‘Tis the season for spooky ghosts and goblins, creepy clowns, haunted houses with shadowy corners and all manner of other things to make your skin crawl. If you’re ready to get your thrills and chills for the season, these four Halloween experiences should do the trick.
Walk with the Ghosts of Charleston
Built on top of gravesites, Charleston, South Carolina is believed to be one of the most haunted cities in the South. Reports of ghosts are commonplace in this genteel city and there are plenty of tours that showcase Charleston’s dark side. One of my favorites, the Cemetery and Dungeon experience with Bulldog Tours leads you through the historic streets, cemeteries, back alleys and churches. Chilling stories of sightings, haunted houses, voodoo and Low Country superstitions are shared along the way. The tour concludes with a creepy visit to the Provost Dungeon in the Old Exchange Building, which housed hundreds of prisoners during the Revolutionary War. Jailed for either treason or sedition, many of them spent their final days there—let’s hope you don’t.
If you want to get goosebumps, join the behind the scenes tour of The Old City Jail. In operation from 1802 until 1939, most of the original structure remains intact including the cells and warden’s quarters. The Haunted Jail Tour takes you through the cells and hallways and into the places where Charleston’s most infamous criminals lived and died. The faint of heart may want to skip this tour and opt for the Haunted Pub Crawl – at least the liquid spirits will help you ward off the supernatural ones.
Search for Evil Spirits at the Missouri State Penitentiary
Speaking of prisons, a hundred years older than Alcatraz and infinitely creepier, the Missouri State Penitentiary in Jefferson City has seen some of the most notorious criminals in US history. Its claim to fame for the ultimate bad guys includes Martin Luther King, Jr’s assassin, James Earl Ray. Strange and unusual events have occurred within these formidable walls and the entertaining tour guides have all the spine-tingling scoop.
Wander through the cells of Housing Unit 1, A-Hall where you’ll find art drawn by former inmates still lingering on the walls. Tours also include a visit to the Dungeon Cells used for solitary confinement and a visit to the Gas Chamber where 40 inmates took their last breaths. Go ahead, have a seat. It’ll be all the chills you need for the Halloween season.
If ghost hunting is on your must-do list, join one of the paranormal tours where you’ll learn how to use paranormal equipment and recognize paranormal activity. To check out all the prison cells you’ll need to be able to climb several floors of uneven stairs. And, if you’re taking one of the nighttime tours, bring a flashlight to help illuminate dark corners where anything or anyone could be lurking.
Hang Out with the Headless Horseman of Sleepy Hollow
Let’s face it, the legend of Sleepy Hollow’s headless horseman ranks near the top of the harrowing scale. In October, the famous legend reaches its darkest extremes in the otherwise lovely village of Sleepy Hollow. Vampires, witches, ghouls, ghosts, undead soldiers and the Headless Horseman himself take command of the more than 300-year-old Philipsburg Manor. Follow a haunted trail through the town driven mad by the Headless Horseman as creatures lurk in the shadows.
Join an evening lantern tour of the final resting place of author Washington Irving in the famous Sleepy Hollow Cemetery. Enter the crypt of vampire Barnabas Collins of Dark Shadows fame. Wander the winding roads past centuries old monuments surrounded by the shadows of the night. A Revolutionary War militia captain, a notorious counterfeiter, a noted spiritualist, industrialists Andrew Carnegie and William Rockefeller are among the dead (or possibly undead) residing here. For more spooky inspiration, literary events through the month of October feature the work of Edgar Allan Poe and ghost stories by Washington Irving.
Face Your Worst Nightmares at Halloween Horror Nights
Entering its 29th year, Universal Studios’ Halloween Horror Nights brings all the monsters, zombies, clowns and other creatures from your nightmares to life. Halloween Horror Nights doesn’t just terrorize you—it assigns the terror by zone…five of them. In Rob Zombie Hellbilly Deluxe you’ll encounter heavy metal horror with other-worldly creatures and pulsing music. Avenue of the Stars has succumbed to the neon slashers from the 80s in Anarch-cade where “Game Over” translates to really bad news for you. There’s more terror at Vanity Ball where knife-wielding artists await the opportunity to carve subjects into living works of horrific art. Meanwhile, in Central Park, bloodlust is alive and well as undead Vikings carry out a ruthless siege. Should you wander into Zombieland, don’t forget to double-tap.
More nightmares await in the park’s 10 haunted houses. Choose your demons from Universal Monsters; Depths of Fear; Yeti: Terror of the Yukon; Graveyard Games; Killer Klowns from Outer Space; House of 1,000 Corpses; Ghostbusters; US and Stranger Things. I’ll take my chances with Ghostbusters, what about you?