If you're looking for ghosts and ghouls this month, chances are you'll get a better fright in Romania than you will trick-or-treating down Elm Street.
Head to a region of the country known as Transylvania and you'll find Bran Castle, also called "Dracula's Castle." It's said that Dracula author Bram Stoker based the novel's seductive, blood-sucking vampire on the very real 15th-century Prince Vlad the Impaler, who lived in the castle from 1456 to 1462.
The scary space is now a museum. Step inside, and its gothic architecture, winding stairways and narrow, underground passages alone might send a chill up your spine. If that doesn't do the trick, attend any number of daily "witch trials" reenacted on the castle's grounds. Here, actors recreate the vicious methods of torture, including hangings, burnings at the stake and beheadings, that Vlad the Impaler used on his enemies.
Those kinds of frights prove popular. Bran Castle, which is on the market for an estimated $140 million, draws over half a million visitors a year and brings in over $60 million in expenditures, such as lodging, ground transportation and souvenirs, according to Simion Alb, director of the Romanian Tourist Office, North America.
Not prepared to fly to Eastern Europe? Dracula's Castle isn't the only petrifying place cashing in on its dark past.
"Haunted is becoming very popular," says Jeff Belanger, author of The World's Most Haunted Places and Encyclopedia of Haunted Places. "In some locations, ghosts are part of the marketing plan."
That seems to be the case in Sleepy Hollow, N.Y. Each October, visitors gather here to catch a glimpse of an actor playing The Headless Horseman from Washington Irving's novel The Legend of Sleepy Hollow ride through the area. Those in town for the Hudson Valley's Legend Weekends (this year, Oct. 19-21 and Oct. 26-28) head to the candlelit Philipsburg Manor, previously a milling site, and wander the 25 acres of grounds while actors playing ghosts, goblins, witches and pirates come to life. The neighboring towns of Irvington and Tarrytown offer visitors haunted hayrides, street fairs and all-ages storytelling nights.
Last year, over 47,000 people attended the Hudson Valley's Halloween events. This year, event organizers are hoping to bring in 70,000 visitors and have already sold 61,000 tickets, a 77 percent increase over last year.
Other spooky spots offer less gimmick, but more ghoul.
Some of those who visit the Catacombs in Paris, France, a subterranean holding place for bodies exhumed in the 18th century from the city's overcrowded graveyards, are drawn more to reports of ghost sightings and mysterious voices than they are to scores of human bones stacked high along the mass tomb's walls.
Across the Channel, the Tower of London attracts tourists hoping to spot the ghost of Anne Boleyn, the executed wife of King Henry VIII. It's said her spirit walks the halls cradling her decapitated head and searching for her unfaithful husband, who executed her so he could marry another woman.
At both places, "you can explore history from a ghostly perspective and discover the supernatural side of an old city," says Belanger. "It's not just going to the Louvre like everyone else. It's creepier."
It's also possible to tailor a luxury vacation around these spots.
Head to the Catacombs, for example, and spend the weekend at the Four Seasons Hotel George V Paris. It offers rooms with private terraces overlooking the cityscape and is a quick walk to the Golden Triangle, the city's luxury-shopping mecca. Soothe your shivers while in London at the Bentley. A lavish boutique hotel in Kensington, it features rooms with Jacuzzis and a spa boasting treatments such as an Indian head massage and reflexology.
Certainly helps one get into the spirit of things.