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A New York Halloween

In New York, Halloween begins in early September and builds in a steady crescendo of pumpkins and black latex to the weekend nearest to October 31, when New York's apartment buildings and houses unleash upon the city streets eight million costumed citizens.

world Updated: Oct 31, 2010 00:13 IST

In New York, Halloween begins in early September and builds in a steady crescendo of pumpkins and black latex to the weekend nearest to October 31, when New York's apartment buildings and houses unleash upon the city streets eight million costumed citizens.

Halloween in New York is not just witches and dime-store zombies. We're in the creative capital of the world — and the best New York costumes often border on conceptual art.

Among the thousands of costumes that parade by, I've seen a woman dressed as a subway turnstile, a man tricked out as a Tetris block (lots of foam) and countless Lady Gagas (lots of make-up, little clothing). Halloween here is no kids' game. In fact, with its roving cadres of slutty nurses and suggestive genies – do not rub the lamp! – it is emphatically not for children. For us adults, it's a chance to play dress-up with millions of others. Forget New Year's Eve. Halloween is New York City's finest hour.

“Halloween is like Mardi Gras,” says Jeff Stark, whose email list supplies the city's revellers with underground parties. “This year, with Halloween on a Sunday, you'll party so hard on Friday and Saturday that by the time Halloween comes, you'll be all worn out.”

Perhaps the biggest and best, and by far the wildest, party in New York this season will be Within the Land of Ash. The party lasts from 7pm Saturday to 7am Sunday and stretches across five Brooklyn venues.

But for Halloween itself, there’s probably no greater spectacle than the annual Halloween parade that has coursed through Greenwich Village, a deluge of larger-than-life puppets and Village freaks, for 38 years. The parade is the backbone of New York City’s Halloween scene.

If you don’t want to dress up, you can volunteer to carry one of the giant puppets that coast up Sixth Avenue like jangly disembodied spirits. For a more participatory but non-parade experience, I’d suggest forgoing bars and sticking to hotels or clubs. Many hotels offer Halloween packages and Halloween parties.

But if you want the really creepy and truly New York Halloween experience, head back into Brooklyn. Coney Island’s Creepshow at the Freakshow, a sprawling haunted tour through the already rather creepy amusement park, proves there’s nothing scarier than a deserted rollercoaster at night, except, of course, one populated by zombies.