal danger in a cool Gothic castle, every day is like Halloween and every dinner in the common hall is the Halloween dinner party you wish you were invited to.
You may not be a wizard or a rich kid in a private British boarding school, but you can relive some of that magic in WHSmith, the British bookstore and café in the heart of Paris. Not only do the old wooden staircase and the walls and windows decor remind you of a gothic library, but the careful selection of books, gifts and curious objects will make you feel like you’re on a day trip to Hogsmeade. Finally, for the O.G. Potterheads, WHSmith has one of the best selections of Harry Potter souvenirs and merchandise, so you can go ahead and really geek it out.
4. Go to a Real Vintage Store
Thrift and vintage shopping are equally great ways to refresh your wardrobe without ruining your bank account, blowing up your carbon footprint or financially supporting child slave labor (#SayNoToFastFashion), but the line between second hand and actual vintage can be quite blurry. Often times, stores would try to pass off late 2000s items for vintage just to jack up the prices, which is not to say that the late 2000s weren’t an iconic era of its own (leave Britney alone!!!), but it can be kinda frustrating.
Photos: TheGreenFan, Facebook
So this Halloween, why not go to a real vintage shop? You know, the ones that sell flapper hats from the 1920s and peignoirs that you can only see on the set of Mad Men nowadays. Whether you’re bringing your A-game to the Halloween office party by dressing up as Joan Holloway, or you’re just looking for some retro inspiration for your personal style, with a touch of imagination, going to a nice vintage store in Paris can feel like travelling back in time. My favorite one is TheGreenFan on boulevard Diderot: it’s warm, cozy and has a mysterious aura, so if I were to place my bets which Parisian shop is owned by a secret time traveller, it would be this one.
5. Watch the Rocky Horror Picture Show at Studio Galande
Here is a special secret for all the pop culture-obsessed camp lovers out there (or is that only me? okay). The Rocky Horror Picture Show is a musical comedy horror movie from the 70s. Although it received horrible reviews, the movie became a pop culture phenomenon when people in New York began showing up to midnight screenings dressed up as the characters, talking back to the screen, singing along etc. The tradition was replicated in movie theaters around the world and in a lot of places, actual theatrical troupes would come in and act as a “shadow cast”, reenacting and lip-syncing live as the movie was showing on the screen.
If you live in Europe, you might know about Rocky Horror from that emo teen movie The Perks of Being a Wallflower, but chances are that you haven’t actually participated in a live show. If you live in Paris though, you’re in luck, because the movie theater Studio Galande is the only one in Europe that is currently doing regular screenings, and they have one on Halloween night!
Photos: Studio Galande, Wikipedia
6. Get Some Chillz at a Haunted House..or a Haunted Wax Museum?
You may have noticed from my previous suggestions that I’m not that big on getting actually scared on Halloween. Yeah, horror movies and shows are cool and all, but I already have enough day to day adult anxieties, you know? Still, if you are the type of person who enjoys jump scares and cheap thrills, you may want to check out Le Manoir de Paris, the only “official” haunted house in the City of Lights.
Or, in case paying 35 euros to get tackled by failed camp counsellors and hearing French children scream isn’t your cup of tea (because honestly, same), you could check out the Musée Grevin, a wax museum that apparently has a special show for the Toussaint where the dead wax figures come to life or some shit. Personally, ever since I saw the 2005 slasher film with Paris Hilton, I’d much rather if wax figures didn’t come to life and pretend to have acting skills, but who am I to judge?
7. Go to an Esoteric Shop and Connect to Your Inner Mysticist
This last one may not be as traditionally spooky and halloweenish as the rest of the lot, and I understand you might have some reservations about going to a shop where a wacky lady who’s not Gwyneth Paltrow will try to sell you egg crystals, but hear me out on this, okay? The key to having a magical Halloween is all about the temporary suspension of disbelief. Sure, most of us don’t actually believe in witches and ghosts, but it doesn’t mean we can’t at least for a night entertain the idea of some form of mysterious forces interfering, if only briefly, with our otherwise boring and mundane lives?
I personally nurture this, hmm, let’s call it supernatural optimism, by religiously reading my horoscopes and analysing my friends’ birth charts, but if you’re not surfing on that high plane, you might be ripe for a short visit to the good ol’ esoteric shop, my friend. And if by any chance you find yourself drawn to its mystical energy and are in the market for something more, know that I do free tarot card readings over coffee or Skype, just sayin’.
That’s all, folks! Let me know what you thought of my ideas, as well as how you plan to stick it to the
heretics haters and have a very Parisian Halloween. And one last thing: Halloween is all about not being afraid to show who you are, whether this is a 150 year old ghost of a Parisian suffragette or a shameless Slutty Pumpkin. You’re doing amazing, sweety!