I love Halloween. In fact, I love the whole month of October. Or, “Rocktober” as I like to refer to it.
I love that everything is pumpkin. We’ve got pumpkin pies, pumpkin spiced lattes, pumpkin muffins, and of course pumpkin beer. I love that AMC plays really terrible scary movies every day leading up to Halloween.
And the costumes. In the month of October, every table or surface of my house becomes some sort of craft station, littered with latex makeup and glue guns. On Halloween, we’ve got a free pass to take a break from our true skin and for one night, be someone or something, else.
But there is something more at play during this month. October is scary. Dead leaves fall from the trees. Harvest moons rise in crisp night air. Murders of crows huddle on wooden fences and turkey buzzards circle ominously above us.
Autumn is a transition from the warm balmy summer to the dark reserved winter. It is the middle time between life and death. The in between. Which is why, autumn is a perfect time to recognize the in-betweeners, the ghosts that walk amongst us!
Let’s celebrate some of the spookiest places around the world, drawing skeptics and believers far and wide who want to experience something otherworldly.
1. Leap Castle- Ireland
A history so violent, Leap castle is thought to be Ireland’s most haunted castle. What makes it so spooky? People believe this castle is haunted by what is called an “elemental” spirit – which some call “it” - that brings an overpowering sense of fear and dread and, apparently, smells just awful (like a rotting corpse)! Believed to be constructed on the land where magic rituals were held by ancient Celtic Druids, this place saw nightmarish events, from bloody sibling rivalry to a torturous chamber where numerous skeletons have been uncovered. It is no wonder some paranormal experts call this place the most haunted place in the world.
2. Salem, Massachusetts - USA
Whether there really were witches, or bizarre hallucinations were actually caused by fungi in the bread, the Salem Witch Trials of 1692 and the subsequent hangings were very real. Today, Salem celebrates its spooky past, exemplified in its omnipresent witch motifs throughout the town, from high school witch mascots to Wiccan souvenir shops. Tourists travel here to join in on a ghost tour, where guides dress as famous historical characters from the area, from hanged women accused of witchcraft to notorious pirates from the local seaport. A town whose local identity is intrinsically tied to its ghostly past, Salem is undoubtedly a hotspot for thrill seekers.
3. The Tower of London - England
If ever there were a place to be haunted, it ought to be the Tower of London. Countless people were tortured and executed within this well-preserved fortress, including some famous historical figures. One of the most familiar is the ex-wife of Henry VIII, Ann Boleyn, who was beheaded here in the 16th century and has been known to haunt the tower carrying her own head. Other notable spooks include Sir Walter Raleigh, Guy Fawkes and Lady Jane Grey – once said to been seen by a guardsman on the anniversary of her death. But innumerable other unknown folk also died and suffered within the tower, their torments lasting perhaps years, without ever telling their tale. (It is no revelation it is the most haunted place in London.)
4. The White House
The White House hauntings may not be the scariest, but they certainly rank as some of the most bizarre. Winston Churchill, a frequent visitor of the White House, once claimed that as he came out in the nude after his evening bath with this signature cigar in his mouth, he saw the ghost of Honest Abe sitting at his fireplace. Other strange sightings include John Adams wife, Abigail, carrying her laundry in the East Room and Lincoln’s wife, Mary, who once claimed to hear Andrew Jackson shouting and trudging around the White House.
5. Poveglia Island, Italy
Poveglia Island is a small island in the Venetian Lagoon with an ever so sinister history. Legends tell that it was once a quarantine station for victims of the plague, with hundreds of thousands of people dying here. What’s more, another story revolves around a mental hospital, where legend has it that patients were tortured and butchered by an insane doctor who ultimately jumped off a tower to his own death. Today the island is so feared that it is said to be avoided by local fisherman and that the soil is half-comprised of human ash. But for all you ghost hunters out there- stay clear! The island is strictly off-limits to visitors.
Do you think these sites are really haunted? Plan an international program and find out for yourself!
To investigate the sites within the U.S., start planning a domestic program with DiscoverNow!
By Ashley H on Monday, October 28, 2013 2:34 PM
So there you are. You’ve made it to Europe or South America or Africa or Australia or Asia, and you’re visiting the sites to see. Perhaps you’re at a museum or a castle or a fortress or a bridge or a plaza or a circus, and you’re learning about the people that have a history with this iconic landmark. You’re hearing about their lives, the times they lived in, how their fathers and mothers and aunts and uncles influenced them, bothered them, fought with them, and supported them. You’re learning about their siblings, their heirs, their cousins, their children’s children’s children. You’re realizing that there are stories upon stories about a single kingdom, empire, family, or person. You’re thinking to yourself, “We’re talking about people that lived thousands or hundreds or decades of years ago, and it’s just incredible to me that they can go so far back into the history of these peoples’ lives!”
And you think to yourself, “What about me? How far back into my own family’s history can I go? What kinds of stories are in my own family?”
Can you think of a good reason why the Windsors know so much about their family and you don’t know as much about yours? How about the Rockefellers? Or the Mings? The Bonapartes? The Millers down the street? The Johnsons next door?
That’s a question of genealogy. And everybody’s got one! But how much do you know about your own family history? And how much is there that you don’t know?
If you can’t go back very far, you’re not the only one. By far. Plenty of people get about three generations back and struggle to know about their relatives. If you’re interested in learning more about genealogical resources or just interested in genealogy in general, here are a few places you might want to start.
Read this guy’s article first – Great ideas for projects, online tools, research, and the delights of history.
Hit up The National Archives – Your guide to start searching census, military, immigration, naturalization, and land records.
Genealogy Roadshow – A great program from PBS. Get inspired by witnessing the realizations, emotion, and knowledge that comes from a genealogy project!
Of course, the best place to start is with the people in your family – parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, you get the idea. Chances are they got some good information. I remember asking my parents about our family history when I was a student, and I was amazed to learn some interesting things about my family tree. One distant relative signed the Constitution, another was a Cherokee chief. My great uncle even invented Fiddle Faddle. These are the kinds of details that got me hooked to learn more about my family’s past.
Remember, we’re all unique. We’ve all got a role in our family’s history. How has your family tree gotten you were you are today? What stories will you add for your future relatives to learn about?
By Andy on Wednesday, October 23, 2013 12:32 PM
I work in student travel, in educational travel, and with great enthusiasm for it. But my path to being here did not begin with my traveling when I was a student. My path may have been influenced by my leading student trips myself during my dozen years of teaching. But it began, oddly, by NOT traveling as a student.
As a high schooler I wanted to travel. I watched programs on Africa, Asia, Latin America, Europe, and more, and I wanted to go. There were actually trips offered at my high school, back when those were a rarer option. And those trips sparked my second driving force. Jealousy. Not of the students, but of their travel! When I speak with teachers about trips, I often talk about how the trips influence and often enhance even those who don’t know. I should know, as I was one influenced. By the stories told, by the jealousy, and perhaps most of all by realizing in seeing my peers travel that it was possible.
But then I thought back to my days in high school, having heard the price of traveling, and not telling my single father as I assumed it would be too costly and too much of a strain. So, twenty years later, I asked him about it. He would have sent me he said, and wished he had known I had those interests.
Well darn. I could have gone. Far earlier than I did. But I did travel later, have been to well over 50 countries on stays long and short, and I am fine now, right? The theory of cognitive dissonance says I am, or at least believe I am. But I know better.
My travels came after college. And, my father’s point in a way, and fully ironic, they matured me to the point I would have asked him about sending me abroad in high school. After those expensive years in college. After those expensive-to-local-taxpayers years in high school. After those French classes I, not worldly aware, found uninteresting. After those history classes that I thought were about things only in the past. Suddenly I was grabbing any book I could, reading as much about history as I could, on trains, planes, buses, and boats. Late into the night and early in the morning. Buying phrase books and asking people how to say things. Fascinated suddenly by how languages overlapped and differed all at once. Good as that was, the work world beckoned. I am still short of being bilingual. For all the inspiration my first trip and then subsequent trips provided, they also let me know how much I don’t know.
I should have started younger. I could have started younger! So, once in the teaching world, I sought to have my students start younger (than I had). Paying it forward (in two senses). And now, working in educational travel, the benefits of travel mixed when young dance before me.
A student in Michael Heitz’ (one of our traveling teachers) French classroom returned from tour changed. He participates in class with focus, no longer goofing around. Other students, missing the fun of the foolishness, ask him what’s up. I saw it, he tells them. France is amazing. I want to learn this stuff, he says, don’t distract me. Some of them gain in focus.
I taught all subjects for 7th and 8th graders in a small middle school. One often unmotivated student, having enrolled in a educational tour abroad, found a tutor for language lessons long before we departed. The whole group was coming in regularly sharing with me things they found out about where we were headed. He and the others on that trip came back energized. Their work came in early, dripping with greater depth of thinking, stretching beyond the minimums by far. They and their parents talked of a turning point, of academic interest lasting through high school and college. Raised grades. Seeking out harder classes. Getting into programs once thought out of reach. While I might have hoped for all that, I noticed they were having much much much more fun learning. It was their world, and they were making their own owners manual, minds wide open! Their aspirations were greater. Their energy to get there was greater. Some of this rubbed off on those who stayed. And, oh hey, did I mention my teaching job was much much much more fun?!
The transformational wonders of involvement, of travel, of seeing the bigger world and adding choices, pathways, new ways of looking at, new ways of saying, new ways of enjoying an inspired life! Like learning a language, starting late is always better and certainly not evil. But the earlier you start, generally, the easier it is, the more one builds on what came before, and the greater the gains—even in perception, and joy!!
Start the transformation within your students - browse our amazing educational travel programs abroad!
By Michael on Wednesday, October 09, 2013 9:12 AM
Everyone I know is keen to avoid discovering they have a huge phone bill once they return home from traveling. Few of us know all the hidden secrets of our phones and how to make 110% sure that does not happen.
I advise a simple path that I know works on Apple devices and likely on most or all smart phones. Simply turn the device to Airplane Mode as you board, leave it there, and turn only wifi back on after landing or when near wifi signals. The device stays off but the wireless internet works well.
Simple. Easy to remember. Airplane Mode back off when landing back in the USA, of course!
If you're a WorldStrides International Discovery Program Leader, you don't need to worry about a big, ugly phone bill! Program Leaders receive a free international cell phone when they travel with us. Learn more about our amazing teacher rewards.
By Michael on Monday, September 23, 2013 9:59 AM
Tina Epps, veteran art instructor at Surry County High School, traveled to Switzerland and Italy with students and adults from Surry, Isle of Wight, Southampton, Windsor, Smithfield, Waverly, and Wakefield. This is Mrs. Epps’ 7th trip to Europe and 5th tour as a group leader.
“It is wonderful to see people make the connection between what they learned in school and what they encounter in Europe,” Epps says. “I love European art and architecture. I teach my students about the work of Bernini, Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and Raphael. They got to see the work of these artists in person.”
Highlights of the trip included Engelberg, Lucerne, and Lugano in Switzerland; Dezenano del Garda, Verona, Venice, Assisi, Florence and Rome. Here is the travel journal with a day by day account of the adventure:
July 1 - Monday. We catch our Delta flight out of Norfolk to Atlanta and after a 5 hour layover we board Delta flight 66 to Zurich. We are meant to sleep on the 8 hour flight and arrive excited but exhausted. Our tour director, Chiara Bonari, greets us at the airport and helps us retrieve our luggage and load the Worldstrides bus. Chiara is from Florence and speaks German and English, as well as her native Italian. Gian Luca, our driver, is from Rome. He is friendly and helpful, but speaks little English.
July 2 - Tuesday. Before we arrive at our hotel in Engelberg we drive to Mt. Titlis, high in the Swiss Alps, where we take cable cars up to 9,000 feet. We feel we are on top of a snow covered world. The view is breathtaking and we need our jackets. After lunch on top of the Alps, we take the cable cars and a 360 degree rotating gondola back down to the bottom. We travel to Hotel Edelweiss where the views and hospitality are stellar. The hotel is on the mountain face and we must take elevators and tunnels to get to its lobby. It is as if we are looking at a fancy calendar or jigsaw puzzle when we look out our window. The bells from the abbey next door chime us to sleep after a dinner of curry chicken and rice.
July 3 - Wednesday. After our wake-up call and breakfast of local cheeses, yogurts, fruit, and croissants, we visit the baroque church and abbey, built around 1100, and also the cheese shop next to the hotel, and staffed by the good friars of the abbey. The restrooms near the cheese shop have a revolving toilet seat, the first of many unusual restroom configurations! We take a day trip to Lucerne, Switzerland. Lucerne is a walled city with ancient fortifications. Its Chapel Bridge is the oldest and longest covered bridge in the world. The rushing river, shopping for Swiss Army knives, and lunch of Swiss Fondue and Potato Rustice, are treats for our group. We view the Lion Monument, a carved tribute to 200 slain Swiss mercenaries. Our dinner of pork and pasta is at a local hotel.
July 4 - Thursday. We come down from the Alps and head toward the Italian Lakes. The rain is relentless, but once we get through the Gotthard Pass, the longest tunnel (14 miles long) in Europe, we come out of the tunnel and into the sunshine! The views from the bus are spectacular — waterfalls and rushing rivers at every turn. The town of Lugano looks like a postcard. This is a beautiful lakeside town where much of the economy is tourist based. Most of us eat lunch at a local Manor store which is part grocery, deli, restaurant, and department store. It is fun to shop and eat with the locals. Part of our group rent a boat to travel out on a lake, part of us take a cog train up to the top of the town. Some of the students have professional portraits drawn. We leave Lugano and drive 2 hours to the resort town of Dezanano del Garda. The Hotel City has modern rooms and our dinner is in the Al Carretto Ristorante, right on the lake.
July 5 - Friday. We get up early and drive to catch our boat to Venice. The boat ride across the lagoon to the main island is lovely. A local guide greets us in Venice. We see a glass blowing demonstration, tour the Doges Palace and step into San Marco Basilica. Part of our group walks to the Rialto Bridge, where we have lunch along the Grand Canal. Our group learns that in Italy, free restrooms and free water are hard to locate! After lunch we take a 30 minute gondola ride and marvel at the views. Our dinner is seafood pasta with mussels, fish, salad and crusty bread.
July 6 - Saturday. We board the bus and head to Verona, another medieval walled city, with its own Coliseum arena. We tour inside the arena, visit the Juliet Capulet house and museum and pose for pictures on Juliet’s balcony. As we head toward our meeting point we notice the mimes that are everywhere. We see a weird baby, strange dog, and man holding a woman aloft in an invisible chair- all mimes trying to get our Euros! We leave Verona, cross the Po River and head to Tuscany. We see beautiful crops of sunflowers and flooded rice fields. We travel through Mantova and Moderna. There are vineyards everywhere.
July 7 - Sunday. In Florence our Hotel Della Nationale has views of the Duomo and Cathedral. Our hotel is across from the train station. We visit Santa Croce (resting place of Michelangelo), the Palazzo Vecchio, Medici Palace and Duomo and Baptistery. We are busy in Florence! We see Michelangelo’s David at the Academia. We visit a top notch leather producer and experience a fun professional wine and olive oil tasting. Our dinner is of our own making! We go to a cooking school in Florence. 30 people can make their own homemade pasta, Florentine meatloaf, sauce and salad. The cooking “police” running the school only scared us for a little while! Dinner was outstanding. Some of us walk to the Ponte Vecchio and are treated to a concert on the bridge.
July 8 - Monday. We travel to Perugia and enter Assisi, where the lives of Santa Chiara and St. Francis are cherished. Approaching the Basilica and medieval city is awesome and we are greeted by Father Maximillan, who guides us. The frescos by Giotto and Cimabue line the walls and ceilings of this special place. The air and food here is breezy and delicious. We drive on to Rome where olive groves line the roadways. After hotel check-in a group of us walk to the Trevi Fountain and toss in a coin — we want to come back to Rome! The fountain is spot-lighted and gorgeous. The Atac busses and subways in Rome are welcome and not intimidating. The Hotel Albani resembles the Star Ship Enterprise! We say good bye to Gian Luca, our bus driver. He has been kind and patient with us and we give him a gift before he leaves us.
July 9 - Tuesday. Our last day in Rome. We travel to meet our tour guide and get to go inside the Coliseum. We love the ancient, cold fountains where we drink and fill our water bottles. We are awed by the Basilica of St. Peter where we can see work by Raphael and Michelangelo’s sorrowful Pieta. The Sistine Chapel gets most of our attention and we get a long look at Michelangelo’s ceiling and Altar Wall. We go into the Roman Forum and see where Julius Caesar is murdered and memorialized. On the way back, a group of pick pockets is busy on the bus. They manage to get one of our cell phones. During our dinner we give Chiara Bonari a gift to show her our appreciation for her hard work. She has taken good care of us and we will miss her.
July 10 - Wednesday. Our 5 o’clock wake-up call is brutal. Chiara gets us to the airport in Rome where we say good bye and pass through customs. We board our long flight back to the States, where as Americans we take much for granted. Our journey was amazing.
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By Tina on Monday, September 16, 2013 9:22 AM
Categories:Italy, Teachers, Travel
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|Hi, I'm Julia! I don't get to travel as much as I want to (who does?), but when I do, my goal is to share my discoveries and insights with humor and enthusiasm on all of our social media avenues. On The Educated Traveler blog, the official blog of WorldStrides International Discovery programs, you’ll find all kinds of great information about travel and education, tips, news, classroom lesson ideas and more! Subscribe above!