Samhuinn/Halloween in Scotland


There’s just something about Halloween’s macabre theatricality which never fails to bring out in many.

Massively popular in the US and celebrated to a lesser extent in the UK and other countries in various ‘guises’ or disguises – people are often unaware of the celebration’s strong Scottish connections. With its atmospheric landscape and array of haunted castles, peculiar superstitions and occasionally morbid history, it’s not surprising that Halloween first took root here.

Samhuinn Fire Festival, Edinburgh.png

Samhuinn Fire Festival, Edinburgh.

Halloween or Hallowe’en takes its name from All Hallows’ Eve, the night before the Christian festival of All Hallows or All Saints Day. But it’s possible to trace its beginnings back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (Samhuinn in Gaelic), held on 1 November, which marked the culmination of summer and the harvest period with the onset of winter. Robert Burns’ 1785 poem ‘Halloween details many of the national customs and legends surrounding the festival, many of them pagan in origin, which had persisted even with the advent of Christianity.

The eerie Alloway Kirk in Ayrshire, scene of The Witches Dance in Tam O’ Shanter by Robert Burns.jpg

The eerie Alloway Kirk in Ayrshire, scene of The Witches Dance in Tam O’ Shanter by Robert Burns.

Here are some other old fashioned Samhuinn traditions from Scotland that you might want to incorporate into your own festivities this year:

Fires and ‘neeps lanterns’  To ward off potentially malevolent entities, large bonfires were lit in communities and it is believed that this practice survives today in the tradition of carving pumpkin lanterns with creepy grimaces. While the use of pumpkins is actually an American invention, in Scotland it has been custom to carve lanterns out of ‘neeps’ or turnips.


Carved turnip lanterns.

Guisin or ‘galoshin’ – Instead of trick-or-treating, children would literally disguise themselves as evil spirits by blackening their faces and dressing in old clothes to go guisin. According to folklore, this was so that they could venture out safely without being detected by wicked ghouls. Guisers also couldn’t simply knock on the doors of their neighbours yelling not ‘trick-or-treat’ but rather Please to help the guisers’ and expect sweets in return. They had to perform a ‘trick’ first by reciting a song, poem or joke before being rewarded with goodies.

Dookin’ for apples – A staple of children’s Halloween parties across the country, this time-honoured game involves trying to grab apples floating in a tub of water using your mouth, with your hands tied behind your back. If you want to up the stakes have a go at catching them with a fork.


Apple dookin’,

Treacle scones – Once again with your hands tied, this messy game challenges participants to take a bite out of treacle covered scones hanging from ropes.

Nut burning – Recently engaged? Find out if you and your beloved will live happily ever after. Toss a nut each into an open fire. If they quietly smolder amongst the flames your union will be a good one, but if they hiss and crackle you could be in for a bumpy ride!


Samhain/Halloween is a great excuse to get out to the cemeteries….at night, without appearing to bizarre.

Sausage rolls – The Witchcraft Act of 1735 forbid the consumption of pork pastries on Halloween. It wasn’t repealed until the 1950s and since then sausage rolls have been a popular treat at Halloween parties and gatherings.




Pre-Halloween Spookiness: Bigfoot Photographed in North Carolina?


A Bigfoot research group in North Carolina has released a photograph which they say shows the famed cryptid lurking in a forest.

The intriguing image was reportedly captured by the organization known as ‘Bigfoot 911‘ this past weekend during an exploratory expedition that culminated with what they describe as a rather chilling encounter with not one, but several of the mysterious creatures. According to group founder John Bruner, he and three companions were “scouting for new locations” to search for Sasquatch around Lake James when suddenly things took a wild turn.

He explained that the group, who had been in a boat on the lake, ventured into a small cove near a patch of forest where area residents had recently reported hearing strange howls. After shutting off their engine, Bruner recalled, they “immediately heard movement on both sides of the cove” followed by a series of “wood knocks.” Sensing that something sizeable may be nearby, the group scanned the shoreline with night vision cameras in an attempt to locate what was behind the odd noises. It was then, Bruner said, that “I immediately locked on to this creature,” which he believes was Sasquatch, “and watched it for five minutes.”

He estimated that the possible Bigfoot was seven-and-a-half feet tall and observed that it appeared to be swaying side to side. Although the group were only about 50 yards away from the creature, Bruner observed that they did not feel particularly threatened by the close encounter since it seemed as if the Sasquatch was at ease because they were in a boat and not in any position to pose any danger to it. Chillingly, he noted that the creature that he was observing was not making the wood knock sounds, leading Bruner to speculate that “at least” three Bigfoot were in the area at the time.

Following the five-minute-long sighting, Bruner said, the creature departed from the area and disappeared back into the wilderness, although the group continued to hear strange sounds coming from the forest for another 45 minutes. Upon their return from the expedition, they posted some of the 121 pictures from the incident to their Facebook page along with an account of their experience. They now hope to return to the area in the not-too-distant future to conduct a more thorough investigation of the location where they think that they saw the Sasquatch.

This encounter over the weekend along with a pair of recent incidents suggest that North Carolina may be something of a Bigfoot hot bed. To that end, this past August, a researcher snapped what he believes is a photo of the creature and, earlier in the summer, a woman was featured on a local newscast claiming to have had several Sasquatch pass through her backyard. Marion, the town in which Bigfoot 911 is based, also made national news last year when it declared Bigfoot to be the ‘official animal’ of the community.

Note:  I posed this same question to my tweety followers, so I will ask you.  In this age of phenomenal photographic equipment, how is it we are still getting crappy images of Bigfoot (and UFOs) that are no different from the 1960s and 70s?  Case in point is the infamous Patterson–Gimlin film shot in 1967 in Northern California.



Pre-Halloween Spookiness: Creepy Clown Frightens Family in Iowa


clowning around.jpgAuthorities in Iowa recently responded to a call from a frightened woman who says that her family was being harassed by a creepy clown.

The bizarre incident reportedly occurred in the city of Fort Madison last week when the unnamed resident phoned police at around midnight with concerns that a clown “was trying to attack her.” Chillingly, the woman also told the cops that this was not the first time that her family had seen the haunting harlequin.

According to Fort Madison police chief Mark Rohloff, the woman revealed that the clown “had been harassing her son for the past few days, but they don’t know who he is.” In a testament to the diligence of the city’s police department, cops actually arrived at the family’s residence in under two minutes and actually caught sight of the mysterious stranger, who managed to evade capture by jumping over a fence and running away from the scene.

While searching the area, the responding officers discovered that the perpetrator had ditched their clown mask and costume under a car during the escape. The Fort Madison incident seemingly confirms that we’re now fully in the midst of creepy clown season as it follows an unsettling sighting that occurred last week in Arkansas as well as a mid-September case in which one of the harlequins threatened a boy in England. With October having just begun and Halloween weeks away, it’s a safe bet that this isn’t the last we’ll be hearing of the creepy clowns and their mischievous ways.


20 ‘New’ Moons Spotted Orbiting Saturn


Astronomers have discovered 20 previously unidentified moons orbiting Saturn, which gives the gas giant the title for the planet with the most satellites in our solar system. The record-breaking finds were reportedly made by a team of researchers from the Carnegie Institute of Science. The discovery brings the total number of moons circling Saturn to 82, which is three more than have been found orbiting Jupiter.

Each of the ‘new’ moons measures around 3 miles across and seventeen of the bodies orbit in the opposite direction of the planet’s rotation. “Studying the orbits of these moons can reveal their origins, as well as information about the conditions surrounding Saturn at the time of its formation,” lead researcher Scott Sheppard explained in a statement announcing the discovery.

As for what the moons will be called, the Carnegie Institute is actually turning that task over to the public by way of a contest in which people can submit suggested names for the newfound celestial bodies. However, before you start petitioning to have one of them named after you, there are some restrictions as, in honor of Saturn’s sizeable nature, “the moons must be named after giants from Norse, Gallic or Inuit mythology.”


Scotland Events October 2019

2019 Scotland Events highlights for the month of October include the Edinburgh Cocktail Festival, Enchanted Forest, Callander Jazz & Blues Festival, and Royal National Mod.

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Edinburgh Antiques & Collectors Fair
31st August – 24th November 2019, Royal Highland Centre
Excellent selection of quality antique, vintage and retro wares. Jewellery, silver, clothing, accessories, furniture, ceramics, glass and more.

Wigtown Book Town Festival
27th September – 6th October 2019, Wigtown, Dumfries & Galloway
Known as Scotland’s national book town, Wigtown hosts the festival with over 250,000 books. a great chance to meet some of the country’s renowned writers.

Still Game
27th September – 13th October 2019, The SSE Hydro, Glasgow
Popular Scottish Comedy.

Ayrshire Real Ale Festival
3rd – 5th October 2019, Troon Concert Hall, South Beach, Troon
Showcasing over 150 real ales from around the UK, plus a range of real ciders and perry from around the country.

Ness Book Fest
3rd – 5th October 2019, Inverness
Events in Central Library, Town Hall, local schools, Waterstones Inverness, and more venues to be announced. Most events will be ticketed but free of charge to attend.

The Enchanted Forest
3rd October – 3rd November 2019, Pitlochry
Choreographic creation of dramatic light and sound performances. A night time spectacular set in Perthshire’s Big Tree Country.

Callander Jazz & Blues Festival
4th – 6th October 2019, Callander
Live jazz, blues, soul and boogie. From solo artists to big bands, over 200 musicians ensure a long weekend of great music in the autumn splendour of the Trossachs.

On Yer Bike
5th – 6th October 2019, Culzean Castle & Country Park
Bring your bike, trike or even unicycle for a weekend of pedal power! Explore the Country Park in a new way with our car free zones and bike themed activities.

Crieff and Strathearn Drovers Tryst
5th – 12th October, 2019
Walking festival run by volunteers and built around a programme of guided walks in the stunning scenery and autumn colours of Strathearn & surrounding areas of Perthshire.

Blairgowrie, Rattray & The Glens Book Festival
4th – 6th October 2019, Blairgowrie Community Campus
The aim of the festival is to foster and encourage a love of literature in all its forms by sharing our passion for reading and writing in a friendly environment.

Edinburgh Coffee Festival
5th October 2019, Edinburgh Corn Exchange.
We celebrate Scotland’s bustling and vibrant coffee scene, and it promises to be a must-see occasion for coffee enthusiasts from across the country.

Scotland’s Boat Show
11th – 13th October 2019, Kip Marina, Inverkip
View new and pre-owned boats for sale, plus onshore attractions and restaurant.

The Royal National Mod
11th – 19th October 2019, Glasgow
Ceud Mile Failte (One Hundred Thousand Welcomes)! The Royal National MOD, Scotland’s premier celebration of its Gaelic language. Relax with a ceilidh, concert, exhibition and a showcase of all things Gaelic.

Scottish Wedding Show
12th – 13th October 2019, SEC, Glasgow
For brides and grooms to be, with up to 300 of the UK’s leading wedding suppliers in attendance.

Halloween Pumpkin Trail
12th October – 3rd November 2019, Castle Kennedy Gardens, Dumfries & Galloway
Tread through the crispy autumn leaves and find the hidden pumpkins to receive a delicious treat.

St Andrews Golf Week
13th – 19th October 2019, St Andrews
Follow in the footsteps of the great and play not only the legendary Old Course but also the other excellent St Andrews courses.

Edinburgh Cocktail Week
14th – 20th October 2019, Edinburgh
A week-long programme of events & parties across the city, including a Cocktail Village at Festival Square on Lothian Road.

Scottish International Storytelling Festival
18th – 31st October 2019, Edinburgh
Enchanting performances, workshops, talks and events centred around traditional storytelling.

Edinburgh Short Film Festival
24th October – 10th November 2019, Edinburgh
We’re excited to bring a programme of outstanding short cinema, featuring 29 UK premieres & 32 award-winning short films!

Paisley Halloween Festival
25th – 26th October 2019, Paisley
Street theatre and death-defying aerial performers, plus a spectacular carnival-style Dark Circus parade.

Spirits of Scone Halloween
25th – 31st October 2019, Scone Palace, Perth
The nights are getting dark, and the grounds will be transformed into a truly terrifying playground for menacing ghouls and horror film freaks. They’re lurking in the woods and hiding in the maze; this is where your nightmares come to life!

Junior Halloween Howler
26th October 2019, Perth
A fun obstacle race for children (aged 6 – 12 years) in Perth City Centre. prizes for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd, fancy dress optional.

Edinburgh Horror Festival
26th October – 3rd November 2019, Edinburgh
Movie screenings, theatre, comedy, magic, spoken word, stalls and more.

Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap
28th October – 2nd November 2019, Theatre Royal, Glasgow
The Mousetrap has kept people guessing for so long, becoming the longest running show of any kind in the history of theatre.

The Haunted Castle
30th – 31st October 2019, Culzean Castle & Country Park, Ayrshire
A malicious spirit treads the hallways of Culzean. Dare you enter the Haunted Castle this Halloween?

Samhuinn Fire Festival
31st October 2019, centre of Edinburgh
The Samhuinn celebration takes place on top of Calton Hill. The story follows the ideas of the overthrowing of Summer by Winter, with a stand-off between the Summer and Winter Kings.

Get here when you can.