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Westport’s haunted hotel ‘saved Halloween’

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SAVING HALLOWEEN Cousins Triona O’Malley and Carla Rosenkranz had a brilliant response to their idea to decorate the Railway Hotel on the Mall in Westport for Halloween. Pic: Amayo photography

Óisin McGovern

The darkness of the winter lockdown was dispersed by all at the weekend who witnessed the ‘spook-tacular’ Halloween display at the old Railway Hotel in Westport.
The brainchild of local women Carla Rosenkranz and Triona O’Malley, the makeshift haunted house provided a welcome source of amusement for locals at a time when there is little to look forward to during Level 5 lockdown.
For the week leading up to Halloween night, the derelict Jeffers Hotel - locally known as ‘The Railway’ - was illuminated with an eye-catching light display and decked out with an array of cobwebs, ghouls and goblins.
Indeed, the site caught the eye of many passers-by, some of whom were given unexpected scares by cousins Carla and Triona, who frightened grown men from behind the windows while dressed as ghosts.
Speaking to The Mayo News yesterday (Monday), Carla says the feedback from locals has been ‘overwhelmingly positive’.
“We hadn’t planned on it being as big as it was,” she said. “It started off as just red lights …and we thought that’d be it, maybe paint a silhouette.
“Then we put them in and walked across the road and looked up and said ‘This is class, we’re going to have to keep going’.
“We were doing one window at a time - again no plan - and the windows became themed and we ended up working on it every day up until Halloween for maybe eight or nine days.”
She added: “Loads of people were offering up their services, we didn’t reach out to anybody, everyone came to us.”
Once word got out, the project soon became the talk of the town. A sound system and smoke machine were generously lent by local men Kieran O’Malley and Dick Bourke.
Slowly but surely the hotel - which closed in 2006 - was transformed in a miniature Hogwarts Castle which lit up the Mall with a red spectral glow.

Pumpkin competition
A pumpkin carving competition sponsored by Mall Boutique also captured the imagination, for which six prizes were sponsored by local businesses Aunty Nellie’s sweet shop and Teddy Mountain.
Picking a winner out the 60 carvings left at the front door of the hotel proved a very difficult task for Carla and Triona, given the standard of entries.
“We had no idea what to expect, or who would enter,” she said. “We got our first three and we were delighted and then we kept getting more and more … they were all unbelievable, we’d love to give prizes to all of them. The talent and creativity in the town was absolutely class.”
Carla said that the local community have been ‘so thankful, so grateful, so appreciative’.
She added: “Some people have said we saved Halloween, which wasn’t even our intention, but we are delighted that it happened.”
It is already thought that the haunted house could come back by popular demand next year, with some suggesting the idea of a Christmas display at the old hotel.
“We would never had done it if it wasn’t for Covid,” Carla said.
“We may have no other choice [but to do it again next Halloween]. People are already demanding Christmas lights. I’m not even fit to talk about that yet, we are wrecked,” she chuckled.
“We’ll have to take it all down and then we’ll think about Christmas. We’ll definitely have to use the space again, it brought so much joy.” Could a Covid winter wonderland be on it’s way to the Westport Mall? Watch this space.