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How Derry Became the Best Halloween Destination in the World

at Derry's Halloween parade

Courtesy Ben Kelly, The Independent

The best place to celebrate Halloween in the world. It must be Transylvania, the home of Dracula, right? Or Salem, Massachusetts, for its history of witches, right. Maybe even New York, for its celebrity-led annual Village Parade. One place you almost certainly wouldn’t think of is Derry – the second city of Northern Ireland. But that’s where you’d be wrong. I was born and bred in Derry, so don’t take my word for it. Instead, listen to USA Today, who named Derry the “best Halloween destination in the world” in 2015. If Americans say someone else does Halloween better, you can guarantee they do.

Growing up, I would dress up with my family and join the Halloween parade as it snaked through the streets, before assembling to watch a spectacular fireworks display from the banks of the River Foyle.

I thought everywhere did this. It was only when I first moved away from Derry for university that I realised Halloween wasn’t nearly as big a deal anywhere else, and I’ve always wondered how our city came to be such an essential festive location. The answer, it seems, has its roots in Irish history.

In 1986, the city council stepped in to make Halloween more of an organised event. Arthur Arbuckle was one of the workers who helped put that first year together.

“It was a very small carnival,” he tells me. “We built a stage in the Guildhall Square, there was a small band, no parade – just a festival which then grew year after year. I’ve spoken to people who’ve come from all over the world: England, Germany, America. They just thought it was the greatest thing ever.”

That certainly rings true for the people I spoke to. Lorenzo De Martino – an Italian living in London – visited Derry for Halloween with friends a few years ago, and remembers how the locals “truly embraced” the whole affair.

“I was positively surprised at the effort people made for fancy dress, and how big an event is actually is,” he says. “It wasn’t just about finding a ready-made costume to wear but to go and find different pieces in different shops to create the best and most original outfit.”

17th-century walls at Derry
The 17th-century walls are an integral part of Derry’s festivities

Otherwise known as being a city of song and dance, rich in history with a reputation for a good night out, the Halloween celebrations fuse the best of Derry together – starting with the 17th-century city walls that give it its nickname, the Walled City (Derry is the only fully intact walled city in Ireland). While they’ve often been seen as a divisive symbol in a city largely populated by Irish nationalists, now the Halloween “wakening of the walls” – which see them brought to life with art projections and nearby parades – has given them a new significance.

In 2013, the Halloween carnival was one of the centrepieces of Derry’s year as UK City of Culture. On the occassion of its 30th anniversary in 2016, the council estimates 80,000 people took part in four days of festivities – with 30,000 people attending the main carnival itself. It’s unique in the world, insists Whoriskey. “We don’t know of anywhere else in Europe that puts on a Halloween carnival like we do – and we have looked hard!”

Halloween night parade at Derry

At this years, Derry’s Halloween festivities start on 28 October and culminate with the parade on 31 October. Visitors can expect fireworks and Jack-o’-lantern competitions (with traditional Irish turnips used for carving in addition to the expected pumpkins). To tie in with this year’s theme of ‘Under the Samhain Moon’, there will be a giant moon on display in the central Guildhall Square – the centre for many activities – before it is released during the final parade.

Of course Halloween isn’t just for children, and it isn’t just for horror fans either. The Derry celebrations will see a harvest market for foodies, the Samhain Sessions for music lovers, as well as plenty of opportunities to scare yourself senseless – literally. The Playhouse Theatre is engaging the help of its resident ghost – supposedly a nun, who lingers there from when the building was a school – and putting on a sensory deprivation exercise called ‘See No Evil’ which involves being put in a room blindfolded, to heighten your other senses.

So, for the best Halloween experience in the world, rooted in the festival’s history, look no further than Derry. And remember: spooky costumes bought in a shop are usually frowned upon, so get creative while you’ve still got time.

More information: derryhalloween.com

Halloween Traditions From Around the World

Courtesy Rudie Obias

Although most Americans spend Halloween dressing up and trick-or-treating, other countries have their own celebratory rituals. Here are a number Halloween (and Halloween-like) traditions from around the world.


Ireland is considered the birthplace of modern Halloween with its origins stemming from ancient Celtic and Pagan rituals and a festival called Samhain, or Samhuinn (end of the light half of the year) that took place thousands of years ago. Today, both Ireland and Scotland celebrate Halloween with bonfires, games, and traditional foods like barmbrack, an Irish fruitcake that contains coins, buttons, and rings for fortunetelling. For example, rings mean marriage, while coins mean wealth in the upcoming year.


From November 1 to November 2, Mexico and parts of Latin America celebrate Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) to honor those who have passed away. It is believed that the Gates of Heaven open up at midnight on October 31 and the souls of children return to Earth to be reunited with their families for 24 hours. On November 2, the souls of adults come down from heaven to join in the festivities.

The holiday is celebrated with in-home altars full of fruit, peanuts, turkey, soda, hot chocolate, water, stacks of tortillas and a special holiday bread called pan de muerto (bread of the dead), which are left as offerings for weary ghosts. For the souls of children, families leave out toys and candy, while adult souls receive cigarettes and shots of mezcal.


Bran Castle, Romania

People from all around the world flock to celebrate Halloween at Vlad “The Impaler” Tepes’s purported home at Bran Castle in Transylvania, Romania. There are a number of guides and inclusive travel packages in Romania that offer tours and parties at Count Dracula’s castle for Halloween.


At the end of every October for the past 21 years, nearly 4000 costumed Halloween enthusiasts from all around the world have gathered in Kawasaki, just outside Tokyo, for the Kawasaki Halloween Parade, which is the biggest parade of its kind in Japan. However, not everyone can simply join in the festivities. The Kawasaki Halloween Parade has strict guidelines and standards, so you have to apply for entry two months before the parade begins.


Pangangaluluwa is a tradition in the Philippines where children go door to door, often in costumes, where they sing and ask for prayers for those stuck in purgatory. While the ritual have increasingly been supplanted by trick-or-treating over the years, some towns are working tirelessly to revive Pangangaluluwa as a way of keeping the tradition alive, and as a local fundraiser.


On the 15th day of the seventh lunar month, which is around mid-August to mid-September, the people of Hong Kong celebrate the Hungry Ghost Festival. In several parts of East Asia, people believe that spirits get restless around this time of year and begin to roam the world. The festival is a way to “feed” these spirits both the food and money they need for the afterlife. It’s part of a larger month-long celebration that also features burning paper and food offerings.


For 16 days during the second Paksha of the Hindu lunar month of Bhadrapada, many people in India celebrate Pitru Paksha. In the Hindu religion it is believed that when a person dies, Yama — the Hindu god of death — takes his or her soul to purgatory, where they’ll find their last three generations of a family. During Pitru Paksha, the souls are briefly allowed to return to Earth and be with their families.

In order to ensure their family’s place in the afterlife, one must perform the ritual of Shraddha, which includes a fire ritual. If  Shraddha isn’t performed, the soul will wanderthe Earth for eternity. During Pitru Paksha, families offer the dead food, such as kheer (sweet rice and milk), lapsi (a sweet porridge), rice, lentils, spring beans, and pumpkins, which are cooked in silver or copper pots and served on banana leaves.


Holy Cross Cemetery in Gniezno, Poland on All Saints Day
Photo courtesy of Diego Delso, via Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

In early November, people across Poland travel to cemeteries to visit the graves of their family members (Dzień Zaduszny is like the equivalent of All Souls’ Day for Catholics in the country). The holiday is celebrated with candles, flowers, and an offering of prayers for departed relatives. On the second day, people attend a requiem mass for the souls of the dead.


Awuru Odo festival
Photo courtesy of Mhubng via Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

The Awuru Odo Festival marks the return of dearly departed friends and family members back to the living. Lasting up to six months, the holiday is celebrated with feasts, music, and masks before the dead return to the spirit world. Although the Odo Festival is an important ritual, it happens once every two years, when it is believed the spirits will return to Earth.


All Saints’ Day, November 1, is a national holiday in Italy. Better known as Ognissanti, the festivities usually begin a couple of days before, when people begin leaving fresh flowers — generally chrysanthemums — on the graves of departed loved ones, as well as complete strangers, turning the country’s cemeteries into a beautiful display of colors. Italians also pay tribute to the departed by putting a red candle in the window at sunset and set a place at the table for those spirits they hope will pay a visit.


On November 1, many Catholics around the world celebrate All Saints’ Day, followed by All Souls’ Day on November 2. It’s an annual time to honor the lives of the saints who died for their Catholic beliefs, as well as the souls of dead family members. In observance of the holiday, people go to mass and visit the graves of their loved ones.

While the event is celebrated worldwide, Germany has its own tradition: many hide their kitchen knives, so that returning spirits won’t be accidentally harmed (or use the same knives to harm the living).


3rd Street Asylum
The Facebook/3rd Street Asylum

As its name suggests, 3rd Street Asylum was once an asylum, and originally constructed in 1918. Soon the asylum was housing some of the most dangerous and violent patients in the entire Midwest. Cited for inhumane living conditions and treatment methods, the 3rd Street Asylum permanently closed in 1983, however, the building comes to life again every Halloween as a haunted house to terrorize visitors.

5 of the Most Haunted Places in Transylvania

Courtesy Kerry Kubilius, TripSavvy

Transylvania has long been known as a place where vampires, werewolves, and the souls of the dead haunt dark forests and spooky-looking fortresses. Associated with Vlad the Impaler, the real Dracula, its history reveals gruesome punishment for intruders or disobedient citizens; Vlad Tepes was given his name as a result of his habit of impaling human bodies on stakes. Many of the most haunted places in Transylvania are also popular tourist attractions.


Traveling Boy Photographer Allan Smith Focuses His Camera on Washington State’s Stunning Mount Baker

Mount Baker, North Cascades, Washington


The US Premiere of “Babylon Berlin” is Unveiled in Los Angeles

the premiere showing of Babylon Berlin at the Theatre at Ace Hotel

In celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Sister City partnership of Berlin and Los Angeles, the upcoming TV series Babylon Berlin recently had its US premiere in Los Angeles at the iconic Theatre at Ace Hotel. The big budgeted  ($45 million) 16 episodes Netflix series, will be available for viewership in 2017 & 2018. Directed by Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run, Cloud Atlas, Hologram for a King), with other episodes directed by Henk Handloegten and Achim von Borri, the series is based on the mystery novels of Volker Kutscher that take place in the decadent underworld of Berlin in the 1920s. In the film, wide-eyed Colognian commissioner, Gereon Rath, moves to Berlin, the epicenter of political and social changes in the Golden Twenties, to investigate a porno ring, and gets caught up in a world of drugs, sex, political intrigue and murder. In writing the novels, Kutscher  said he was inspired by the HBO series, The Sopranos and the writings of Raymond Chandler.  Tykwer used the plot of Kutscher’s novels “as a jumping-off point” to explore the world of 1920s Berlin.

red carpet appearances for Babylon Berlin

The gala US  premiere featured  red carpet appearances with the mayor of Berlin, Michael Müller; director Tykwer and major cast members, Volker Bruch and Liv Lisa Fries. Following the screening, there was a wine reception inside the theater, Babylon Berlin photo booth along with dancing to music provided by DJ Gabriel Mounsey.

2018 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

The nominees for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 2018 class have been revealed, and the list spans multiple genres of music including rock, rap, metal, jazz, R&B, punk, progressive rock, and funk.

The beloved alt-rock band Radiohead joins other first-time nominees including late jazz icon Nina Simone, British heavy-metal group Judas Priest, English singer-songwriter Kate Bush and progressive-rock pioneers The Moody Blues.

Dire Straits in concert, Hamburg, 1978
Photo by Heinrich Klaffs, via Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 2.0

Dire Straits, Depeche Mode, The Zombies, The Cars, MC5 and J. Geils Band are all in the running once again after receiving nominations last year, while Bon Jovi is back in the ring after receiving its first and only nod in 2011.

To be eligible for nomination, an individual artist or band must have released its first commercial recording at least 25 years prior to the year of induction which means the 2018 nominees had to release their first official recording no later than 1992.

Fans can vote for their favorites at RockHall.com. The top five artists chosen by the public will make up a “fans’ ballot” that will be included with the other ballots. The final inductees will be announced in December, determined by a voting body of more than 900 artists, music historians, and music industry insiders.

The 2018 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony will be held April 14 in Cleveland, Ohio, and will air on HBO.

99 Best Destinations for Graffiti and Street-Art

Exploring cities through their graffiti and street-art is the new travel trend. And best of all, it’s totally free to walk around the city and enjoy the amazing art on the walls!

Berlin Wall Graffiti
Photo courtesy of Visit Berlin

At Bombing Science, we wanted to get a sense of what was going on with graffiti this summer and what better way to do that than to explore where people were using the #graffiti hashtag around the world. The world is popping full of colours and artists are making their mark in an expanding list of cities. Rather than pick cities at random, we pulled Instagram data over the summer to deliver to you the Top 99 instagrammable cities for graffiti as brought to you by instagrammers from around the world. It truly is a global experience not to be missed!

Check out the results here


Hands down, this Canadian gem is our pick for the most hilarious, madcap travel show on the cybersphere.

In this zany episode, the Travel Guys take on Ireland.


The World’s 50 Best Bars in 2017 Announced in London


How the voting worked

The final list was compiled by votes from The World’s 50 Best Bars Academy, comprised of more than 500 drinks experts, including renowned bartenders and consultants, drinks writers and cocktail specialists. The Academy of voters is spread across the globe with: 150 based in Europe; 115 based in North America; 70 in Latin America; 110 in Asia; 30 in Africa & the Middle East; and 30 in Australasia. The distribution of voters is designed to reflect the relative development and sophistication of the drinks sector, and the concentration of quality bars, in each region. Each voter casts 7 votes, based on their best bar experiences of the previous 18 months, of which at least 3 must be for bars located outside the voter’s country of residence.

The World’s 50 Best Bars awards was an evening of international celebration, bringing together the best bartending talent from around the globe.

Click here for the winners of the World’s 50 Best Bars

The Story Behind The Beatles’ “Hey Bulldog”

The Beatles’ “Hey Bulldog” has become a revered rocker in recent years, but that wasn’t always the case.

Although it first surfaced on the fairly unpopular Yellow Submarine LP in 1969, it has since appeared seemingly everywhere – from handpicked compilations of the band’s best rock songs, to the Rock Band video game.

From its fairly simple recording in one day to its rise as a not-so-deep track, this video offers a comprehensive look at the now-classic Lennon tune.


The Beatles recording "Hey Bulldog"

Personal Translator Lets You Speak and Understand 80 Languages

See how it works:

Travis the TranslatorTravis is the first translator with artificial intelligence, and the more it’s used the smarter it becomes. In each language combination, it chooses the most appropriate translation software: from engines like Google and Microsoft, to more local ones. Soon Travis users will be able to rate on an online platform the accuracy of translations delivered, so that the translator can improve. “We already have 6,000 users and are looking for more early adopters who want to make Travis even better. This year we want to reach 50,000 active users to make even better translations available to everyone through software updates in the device.”

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