Spooky Thoughts For Halloween From Italy

October 29, 2019 · 4 min read
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At Halloween spooky thoughts abound with scary costumes, hollowed-out pumpkins and a massive industry supporting the festival in many parts of the world, particularly North America. In Italy, Halloween is ‘All Saints Eve’ and is growing in popularity. These days you do see some children out for trick or treat – called dolcetto-scherzetto in Italian.

However, the next day, 1 November is a big festival in Italy, as with many other countries, a public holiday celebrating the Catholic saints. But you know, in Italy, sometimes ghost stories and real-life have a way of overlapping.

Italians Believe in Ghosts

Regarding spooky thoughts, I read somewhere that 75% of Italians believe in ghosts. Certainly there are a lot of creepy places here in Italy, with tales of murders and wronged victims coming back to haunt the living. Many castles and ancient houses thrive on their ghost tales that are told to tourists with glee and are part of the visitor experience. Venice boasts ghost walking tours which introduce the visitor to local ghost stories and legends. Venice also has Poveglia Island which is said to be haunted by the souls of plague victims and hospital patients crying out in pain! The island is considered the most haunted place in Italy. (Note to self to not visit there!).

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Trick Or Treat by Dorothy Berry-Lound

Ghosts Atoning For Sins

Tales of ghosts being required to fix a wrong from their earthly lifetime are common. For example, in my region of Umbria there are tales of ‘ghost monks’ wandering the hills behind Assisi, atoning for their sins. It is said that an order of monks begrudged having to perform their religious duties with the local population. They didn’t like going out in the cold, they couldn’t see the point in the blessings they were asked to perform and so on. This means everything they did was very half-hearted. Instead, they indulged in sex and other ‘non-godly’ pursuits and resented any call on their religious side. Their monastery was eventually destroyed.

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But it is said that sometimes you can see ghostly forms of monks walking the hills carrying candles, forced to rise from the dead to perform the duties they did not do when alive.

spooky thoughts
Lead To The Light by Dorothy Berry-Lound

Vampires in Italy?

But what if you don’t want someone to rise from the dead? At the site of an archeological dig in Teverina in Umbria, my region of Italy, a children’s burial site was discovered. Investigations proved that the site dated back to 400AD. But things got spooky when the archeologists realised they were dealing with ‘Vampire Children’ buried some 1,550 years ago.

The body of a ten year old child was discovered, buried with a stone in its mouth. This was part of an ancient funeral ritual to stop the dead from rising. It was found that the child, known locally as ‘the Vampire of Lugnano’ had died from malaria. The villagers were concerned it might rise from the dead and spread disease so they put the stone in its mouth. Another three year old child skeleton was found with stones weighing down the hands and feet.

Weighing down a body with stones to prevent it rising again has been used elsewhere in other parts of Italy (and other parts of the world of course).  Other methods of preventing rising from the dead to stop the spread of evil include putting a stake through the heart – as we have seen in many a gruesome vampire film.

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But in Roman times the ‘evil’ could just have easily been an illness, as with the child who died from malaria. Witchcraft was employed to prevent the ‘evil’ spreading. Indeed at the children’s burial site there was quite a lot of evidence of witchcraft activity. This includes the bones of toads (I don’t tend to think of toads having bones, but I digress), talons from ravens and even bronze cauldrons filled with the ash of sacrificed puppies (don’t tell my dogs they don’t need spooky thoughts they are mad enough).

Ghost Of A Child
Ghost Of A Child by Dorothy Berry-Lound

Mummies In Umbria

If you would really like to indulge in spooky thoughts there is a place in Umbria you must visit called Ferentillo. It is on the list of spookiest places in Italy.

Below the Chiese di Santo Stefano in Ferentillo are a large number of mummies! It is a mystery how the bodies of the interred became mummified. The best explanation is that the dead buried there in the usual way were attacked by a rare microfungus that preserved their bodies.

There is even a Museum of Mummies you can visit just below the Church of Santo Stefano in Ferentillo. Several towns in Umbria and Tuscany also have torture museums with equipment dating back to the times of the Inquisition. Eeeek!

How We Celebrate Halloween

How do we celebrate Halloween? Well we don’t unless you count watching a horror film while snuggled in front of a log fire. Having said that, as we live half way up a mountain we would get a shock if children knocked for dolcetto-scherzetto – talk about spooky thoughts!

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About the Author:

I am a fine art photographer, acrylic artist and writer. Promoting the use of art for healing and enhancing the mood of the environment in which a piece of art sits is an important focus for my work. I specialize in photo art, working on my own photographs to develop their story further. I write poetry and write a blog as well as short stories and have fun combining my art and writing. A Fellow of Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA), I am also a Buddhist and my spiritual life makes an important contribution to my work. I live in Umbria, Italy with my husband, dogs and a large number of cats.

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