Halloween culture clashes in Stoke-on-Trent

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For many, Halloween is that time of year when people are allowed to get dressed up in the most creative ways, carve pumpkins, take the kids trick-or-treating and let their hair down before the inevitable Christmas rush.

But in recent times, have the more traditional values and celebrations been tainted by our access to newer information available online?

A representative for the Pagan Federation of the West Midlands said Halloween is known as ‘Samhain’ and is a time for honouring departed spirits.

It is the time of year when the veil between this world and the ‘Otherworld’ are believed to be at their thinnest: when the spirits of the dead could most readily mingle with the living once again.

However, it is not considered to be a morbid event.

Fires are lit in houses to mark the transition from autumn to winter and traditionally they carve the likeness of their ancestors in turnips to honour them.

Not only that, but people used to take food to each other’s houses to show good luck and fortune for the winter, not unlike the now modern trick-or-treating culture we know and love today.

Unfortunately, with any tradition there are always a few individuals who like to things too far and exaggerate them for malicious amusement.

Last year, the internet-led “killer clown” saga spread worldwide and had everyone transfixed in horror, wondering when it would end and how far people would be willing to go for the sake of a prank.

The Saltbox Christian Centre in Stoke-on-Trent started the ‘Sorry, no Trick or Treat’ campaign in 1994 with support from schools and police in order ‘to remove the growing fear and menace of the traditional Halloween practice’ as stated on saltbox.org.uk.

Lloyd Cooke, CEO of Saltbox, said: “While we no longer run this campaign, over the 15 years that we did promote it we found much support.

“The concern voiced by many people is two-fold – unsupervised children being out late at night and knocking on strangers’ doors – and the fear experienced, especially by older people, from groups of teenagers who can resort to vandalism.

“We share the concern of some Christians regarding the possibility that some people might dabble in occult practices & possible cause themselves physiological harm.”

Image result for halloween house

Decorations on a house usually means they’re a safe bet for trick-or-treaters

However, there are some people who like to use the holiday of Halloween as a time to give back to the community.

Richard Hawkins, 44, is the events manager for The Ghost Academy – a ghost hunting and paranormal investigations company based in Stoke-on-Trent.

Tomorrow they are hosting a charity ghost hunt at the Intu Potteries Centre in Hanley, to raise money for The Peter Pan Centre – who provide care to children with special needs.

Richard said: “Halloween is always a bit unusual for us. As a whole for the paranormal community it’s always a busy time, but we do a lot of charity work around this time of year.

“Some places aren’t usually interested in what we do, which is understandable.

“People are always scared – they don’t want to mess with that sort of thing. But in the past couple years, people feel like it’s worth way more than a night out in Hanley – something they’ll remember.”

He said in his 25 years’ experience, he has had many debates with people of the Christian faith who oppose what The Ghost Academy does, adding: “In 1650 I would’ve been burnt at the stake for what I do.”

“I don’t want anyone upset or put out because of what we do.”

He urges for people to come along and experience it for themselves, but above all to keep yourself safe at Halloween and be respectful of others.

If you would like to attend the charity ghost hunt, it starts at 8pm tomorrow night at the Intu Potteries Centre in Hanley.

Tickets are £20 and proceeds will be being donated to The Peter Pan Centre.

Find them on Facebook at ‘The Ghost Academy’ page and the “Urban Ghost Stories” page.

Their website is www.theghostacademy.com

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