Macnas Giant Puppet Halloween Parade

Parade of the Macnas as part of the Bram Stoker festival. @bramstokerdub @macnasireland #parade #festival #dublin #ireland #bramstoker #macnas #puppet #rain #autumn #halloween #warewolf #crow #raven #stag #deer

For the last few years, Dublin City has hosted the Bram Stoker Festival. This is a week long festival that runs right before Halloween and celebrates everything about Bram Stoker and books like Dracula. As time has gone on, the festival has rolled into a week long celebration of Creepyness, horror, Vampires, and anything to do with Halloween and spooky Samhain tales. The best part of the festival is that most events are free.

This year, there was a parade that started from 3 different locations in the city center, all converging on Wolf Tone Square, behind the Church Bar & restaurant in the city center. Each segment of the parade included a different giant animated “puppet” on wheels, a band / musicians, and a following of the watchers from the segment of the Parade. The parade spectacle (puppets) are owned by Macnas – an Irish performance company out of Galway. When I saw the preview, I thought:

Who doesn’t love puppets?

and Had to go. From their website at:

The Macnas were designed to tell a story – of “Danu, Goddess of the Divine and Dark: brutal and beautiful, warrior and mother, hallowed and holy, she protects and provokes, takes flight and goes underground.
Mummers and drummers follow and seek. Demons and angels love and loathe, the dead dance and the living transform. Men become gods, fools become Kings, souls are sanctified, reptiles are rarefied and the city streets transform as the journey unfolds.”

Giant Macnas puppet Parade 10.26.2015

Thus it was that B and I left work, took the bus to town and then proceeded down Mary Street in the pouring rain. After waiting nearly 1.5 hours (ok we did go shopping to pass the time) we were quite soaked (even with our umbrellas, as you can see above) but filled with excitement as we could hear the pops and bangs of the fireworks, feel the drumbeat and marching from up the street… and then… to our delight, the festivities began. Closer and closer they came…

Giant Macnas puppet Parade 10.26.2015

Perched at the T junction, we were in the perfect spot. First came the giant Raven (Never more!) flapping his wings and moving his head… and accompanied by a blaring brass band in a cage. Below them were people dressed as various creepy characters like lizards and chameleons… all dancing to the music.

Giant Macnas puppet Parade 10.26.2015

Giant Macnas puppet Parade 10.26.2015

Giant Macnas puppet Parade 10.26.2015

As they passed and turned to go into the square, we looked to our left to discover the next segment of the parade was headed our way…. The Giant Stag… was coming up, followed by gnomes, witches and ghouls!

Giant Macnas puppet Parade 10.26.2015

Giant Macnas puppet Parade 10.26.2015

Finally, from the third point up Mary Street came the sound of drummers *thud* *thud* *thud* and out of the crowd appeared a giant Wolf and the Devine Danu, a nearly 4 story tall female puppet whose head turned, hands and feet moved, and eyes blinked to survey the swirling crowd around her.

Giant Macnas puppet Parade 10.26.2015

Giant Macnas puppet Parade 10.26.2015

Giant Macnas puppet Parade 10.26.2015

Moving eyes, hands, feet on Danu.

Giant Macnas puppet Parade 10.26.2015 Giant Macnas puppet Parade 10.26.2015 Giant Macnas puppet Parade 10.26.2015

Giant Macnas puppet Parade 10.26.2015

We followed Danu and the Stag into the square (the weather still being bleak and rainy) over puddles and muddy packed dirt and up onto some benches where we could see the party begin. Dancers with fire lit torches swirled, The lizard and chameleon costumed individuals pulsated around the crow, and the gnomes and witches made wise cracks next to the giant horned Stag.

Giant Macnas puppet Parade 10.26.2015
Dancing beasties

Giant Macnas puppet Parade 10.26.2015
Gnomes and Witches

As the music reached a cacophony of sound and colored flashing lights moved with the party spectacle suddenly there was a pause… A flare was lit… and then….

Giant Macnas puppet Parade 10.26.2015


Giant Macnas puppet Parade 10.26.2015

From the top of the buildings in the square, a series of white fireworks shot into the sky to the oohs and ahhs and cheers of the crowd. Halloween week in Dublin has begun!

Giant Macnas puppet Parade 10.26.2015

*Special thanks to the Bram Stoker Festival for sponsoring the free event, and Macnas performance company for really making the spectacle special!*


The Dead Zoo

Here in Ireland, for the last 2 weeks we have had the most exquisite weather. It’s been sort of warm (warm for here being somewhere between 11 and 15 C) and rather sunny. I took a trip to Northern Ireland (more on that later) and on April 1 (April fools day) I went to brunch at the schoolhouse bar near the Grand Canal:

Schoolhouse bar

It wasn’t hot, but it was warm enough to sit outside in a nice new spring jacket that I got for my birthday


and enjoy the atmosphere. From there, I walked down past Merrion Square Park (they have an amazing outdoor art gallery there on the weekends) enjoying the work of the individual artists and checking out the Georgian buildings.

Georgian Doors & buildings

From there, I noticed that the Irish Museum of Natural History was open, and because it was getting chilly / looked like rain decided that a free museum visit could be just the ticket. To say the least, it’s not at all what I was expecting – for the Natural History museums I’ve been in, they start with the natural world and include things like the flora/fauna fossils that developed into the dinosaurs and so on. This was just a bunch of creepy stuffed animals (spread over 4 floors), which over the years have earned this place the nickname of “the dead zoo”.

Some kid will have nightmares...

Some kid is going to have nightmares tonight…

After about 5 minutes in the place, I had the willies. As you enter, you’re towered over by the skeleton of an 8 foot Giant Irish deer, and all around the room are the heads of various animals staring down at the main gallery. It’s dark, dank, and dusty – and crowded with families who piled in to get out of the forboding weather. I thought that this may not turn out well, but decided to perservere. The main floor was all dead Irish animals – with a huge emphasis on fish, crustaceons, round and flat worms, corals, and various creepy crawlies. They had a huge display on bugs (including lice and ticks and how they live “with” humans), slugs, and bees. They had a few moths and butterflies (ok those were not so creepy even with the pins through their thoraxes) which are now extinct; and they also had a few starfish which were all in jars of formaldehyde alongside random shellaced fish that were slowly decomposing and had turned white / bug-eyed with age.

When I couldn’t take it anymore, I opened a set of double doors and followed a wide georgian style staircase up to the second floor, thinking that it had to get better. Ugh, no. Sadly, It just got more wickedly creepy. In here were the stuffed mammals (the other 3 floors were closed) from around the world stacked floor to ceiling – and the lighting was better because of the skylight above.

Kangaroo & wallabees

The thing is that once again the ancient cases were stuffed to capacity with 100 + year old specimins that were strangely preserved and again, off color because of dust and light. In some cases the animals were not labelled very well (if at all) – and I found the the style that someone used to preserve the animals quite creepy.

Some of the cute animals were made with angry / strange expressions where their “fangs” were out (seriously? wallabees and kangroos don’t have fangs!). Some you could tell that they were not kindly treated – (the rino missing the horn; the elephant with shreadded ears; the hippo missing teeth and looking like he was fresh off the autopsy table). Then there was the big animals – which in some cases still had the bullet holes in their heads or were lopsided because of the options used to put them back together.

Hippo missing teeth

Even some of the ones that were more “normal” – had strange expressions like – You’re going to put what where?!?!

You're going to stuff me with what?!?

This haunted my dreams on Sunday night...

I will say, however, that the worst was the one above. This one haunted my dreams on Sunday night…It’s like a little nightmare demon monkey of some sort. The taxidermy on most of these animals was such that even the cutest things were made to look like they were going to kill you in your sleep, suck your blood, or just were plotting the demise. I’m not planning on a return trip – and I wouldn’t take kids there – despite the fact that many parents did. Perhaps it’s because it’s cheaper than a trip to the Dublin Zoo? Either way, it was free- and they desperately need donations (no kidding people! They need some lighting and some labels!) so if you’re into this kind of thing, I suppose it’s not as bad as some would lead you to believe…


National Wax Museum

Great Blessings upon you as you go down the stairs...

The beginning of January, when it was still winter and quite bleak and bleary I came across a two for one offer for the Irish National Wax museum. It normally costs 10 euro entry per person, so I figured two for one was a good deal and couldn’t resist the thought of a warm museum on a cold wet day where you just wanted to get out of the house.

After a good bit of poking and prodding, I finally talked Tony into going to the wax museum on a very rainy gray Saturday in early February. In the beginning, he wasn’t too thrilled – and by the end – I’m glad I paid half price for the tickets – as I’m not sure I would have been too happy with the 10 euro price.

He's too happy to be a 'Freddy' Victim...
Silly Guy – he’s too happy to be a “Freddy” victim…

So, I show him how to do it right...
So I had to show him how to do it properly…

It wasn’t that the exhibits were bad – they were actually very well done and could have been really interesting. The problem was that the building itself has apparently moved (per the taxi driver that took me home) from a very large former cinema building to a now tourist heavy district (price raised and apparently so did foot traffic) – in one of the old buildings that were built in the late 1800’s for the Bank of Ireland. The result is that in order to fully use the space – they have exhibits starting in the basement – in the 8 foot x 6 foot safes, and to say the least, they’re quite crammed in. The thing is that these exhibits (to me at least) would have been the most interesting – because they were about the history of Ireland and famous people / events from the beginning of the Iron age all the way through the break away from the UK. In fact, at different points in the basement, the rooms were so full of statues that you could fit 2 people inside the vault comfortably – but any more than that, and you couldn’t see/read the signage that was posted and you couldn’t hear the piped in narration. Thus, in a crowded museum with a narrow basement hallway – we found ourselves turning sideways to pass, leaving rooms before we were done, and skipping exhibits in rooms that were too full of other visitors.

The main / upper floors, however, were a different story. On one of the floors, there was an entire area dedicated to the wonderful world of children’s fantasy. As you went up the stairs, you spiralled around a giant beanstock – and gazed up at Jack and Giant –

Fe Fi Fo Fum...

There was also a snow white mirror, several cartoon exhibits (including the simpsons, sponge bob square pants, and the teenage mutant ninja turtles…

Sponge Bob square pants

Me fighting Michaelangelo, Teenage mutant ninja turtle

As well as an animated sleeping Santa claus (complete with moving chest and snoring sounds).

Sleeping Santa

There was also a brief exhibit of famous Rock stars including Michael Jackson, Jimmy Hendrix, and Madonna and a few “movie” characters, including Freddy (above), several characters from Star Wars:

A photo take you, I think? (yoda, anikken)

Obi Wan fighting the Sith

One other thing to note is that there was also an entire section that seemed somewhat mis-placed. It contained a ton of exhibits on science and technology – including “green” power. (There were no statues here). It was interesting for the kids -and great fun – but being it was in one of the larger room type areas, I thought it was rather strange. I almost would have put these in the basement – and the statues from the basement into this area – as this was on the floor between the children’s fantasy room and the movie/rockers rooms.

On the bright side, we did have a good time (thankfully for only 5 euros each) before having dinner and heading back out of the city.