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"Trick or treat?" has become as familiar a saying to us here in the UK as "Happy Easter" or "Merry Christmas" but it wasn't always the case. The reason our streets are now so full of characters both ghoulish and ghastly on October 31st and that most of keep a bowl of sweets by the front door and a jack o'lantern in the garden is all largely down to a tradition we have inherited from the USA. So where better to investigate the origins and rituals of this fiendish festival then where it all began.

Knotts Berry Farm in California becomes Knotts Scary Farm for the holiday and throughout September and October expect over 1,000 scary monsters roaming in the foggy park, scary mazes and what they call "explicit horror" all presided over by Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, who promises nowhere to hide. This is not for the under-13s.

Pennsylvania's Eastern State Penitentiary is said to be haunted and again, not suitable for small children, you can go to the former prison for night time experiences such as "The Lockdown" and "The Experiment" that are pretty much guaranteed to scare the living daylights out of you. The tours are called "Terror Behind the Walls" and there are six blood-curdling attractions to endure in the bounds of a former prison that is also full of spooks. Go if you dare.

For somewhere not quite so knee-knockingly petrifying, Mickey and friends have got a Not-so-Scary Halloween party going on at Disney in Orlando with more of a focus on the treats than the tricks. With themed parades and fireworks this is a family friendly occasion, but it is still expected that participants will dress up so don't forget the costumes.

Anoka, in Minnesota is the "Halloween capital of the world" Concocted by the city elders back in the 1920s to divert its youngsters from the more customary Halloween pranks and misdemeanours, the town now hosts a galaxy of events from ghost walks, to house decorating competitions and even an Orange Tie Ball.

Salem in Massachusetts is notorious for its hysterical witch trials. Capitalising a bit on this hideous past, it now runs the Haunted Happenings Festival with a lot of witchy associations from psychic readings to re-enactments of the infamous trials. There's pumpkin picking, scary storytelling, a candlelit ghostly tour as well as Frankenstein's Laboratory and a wax museum.

For the spectacle without so much of the spine-chilling, New York's' Village Parade is said to be the biggest in the world, with a staggering array of costumes, bands, performers, floats, puppets and dancers, basically every form of entertainment you can imagine. With over 2 million spectators expected each year make sure and be early if you want to snag a prime viewing spot en route.

Thrill-seekers might prefer to go to one of the Fright Fest weekends in any one of the Six Flags theme parks throughout the States, which are not for the faint-hearted and once again, not for the kids. Although safe spots are provided throughout the parks after dark, with a scream around every corner it is probably best for those younger children (and those with heart conditions) to stay away.

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