Halloween, Samhain and murder by the state.
In a place where hundreds died in agony, superstition and fear, a nylon witch in a pound shop triangular hat is pretending to sweep away leaves in the gift shop.
In a place where hundreds and thousands saw their family members enter in chains and never saw them again, a cartoon cardboard skeleton represents fear and terror. The skeleton is giving a jolly rictus grin.
We are not allowed to take photographs here despite it not being a prison anymore.
I take photos of the gift shop. No one has ever been slung in jail for hovering a mobile phone over a £1.99 Celtic ring. Apart from possibly in America somewhere.
Tonight is Halloween.
I love Halloween. I love the sound of the words Samhain and Allhallows Eve, beautiful mysterious antiquated words that should not exist in a time of Argos, Amazon and Haribo.
To really portray the horror of this castle, where many innocent people died in terror in front of their family, the tour guide of this special Halloween night time tour pretends he is an undertaker.
Undertakers are scary.
He is a jocular undertaker and I think that no one anywhere has ever wanted a jocular undertaker. But I am a misery and on this darkened sudden winter eve, I wanted to hear in hushed tones about spectral icy fingers on prison wardens’ backs, not genial laughter at a girl in a sexy pussycat outfit.
‘Leave spookiness alone and stop making it sexy and silly and with cheap flattering accessories!’ I want to shout.
Because I want to close my eyes in a silent ancient terrible place and think of what has happened here at a time of year when worlds and spirits are meant to collide but instead a girl with suspenders and a ‘sexy’ bloodstained nurses uniform is giggling with the smirking cat.
The dead are quite justified in staying dead. Unless they are slightly lecherous.
The fake undertaker walks us through shadowed toppling history and sometimes someone with green hair jumps out and shouts ‘BOO!’ just as we were cheerily admiring real scolds bridles and ankle chains.
The fake undertaker does try to portray the horror of a not so recent past and we are to be fair here at an event where ‘prizes are awarded to the best costume. ’
I did not read the small print.
But I find it a queasy amalgamation of light laughter and miserable deaths.
We hear gut wrenching horrendous history about people, real people who were hung a mere step away and it is hard to then suddenly do a LOL at a light joke.
At a place where witches who probably weren’t witches died a hideous death.
And where people like us stood to watch.
Will Auschwitz have tour guides with jocular banter once enough time has past?
As it was Halloween and as Lancaster Castle is famous for it’s supposed supernatural activities, I was expecting the emphasis on the many many statements of people who have stated they have seen or felt ghosts here over the centuries.
But a sheet over the head is more terrifying than centuries of torture.
And legends mean nothing anymore.
But we will still stand to watch.