Getting the creeps for Halloween....

Dark Encounters held a Ghost Walk at Southsea Castle.''''Picture: Sarah Standing (151820-7967)

Dark Encounters held a Ghost Walk at Southsea Castle.''''Picture: Sarah Standing (151820-7967)

Dom Elton, far right, plays with the Mayfield house band, Dan Sawyers, Aaron Hartley and Gregg Powell.
 Picture Ian Hargreaves  (170490-1)

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With tales of the dead, gruesome costumes and creepy creatures, Halloween is one of the biggest events of the year.

October 31 is full of traditions from children trick or treating and families carving pumpkins to people dressing up as zombies, vampires and werewolves.

In America it is the second biggest commercial holiday behind Christmas and groups and business in the Portsmouth area have been following that trend by getting into the Halloween spirit.

Throughout half-term week, people have been invited on ghostly walks at Holly Hill Woodland Park, in Fareham, and to take part in a pumpkin trail onboard HMS Warrior.

Families have also been invited to make halloween-themed crafts at Queen Elizabeth Country Park and listen to stories at Staunton Country Park in Havant.

As well as knocking for sweets and holding parties, ghost walks and hunts are popular in the build-up to Halloween.

Portsmouth-firm Dark Encounters held ghost walks at Southsea Castle and HMS Warrior this week.

The tour of the castle welcomed people into the dark tunnels, cell blocks and on the roof while telling the tales of people who lived there during the 18th Century.

Actors dressed as characters from the era kept visitors on the tour entertained by sneaking up on them in near pitch-black of the castle and whispering behind corners.

At certain points, the group were left in the darkness before being suddenly called to follow someone just ahead in the dark.

Friends Victoria Bray, from Portsmouth, and Katy Hazlie, from Gosport, were there as a birthday surprise for Katy.

The 36-year-old says: ‘The tour was really awesome and very interesting.

‘The actors were really impressive and the woman was incredible – she made it for me.

‘Some people were really scared at times and it was a load of fun.’

Victoria, 31, adds: ‘I liked learning about all the gruesome history of the castle.

‘They told the stories in a really fantastic way and dark tunnels and rooms added to the tales.

‘Being from Portsmouth, I didn’t know just how many horrible things happened here at the castle and we visit Southsea Common quite a lot.’

Along the tour, Dark Encounters tells of one of the most infamous people thought to haunt Portsmouth – Jack the Painter.

He was a sign-painter turned terrorist who tried to burn down Portsmouth dockyard. He was hanged for his crimes from a mast before being chained to a gibbet at Blockhouse Point, at the entrance to Portsmouth Harbour, where his corpse served for years as a warning to others. His ghost is still said to haunt the spot and rattle the occasional chain.

As well as Jack the Painter, the tour of the castle told stories of people suffering from the Black Plague, sailors who were bombed by the French and people tortured for information in the cells.

Gary Slight, from Denmead, was asked to take part in the actor’s story as a prisoner.

Speaking afterwards, the 29-year-old, says: ‘It was really good fun. It was the first time I have ever done something like this.

‘The scare tactics were really good, especially with the castle being so dark.

‘I would recommend these sort of events to family and friends.’

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