Save your Seoul
Have a ghoul’s night out this Halloween
For some of us, it’s not just a holiday: It’s a monthlong fiesta del diablo, culminating on All Hallow’s Eve. There are plenty of ways to get fiendishly fresh this Halloween. So c’mon, axe me a question about our favorite time of fear!
Frights, camera, action!
I get into the spirit of the holiday with horror movies, and stockpile my list all year long. Last year, I discovered the film “Trick ‘r Treat” (2007), which is such an exquisite homage to Halloween you can practically taste the candy corn.
The DVD bang is a great dark, dank, dungeon-like environment to watch morbid flicks, as well as a fantastic place to see Korean horror films with English subtitles. Check out Modern Korean Cinema’s website for recommendations.
Halloween was the Celtic New Year’s Eve, as Nov. 1 heralded both the beginning of their calendar and the coming darkness of winter. On this day they believed the barrier between the spiritual and physical realms was weakest, allowing communication with otherworldly spirits and ghosts. In Europe, tarot cards and palm readers were the most popular forms of divination, and both pastimes are fairly commonplace in Korea. Look near large shopping and nightlife areas for little tents with older women gazing into the future and giving advice on which path to follow. Bringing along someone who speaks Korean is advised.
I’ve always loved graveyards in autumn, which is fitting as Halloween was originally called Samhain (pronounced sah-win) after the Celtic god of death. Visiting cemeteries is a great chance to soak up the atmosphere while reflecting on your own mortality. The Yanghwajin Foreigners’ Cemetery near Hapjeong has a particularly rich history, with graves dating back to the 1800s that hint at stories of Korea’s turbulent past. Best of all, there are free guided tours in multiple languages.
For a little more intense fright-seeing, Joe McPherson of ZenKimchi spins a grisly yarn full of murder and malevolence on his Dark Side of Seoul tour of downtown.
Unlike distress, “eustress” is getting terrified for fun! The wax museum in the 63 Building has the requisite chamber of horrors, and all three major theme parks are decked out in Halloweenesque fashion. Seoul Land’s haunted cave ride unearths traditional Korean folk demons, while Lotte World has a haunted house, an unearthly parade and a gothic musical called “Dracula’s Love.”
Myeong-dong hosts a killer haunted house called Horror Kingdom, which features movie-studio-quality gore effects.
Get “morgue” for your money at Everland, which is fully transformed into a gruesome wonderland with two haunted mazes and a cast of creatures and zombies who jump out to spook you. On Saturdays there’s a haunted DJ, so all you vampires can party until dawn (or closing).
Blood and gourd!
Carving a pumpkin and lighting it every evening during the week prior to Halloween is a magical tradition. In Ireland there’s a phenomenon involving light that appears over peat bogs at night, which was explained through the fable of Stingy Jack, a scoundrel who made a deal with the devil to avoid going to hell, but was so nefarious he couldn’t get into heaven either. Doomed to wander the physical plane, Satan sympathetically threw him an ember to help light his way, which Jack carried in a carved turnip. Thus, the jack-o’-lantern was born.
Little Korean cooking pumpkins substitute surprisingly well. The more dedicated can find the big orange variety at High Street Market in Itaewon or a traditional Korean food market.
The devil has always had the best tunes, right? Halloween weekend hosts a bevy of options: DJs, live performances of “Rocky Horror Picture Show,” concerts and even a booze cruise. Punk and metal shows in particular have the right sort of revelry, so check the listings for Club Spot and Three Thumbs in Hongdae or Thunderhorse in Itaewon.
Kicking off the month with a bang is extreme metal-fest Hellride on Oct. 3 in Hongdae, featuring black and death metal bands from Finland, Korea, Australia and Japan. Then keep an eye out for Carcass, one of the most famous death metal bands ever, when they hit Seoul on Oct. 7.
Dress like a mummy’s boy!
Of course, the main attraction is to dress up, hit the streets and drink lots of boos!
Stemming from the tradition of souling or guising, people would don ghastly outfits and go door to door to pray for the souls of the dead in return for treats, which eventually became trick-or-treating. The horrific garb also served to frighten demonic spirits back into the nether realm.
Costumes and accessories are available through Gmarket or party supply stores. Hongdae can be loads of fun, but Itaewon “coroners” the market these days, sometimes even blocking off the street to car traffic.
Remember, “evil” is “live” spelled backwards, so get out there and give the devil his due!
Modern Korean Cinema: www.modernkoreancinema.com
Dark Side of Seoul Tour: www.zenkimchi.com
63 Wax Museum: www.63waxmuseum.com
How much: 15,000 won for adults
High Street Market: www.highstreet.co.kr
Club Spot: www.fb.com/ClubSpotHongdae
Hellride Fest 2014:
When: Oct. 3
Where: V-Hall, Hongdae
How much: 35,000 won (advance), 40,000 won (door)
Carcass Live in Seoul:
When: Oct. 7, 8 p.m.
Where: Didim Hall, Hongdae
How much: 85,000 won