Washington Square Park, New York City
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Where should a specter-seeker go to get into the HALLOWEEN spirit? We have all the scares and screams one holiday evening can handle.

The origins of Halloween are as hazy as a specter in a darkened hallway.

Some say it was shaped mainly by the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, when bonfires were lit and costumes worn to ward off evil spirits during the end of harvest season. Others point to old Roman rituals like Feralia (commemorating the passing of the dead) and Lemuria (an all-purpose ghost-cleansing holiday). Halloween historians also cite the church-sanctioned All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day among the list of historical influences over the last 2,000 years or so.

Whatever the route to today’s merrily macabre, communitywide version of Oct. 31, one thing is certain: Candy seekers, pumpkin carvers, street paraders, pier partyers, haunted-house patrons, zombie impersonators and late-October fun-seekers of all shapes, persuasions and sizes probably don’t care how it all started.

In the spirit of the day, we’ve gathered the creepiest, longest-­running and most entertaining Halloween events in nine hallowed cities. If the abundance of attractions is any proof, the holiday’s spooky tradition is as hair-raising as ever. 


October Facts & Stats
Average high/low temperature: 64/50 degrees Fahrenheit | Average rainfall: 4.40 inches
Sunset on Oct. 31: 5:53 p.m.

TAKING IT TO THE STREETS: This Oct. 31, New York City’s annual Village Street Parade turns 40, a milestone made even bigger by the event’s first cancellation last year because of Hurricane Sandy. Honoring the spirit of volunteerism this year, the city’s biggest Halloween block party boasts thousands of folks in costume parading along 6th Avenue from Spring Street to 16th Street (7 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.). Watch from the sideline or suit up and enter the fray. www.halloween-nyc.com

MOST HARROWING HIKE:On Oct. 26 (noon to 3 p.m.), Brooklyn’s Prospect Park will fill with zombies, werewolves and witches for the annual Halloween Haunted Walk. Younger kids can veer to a free Halloween carnival happening in the park’s central Nethermead area. www.prospectpark.org

RESURRECTED LITERARY HAUNT: America’s most macabre 19th-century literary titan wrote some of his best work in the tiny, recently restored  Edgar Allan Poe Cottage in the Bronx shortly before his mysterious death. The Bronx County Historical Society runs weekend tours of the farmhouse. www.bronxhistoricalsociety.org/poecottage.html

FREAKY FACTOID: Formerly part of an early-19th-century burial ground, Greenwich Village’s Washington Square Park contains the remains of an estimated 20,000 corpses “under varying depths of fill,” according to the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation.

BONUS LATE-OCTOBER EVENT: New York City’s annual indie-rock fest, CMJ Music Marathon (Oct. 15-19), features five consecutive days and nights of you-heard-it-here-first performances from 1,400 musical artists at 80-plus venues throughout town. www.cmj.com