Dark tourism experiences in Bristol uncover chapters in the city’s often gruesome and grisly, always intriguing past. Offering an alternative to your typical jack-o-lantern and fake blood-filled fright fest, here are some of the top places and events where you can lift the lid on all things macabre and dive into some unsavoury #SpookyBristol history this Halloween.

Extinction Voices at Bristol Museum & Art Gallery

The city museum has taken a Victorian tradition around death – the mourning veil – and used it to highlight a dark chapter in modern day history: the extinction of wildlife. Alfred the Gorilla and 31 other animals who face a high risk of extinction are currently veiled in the World Wildlife gallery for the Extinction Voices exhibition (15 August – 15 December). Alongside the eerie shrouded figures are stories connected to the reasons behind their critical endangerment today, such as the tiger who was shot by King George V in Nepal.

While you’re at the museum, take a turn into the supernatural in the Do you believe in magic? exhibition (19 October – 19 April). Discover the dark side of magic across time and cultures but also its healing powers.

Veiled animal at Bristol Museum's Extinction Voices exhibition

Image credit: Bristol Museum & Art Gallery

Tales from the grave at Arnos Vale Cemetery

As a fine example of a Victorian garden cemetery, there are countless creepy tales tied to Arnos Vale. Take your pick from themed tours happening throughout October and beyond to uncover some of the best (or worst, depending on how you look at it). Murder, Mayhem and History presents an evening of murder, rioting, adultery and more; Morbid Curiosity covers causes of death from hangings and drownings to dreaded illnesses; the Classic Cemetery Tour charts the site’s history, pointing out unusual graves and well-known residents along the way.  

Arnos Vale is also playing host to a talk on Bristol’s most despicable women, their first ever Macabre Market, and a programme of frightful film screenings over the Halloween period.    

Gravestones at Arnos Vale Cemetery. Photo by Paul Box.

Image credit: Paul Box

Bristol Film Festival at Redcliffe Caves

If watching a horror film in a Victorian cemetery isn’t a dark enough setting for you, then allow us to introduce you to Horror in the Caves. This series of screenings by Bristol Film Festival is held in Redcliffe Caves, a system of man-made tunnels originally dug in the middle ages. Once the home of a hermit and said to be where prisoners were kept during the French Revolutionary Wars or Napoleonic Wars, reports of paranormal activity here have been rife.

On the bill this year is everything from Jordan Peele’s Oscar-winning Get Out to classic sci-fi horror Them!. Check the Bristol Film Festival website to see which still have tickets (and which you’re willing to brave entering the dark depths of the caves for!).

Inside Redcliffe Caves tunnel system Bristol

Image credit: Bristol Film Office

Haunted and Hidden Tours

Go on the tail of Bristol’s most famous ghost stories and haunted sites on this walking tour, which leads you to places like the city’s haunted cinema and a 16th century haunted house. As well as these places with a dark edge, you’re also guided through some of the many film and TV locations in Bristol, with lots of local trivia thrown in too. By the end of the 75-minute tour, which starts at College Green every Friday at 8pm, you’ll be thoroughly spooked with a head full of facts!  

Haunted and Hidden Walking Tours Bristol

Image credit: Haunted and Hidden Walking Tours

Blood, Blackbeard and Buccaneers Tours

Many illustrious characters have a place in Bristol’s history but one of the most infamous is Edward Teach AKA Blackbeard. Run by the Show of Strength Theatre Company, this tour does more than just point out the notorious pirate’s hangouts. They separate fact from fiction when it comes to Blackbeard’s legendary brutality, revealing what actually went down and what was invented by himself to fill his rivals with fear. The tour lasts 2.5 hours, leaving from The Golden Guinea in Redcliffe every Saturday at 3pm.

Blood, Blackbeard and Buccaneers Show of Strength Tour

Image credit: Show of Strength Theatre Company

Check out our full Halloween in Bristol event listings.

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