I am forever being confronted by those 100 AWESOME THINGS TO DO BEFORE YOU DIE!!!! lists. But rarely, if ever, do they contain something that I would actually want to do before I stagger from this mortal coil.
I would not, for example, like to drive a Porsche stupidly fast around a race track. Nor would I want to haul myself out of a plane. Nor would I want to throw a huge party and invite every one of my friends. No. Fucking. Thank. You.
So the idea came to me to make my OWN list, a dark and wyrd list, a list for me, for you and for every other wyrdo who is sick of those predictable and dire bucket things the internet keeps spewing out.
Spend A Night In The Paris Catacombs
Confession time. I didn’t actually know about the Paris Catacombs before I watched the brilliantly terrifying film As Above, So Below back in 2015. Ashamed? Yes I am. Curious as to how something so fucking massive escaped my attention? Of course.
“Stop! Here Begins The Empire Of Death…”
Since watching the film, I have become pretty obsessed with the place. Over 6 MILLION skeletons (the remains of Paris’s former inhabitants) are stacked in tunnels and chambers which stretch for 186 miles, and are deeper than the Paris sewer and metro.
Its sounds like the kind of place I could quite happily spend a week, let alone a night. And yes, people have got lost down there. Most recently two teenagers were down there for three days. When they were found – with the help of dogs, of course – they were suffering with hypothermia.
Lonely Planet Images
It was back in 1786 that the dead started to be removed from overcrowded cemeteries and re-homed in what had formally been known as the Tombe-Issoire quarries. In 1867 the catacombs were open to the death curious public.
The Catacombs are open to the public today, but access is massively limited, and visitors are only allowed a tiny taste of what there is to see. To enter other parts of the catacombs has been illegal since 1955, but, since the 1970’s the ‘off limits’ areas have been explored illegally by Parisian urban explorers AKA Cataphiles.
Nowadays it’s thought that 300 or more Cataphiles make it into the Catacombs each week by using secret entrances. They’ve been known to have set up all sorts of creative spaces in the chambers, including a cinema, bar and restaurant. Personally, while I think exploring and holding quietish gatherings while maintaining an element of respect is all well and good, desecrating it with graffiti and holding raves is most definitely not.
Now, while non-Cataphiles and tourists aren’t known to be welcome, I’m sure there are ways around this, for example, if you know someone who knows someone…
While spending a night underground with a silent (?) six million others and a torch for company might make the perfect get away for us of a stranger ilk, if you don’t know the right people to get you down there, you can still see some of it, by booking a 45 minute tour here.
2. Eat Roadkill
It was the brilliantly eccentric English chef and environmentalist Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall who got me in into the idea of eating roadkill, though I still have to get around to it. I have no problem with eating animals found at the side of the road, and I think more of us should be doing it. It’s most definitely something that I want to tick off my own bucket list.
Mostly I want to do it because I’m really bloody curious. I’ve never tried fox or badger or squirrel before. Also because the mystery surrounding so much of the meat we eat nowadays is quite fucking scary.
To know that the meat I have on my plate was munching on an acorn shortly before it was unknowingly clipped by a car, is better than knowing the meat on my plate was terrified and screaming moments before its life was taken.
I believe in valuing the life of each and every animal, and to eat someone that has been abandoned on the side of the road shows great appreciation for the life that was, and the gifts that could be. Check out the videos below with the fantastic urban and wild food forager Alison ‘Tribal’ Brierley to get a feel of what it’s like to shop for food on the roadside and how to cook roadkill pigeon.
3. Celebrate Halloween At Whitby Goth Festival
I still get surprised about the amount of Goths I encounter who haven’t actually heard of Whitby Goth Festival!
“In 1994, ninety-seven years after Dracula was published, a motivated individual by the name Jo Hampshire arranged a meeting of around forty music-mad pen pals – they met initially via NME Magazine – in the back room of a little pub called the Elsinore. It was in this back room that Whitby Goth Weekend was spawned. Over the years, the weekend has seen the world’s premier Goth acts perform, from Inkubus Sukkubus to London After Midnight, from Switchblade Symphony to Faith and the Muse.
Today, the twice yearly event – in April and October – includes two nights of live music, a Goth market, and numerous fringe events sees around 1,500 Goths descend on Whitby for a weekend of promenading, boozing, and parting with extortionate amounts of cash for Goth essentials, like bat cookie cutters, dragon blood incense, and human femurs. There’s even a charity football match between visiting Goth team Real Gothic and local team Stokoemotiv Whitby.” – From my article ‘A Gathering Of Friendly Darklings’ published in Dirge magazine.
Though the event happens twice a year, the October/November gathering is always the one to go for. The entire town, and I really mean, the entire town makes an effort to make every Goth feel welcome and show they’re proud of their Dracula heritage.
When I make the trip, I don’t go for the music, but for the thrift store offerings. They bring out all their best black threads, and I just makes the rounds. I also go for the fish and chips. Which are legendary.
Fish & Chips At Wetherspoons. Recommend.
If you’re a newcomer, you’ll probably get most of your enjoyment out of the festival like atmosphere (Goths really are a happy bunch) that takes over the whole town, Goth watching and winding your way through Whitby’s narrow cobbled streets that are home to some of the most interesting Gothic/Pagan shops you’ll find in this part of the country.
- If you’re travelling by car, get there early – about 9am – to ensure a parking space. You can park for free if you’re willing to park a bit further from the centre of town. If you’re travelling by bus and train, also get there early. On your return journey, be at the ‘stop’ at least 20 minutes before your bus of train is going to leave to ensure you have somewhere to sit.
- Plan your outfit/s well in advance and make sure it’s something warm! Wear shoes that you know you can walk comfortably for hours in, as there’s a lot of steep hills you’ll be trekking up and down and plenty of steps. It’s always cold during the October/November event – remember it’s a seaside town – and you’ll just be miserable if you’re not properly wrapped up. You would be surprised how the joy can be sucked out of you when the wind is getting to your neck or your legs are frigid enough to snap.
- Have a budget and stick to it.
- Go around all the Goth markets – there are several at various locations, including the famed Bizarre Bazaar. You can find all the info about where to find them here. Be aware that the vendors will watch you like a hawk. Try not to be offended and don’t feel pressurized to buy anything.
- Rummage through all of the charity shops for Gothic bargains. Be thorough so you don’t miss out on anything special.
- Be polite and remember that everyone is there to have a good time. It’s likely random people will start a conversation with you, especially if your in a pub.
- Make sure you visit one of the pubs – The Little Angel, The Duke Of York and Middle Earth Tavern (if you want it quiet) are all recommend. They’re mostly massively crowded but the atmosphere is like nothing else and there is often a fire to warm yourself by.
- Make sure you find time to wander on the beach. Ensure you know the times the tide will be in and out. Go when there’s plenty of light and you stand a chance of finding fossils. It’s likely you’ll find lots of gorgeous stones and shells too, so have a plastic bag with you.
- Eat fish and chips. They’re good pretty much everywhere you go in the town. Use plenty of salt and vinegar. Avoid the curry sauce. If you are on a budget, head to Wetherspoons. If you have more money than you know what to do with, head to The Magpie Cafe, but be prepared for a wait.
- Stay overnight. You won’t regret it.
- If you can’t stay overnight, at least try and stay until after dark so you can see Whitby Abbey lit up, and you can walk up the 199 steps up to St Mary’s church. There’s nothing quite like wandering Whitby after the sun goes down around Halloween. Try and read some of the local folklore before heading out into the dark, especially the tales about the Barghest.
- Spend some time in The Whitby Bookshop. Be sure to clamber up the rickety steps to find some bargains on the top floor. Their array of Dracula related reading material and memorabilia is impressive at this time of year. You’ll also find your books in Whitby folklore here.
- Drop by Rainbow Shells which is stocked to the rafters with affordably priced crystals and worthy ‘take home’ trinkets that you, friends and family will actually be thankful for.
- If you want a cheesy experience, make a beeline for The Dracula Experience.
- You don’t need to pay the fee to go inside Whitby Abbey, but do make sure that you take a walk along the clifftop where you’ll be treated to spectacular view.
View Over Whitby From Midway Up The 199 Steps
The Man Making His Way Up The 199 Steps
- Buy stuff that you know you can get considerably cheaper elsewhere i.e. New Rock Boots, fangs, corsets…unless it’s to support a charitable course or a fledgling business.
- If you’re not into Gothic music, don’t bother buying tickets for the night time events at Whitby Pavilion.
- Take photos of anyone without asking for their permission first.
- Climb all over the gravestones at St Mary’s Church. If you’re going to take photos in the churchyard, be respectful.
- Go massively over your budget. There’s no need for a trip to WGW weekend to be wildly expensive.
4. Make A Necklace Out Of Bones
Being a skint writer, it’s very seldom that I can afford to buy a nice piece of jewellery. Though I can sometimes afford to purchase a box of unwashed bones of Ebay and sometimes I get given bones as gifts. (I always keep my eyes open when I’m out and about in the forest too.) So I make my own jewellery much of the time.
There is something so deeply satisfying about crafting your own pieces, so I don’t let myself get hung up on the fact that I can’t afford the latest beauty from Burial Ground or Anu Tera or Blood Milk. I love the challenge and the creativity that accompanies the task, especially when working with bone. And the pride that comes with wearing something out that you made yourself is just the fucking best.
The good thing with making a necklace out of bone is that they’re sturdy as hell and aren’t going to break on you, unless you’re using fragile little things. I tend to use fox and deer bones for my pieces, and I’ve yet to have something go to pieces.
Below are necklaces which I crafted from deer, sheep and fox bones. I intend on doing a DIY post when I have my hands one some new bones to work with, but today I’ll link you to some decent videos so you can get on with it.
5. Make A Blair Witch Project Stick Figure
The Blair Witch Project is up there with my three favourite horror films of all time. So it was inevitable that one day I would have to re-create one of the infamous, ominous stick figure to hang in my home to pay homage to it. Though mine isn’t (currently) laced with dark magic.
If you are reading this blog, it’s quite likely that we have the same taste in decor, and like things darkly rustic, so it’s also quite likely that you’d be up for making one of most terrifying horror props of all time. I made a DIY post a few months back, taking you through the steps of how to make your very own Blair Witch stick figure. You can find it here.
Enjoyed this post? Part II is coming next Friday.