I love the Mystery Ghost Bus Tour in Johannesburg. I have done it three times and enjoyed it each time. The press release below relates to their Halloween Bus Tours.
The now 16 year-old Mystery Ghost Bus Tours of South Africa will shortly be holding their popular annual Halloween tours from 27 – 31 October, in Johannesburg, Cape Town & Pretoria. Yes, boils & ghouls, it’s that time of year when the veil thins between the living & the dead, whilst celebrating the many eerie motifs of this ancient festival.
Most researchers believe that Halloween dates back 2,000 years to the Celtic festival of Samhain, where folk would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off roaming ghosts. Held at the end of the harvest season in the northern hemisphere, it was a time between plenty & paucity, life & death – a time to gather food for the winter months, and a time where the veil between the living and the dead, thinned.
In the hope to appease the dead so that they would not create havoc on the crops & livestock, but also to provide hospitality for the good souls amongst them, food & drink, and even some of the crops, were left outside one’s home. The Druids went as far as holding a great fire festival to encourage the dimming sun not to vanish during winter.
In ancient Rome 500 BCE, the doors of the houses were daubed with pitch, where the head of the household would walk through the house barefoot, throwing little beans over his shoulders, hoping that the spirits would follow, pick up and consume these ‘treats’, and thus not play their evil ‘tricks’ on the household – one of the beginnings of ‘trick or treat’.
Christianity later took on several of the traditions of Samhain, calling it Halloween, which is a contraction of All Hallow’s Eve – held on 31 October. It was during the 8th century that Pope Gregory III designated 1 November as the day to honour all saints & martyrs, which was called All Saints’ Day, where the week leading up to 31 October and 1 November, was called All Hallow Tide – a time dedicated to all of the dead, not just the saints & martyrs.
There are many similar festivals around the world, where for instance the Chinese celebrate the “Hungry Ghost Festival”, during which they float lanterns on rivers to honour the dead. In Mexico, ideas borrowed from pre-Columbian cultures like the Aztecs, see children making a children’s altar to invite the ‘angelitos’ (spirits of dead children) to visit, whilst the adult spirits come to visit on 1 November. The next day families go to graveyards to decorate the graves & tombs of their relatives. The entire three-day fiesta is filled with marigolds, flowers of the dead, sugar skulls, wooden skeletons, incense, fruit & nuts, plus other traditional foods & decorations.
In the Philippines, folk visit family tombs & other graves, which they repair & clean, entire families spending a night or two at their loved ones’ tombs, whilst passing time with card games, eating, drinking, singing & dancing. In Germany, “Walpurgisnacht”, or Walpurgis Night in English, is celebrated on the eve of the feast day of Saint Walpurga, an 8th-century abbess in Francia. It is believed to be the night of a witches’ meeting on the Brocken, the highest peak in the Harz Mountains.
By the second half of the 19th century, when America was flooded with new immigrants, it was the millions of Irish fleeing Ireland’s potato famine of 1846, who helped to popularize Halloween in America. Turnips were replaced with the plentiful pumpkins found in America, which too were hollowed out, just as it was in ancient times – with grotesque faces to ward off evil spirits.
Originally, the turnips in Celtic times, were used to bring back a piece of coal from the fire festivals, said to represent a soul who had been denied entry into both heaven and hell. One of the folkloristic stories which arose here, was of course the Jack-o’-Lantern.
Apparently on route home after a night’s drinking, a Celtic folk personage known as Jack, encountered the devil, whom he tricked into climbing a tree. The quick-thinking Jack then etched the sign of the cross into the tree, thus trapping the devil. Jack then struck a bargain that the devil would never claim his soul. After a life of sin, drink & other vices, Jack was refused entry into heaven, but with the devil keeping his promise, Jack could also not enter hell. It was a very cold night that night, and so the devil threw out a live coal from hell, which Jack placed in a hollowed out turnip to stop it from going out. Ever since then Jack and his lantern have been roaming the earth looking for a place to rest.
As time passed by, Halloween took on other activities apart from just warding off evil spirits and pleasing the good ones, where other games like calling upon Bloody Mary, haunted attractions, scary story-telling, costume parties and ‘trick or treating’ have all become popular.
For all details, including starting venues & routes, regarding the Halloween Tours on the Mystery Ghost Bus, visit their website at www.MysteryGhostBus.co.za and Facebook Page entitled “Mystery Ghost Bus of South Africa”.
The tours, conceived by magician & illusionist, Mark Rose-Christie, and based on the London Ghost Bus, include haunted pub stops to calm one’s n-e-r-ves, castles, poltergeist houses, dowsing rods audience participation, chilling EVP’s (electronic voice phenomena), entry into a dark candle-lit haunted room, live and dramatically recorded stories with eerie sound effects, entry into an historical graveyard with a thrilling climax, and much more.
The tours will run from 7pm to midnight (of course), on 27 & 28 October in Johannesburg, and 29 & 31 October in both Pretoria and Cape Town. Bookings at www.QUICKET.co.za at R 369 per person. Costumes are encouraged.