Halloween at the Newtown Road Cemetery

Halloween at Newtown Road Cemetery 2023
This Halloween, the historic Newton Road Cemetery in Rushden, England, became the stage of an original event that blended slow tourism with an educational note.

Event organisation


In October 2023, Friends of Newtown Road Cemetery linked up with City Arts, a community art centre, based in an old Wesleyan Missionary Chapel, to organise a unique Halloween event like no other.

The purpose of the event was to celebrate Samhain. Samhain (a Gaelic word pronounced ‘sow-win’) is a Celtic ceremony marking the transition from light to dark as the year unfolds and it is the precursor of Halloween.

With a total of eight executed performances over three nights, the event proved to be a great success, leaving participants with lasting memories and a newfound appreciation for the stories embedded in Newton Road Cemetery. The participation fee was £10 per person. 

Three different "ghosts" appeared in the event's performances - all based on real people buried near the ceremonial space (a motor mechanic, a female parish visitor and a wine merchant/Freemason).

Event program


Participants started by doing crafts, mostly decorating small skulls, before encountering the Great Memergiser (downstairs). He explained their tasks for the evening. They had to follow three alleys towards the local cemetery. On the way, they would meet three wise women who would give them items to carry and information to remember.

Two volunteers shepherded the group along the alleys. The "Maiden" gave each person a sprig of rosemary (for remembrance). Then to acquire energy they had to touch green on green. They used the rosemary to swipe any overhanging branches. The "Mother" gave them each a red candle. As they walked along the outside high wall of the cemetery, they could hear a drum beating, sticks snapping, whining noise, and screams. Then, the "Crone" gave each person a black stone decorated with a rune, took them to the cemetery gate and called out "Is anybody there?”. The cemetery sexton appeared, opened the gates, and told the group to follow him/her. As they walked along, they were told to touch iron to increase their strength. Many of the graves have iron railings around so it was easy to complete that task. 

Eventually they reached the ceremonial space where the Great Memergiser appeared. First, he asked them to crush the rosemary and smell it, then drop it to the ground and stamp on it. Then they all lit their candle, still holding it. He asked what they had been told by the Wise Women, who might be memergised. Then they held their stone and started chanting. The chant, as it got faster, became "We Remember Them".


At this point they had turned around and were facing the Chapel which was in darkness. Inside there were disco smoke machines with coloured lights. The doors of the Chapel slowly opened, the smoke billowed out and through the smoke walked the "ghost". The ghost thanked them for memergising him/her. Said a little about what they were going to do with this opportunity and walked away.

The group was then led towards the Chapel. As they reached it, the lights were switched on and they came inside. Warm spiced apple juice awaited them and the Magister who asked them to look at some 19th century photos (CDVs) to see if they could spot the ghost they had seen. Of course, they couldn’t, despite all the photos being taken by professional photographers in Newbury. No-one had bothered to write on the photos who each person was. 

The participants could also match the design of the rune on the stone to see what its meaning was.

Educational messages

There were two messages to take away from this event. First, the importance of remembering those who had died every year in some way (flowers, visiting graves, looking at letters, photos, talking about them). And second, taking time to print off photos and then writing who each person was on the back. A good winter evening project.

Note: "Memergise" is a word that Ros Clow, one of the organizers of the event, made up for a Halloween story in 2017. The word communicates that remembering someone gives us the energy to walk around the cemetery on Halloween and talk with anyone we meet, ghost or not.

Two of the wise women Path home lit by candles in jars Sexton and the ghost of wine merchant Searching for photo of the ghost Looking for meaning of their rune Teenage runner did the sounds - the most frightening part of the evening