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If you love the new fashion of terror, Halloween, which fits perfectly with some local traditions – such as the Day of the Dead Souls – you can celebrate fear and mystery even on the most beautiful volcano in Europe. In fact, Mount Etna hides mysteries and stories of fear that have nothing to envy to the Celtic ones that are the basis of the pumpkin festival! And if you are in Sicily on this special day, you shouldn’t miss these tips.

Halloween and Etna tradition

Halloween is not an Etnean tradition, nor is it a Sicilian tradition in general. The “fashion” of this party came through American films and has only been a reality for twenty years. Even if the ancient Sicilian traditions foresee a similar rite (in many inland villages children knock on the doors looking for sweets the night before New Year’s Eve), the festival most felt by the local culture is that of the “Dead Souls”.

In fact, in the territory of Etna as in all of Sicily, the days of November 1st and 2nd are those in which people remember the holy souls, or the ghosts of deceased relatives. And they are the ones who leave the sweets to the children “under the bed”. The two festivals don’t overlap, although Halloween seems more exciting and more dynamic – the kids go out to find sweets, they don’t wait for them in bed.

But what unites the two traditions is fear, anxiety, the mystery linked to the afterlife. And in this sense, volcano Mount Etna is full of mysterious oddities. To look for and to live them, especially on this late October night, is great!

halloween etna (2)
the mystery of Etna

The ghost trees

On Etna, on Halloween night, the trees are the protagonists. Often, close to the ancient lava flows, you can see “ghost trees”. They are bleached trunks, killed by the excess heat of the river of fire, which, while enveloping them, never burned them. How come they didn’t catch fire? And how do they stand up against the elements if they are dead? Go and admire them at dusk, when they stand out – very white – against the dark evening sky. It will be a thrilling experience!

The Etna birches are also mysterious trees. First of all because birches are typical of northern Europe. What are they doing so far south? And then, what are those mysterious eyes that observe us from their pale trunks? Are they really the eyes of the spirits, as the local peasant tradition says? For some years now, among other things, a mysterious artist has been wandering around the volcano and carving old trunks with the faces of elves and witches. All this adds to the mystery!

The Hill of the Corpses

On the north side of Etna, after a fairly hard – but highly panoramic – excursion path you reach an ancient lava flow (17th century) called Sciàra del Follone. Here, though, it is best known as Monte dei Morti (the Hill of the Corpses). It is the residue of an eruption formed by corded lavas, that is very fluid and with an elongated shape like a rope. Piling up one another, and thus cooling down, these lavas now appear as a group of skeletal corpses all stacked up. An impressive vision … worth of the best horror story!

Other mysteries of Etna

The first courageous explorers of the mountain began to climb to the peaks between the 17th and 18th centuries. In the 19th century, alpine hiking was already an established sport. Those few brave scientists and geologists who ventured to the top of Mount Etna between the 18th and 19th centuries certainly saw many particular phenomena. Someone claimed to have seen some strange shadows on the edge of the summit craters. Shadows that were not human, but almost diabolical. They emerged or plunged into the abyss. The sightings dwindled to almost disappear in the 20th century … but the mystery remains.

A still current mystery is that of the haunted villa located in the town of Mascalucia, on the southern flank of the volcano. The Villa del Barone is an eighteenth-century building that has not found an owner for years. In fact, it seems that too many presences are wandering within those walls. And those who have tried to live there have paid very dearly for their gamble! If you are in Mascalucia on this dark day, then, be careful where … you will park your car! (photos by Grazia Musumeci)

Autore: Grazia Musumeci

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