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Fun Frights And Haunted Sites Set The Scene For A State Of Halloween Delight

October 11, 2014 Destination North America No Comments Email Email

No place does Halloween like New York. October 31 is just under a month away and the Halloween excitement is already in the air throughout the Empire State where frightful and fanciful goings-on begin in late September and continue right into November. Here are some highlights from around the state.

The Hudson Valley: Headless Horseman Country of the most frightful encounters are expected to occur in the Hudson Valley, where Washington Irving’s Headless Horseman is said to still prowl at night.  One of his favorite haunts is the Headless Horseman Hayrides and Haunted Houses in Ulster Park. Here, the mile-long evening hayride through the woods, haunted houses and corn maze are so scary that children eight and under are not allowed.

Throughout October, Legend Weekends at Sunnyside, Irving’s former home, frighten and delight fans of his chilling tales with ghost stories, magic and puppet shows by day, while evenings transform the grounds of nearby Philipsburg Manor into a terrifyingHorseman’s Hollow, appropriate only for those ten and older. On this walking trail through a town driven mad by the Headless Horseman, creatures, both human and otherwise, lurk in the shadows, ready to shock the unsuspecting while incredible special effects disorient and unsettle.  Visitors also can take in candlelight performances featuring spooky organ music and a reading of Washington Irving’s classic tale, “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” by master storyteller Jonathan Kruk at the Old Dutch Church in Tarrytown. Washington Irving himself now resides in the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, where tours by lantern-light visit his resting place.

Adrenalin-pumping excitement beckons behind the gated walls of Historic Playland Amusement Park in Rye, where October bringsScared by the Sound Haunted House to life with terrifying scenarios that should not be seen by children under ten, or anyone faint of heart. The brave can also try to escape the Black Out Maze.

Called “one of the scariest places in America” by the Discovery Channel, The Forest of Fear in Tuxedo is filled with its own set of ghosts, ghouls and fiendish freaks who delight in terrifying visitors 12 and older on October weekends. Another fearsome place is the Pure Terror Scream Park, where over two miles of new haunted houses and trail attractions await adults and teens on the grounds of Museum Village in Monroe from now until November 2nd.

For those looking for a less frightening experience, the Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze at Van Cortlandt Manor in Croton-on-Hudson features an illuminated walk-through a trail of more than 5,000 hand-carved pumpkins. This event sells out quickly and only tickets for the November dates are available. Flying pumpkin ghosts soar above the lantern-lit path and sound effects add to the Halloween atmosphere. A more refined ambience sets the scene at the Halloween Costume Ball, held on October 25 in Washingtonville in the wine cellars at Brotherhood, America’s Oldest Winery. Secret judges will choose the best costumes during an evening of dinner, music and dancing; party-goers must be 21 or older.

The Catskills: Zombies on the Move

October attracts a cast of spooky characters to the Catskills. For example, ghosts lead the way on a two-hour Howe Caverns Haunted Lantern Tour on Saturdays in October. The tour is only available for children 12 and older.

The courageous can face their zombie phobias on October Saturdays and Sundays starting Oct. 11 at Village of the Dammed(formerly Screamers’ Hollow) on the grounds of the Sterling Renaissance Festival in Sterling. There, zombies, ghosts and demonic characters skulk about the village and its twisted maze. This year, the village is incorporating a family-friendly Spooky Town Kids Village, which will run from 4 – 7 p.m. and include music, food, comedy and musical shows. Things get scarier from 7 – 10 p.m.  when the spooking gets serious.

Visitors to the two-story Victorian Massacre Mansion at the Blackthorn Resort in East Durham can expect eerie encounters in the mansion and at its haunted graveyard and dark maze as guides relate the story of Dr. Angus Fear. The Mansion is open on Saturday and Sunday evenings from September 26 through Halloween.

On the less spooky side, on October 17-19, the Bobbie Burne Howling Halloween Weekend at Villa Roma Resort in Callicoon will feature family fun that includes a costume contest, and pumpkins will be the focus at the 6th Annual Jack-O-Lantern Jamboree at Maple Shade Farm in Delhi on October 26. Activities include pumpkin-carving stations, a jack-o-lantern contest, a dance party with DJ Dracula and a costume parade. Everyone is invited to participate in trying to light a giant display of Jack-O-Lanterns all at the same time in an attempt to set a new record.

Finger Lakes: Paranormal Probings

Ghost Investigations are serious affairs at the Naples Hotel in Naples, which has appeared on the television show “Ghost Hunters.” During G.H.O.S.T. Investigations evenings, an overnight program on October 12 and 24 from midnight to 4 a.m., guests can work with Ghost Hunters of the Southern Tier to seek out hauntings on three floors of the hotel with the help of technologies used in paranormal investigations. In addition, on Thursday evenings in October, the chef, who has experienced hauntings, hosts special evenings that feature a family-style dinner.

Spirits are also the focus on October 26 at Sonnenberg Gardens & Mansion State Historic Park in Canandaigua where guests on aHaunted Garden Stroll encounter spooky authentic characters from the past such as the Lady in Black and the apparition of a Civil War general who died in the mansion. On the weekends of Oct. 17-19 and Oct. 24-25, guests also can participate in a “whodunit”Mansion Mystery.

Terror actually becomes palpable on weekends between September 27 and November 1 at Tagsylvania in Big Flats. Those who dare visit discover Psycho Swamp, where flashlights reveal blood-thirsty creatures in the foggy woods, Lectar’s Lair, a two-story haunted house that is home to a deranged psychiopath and his captives, and Jerkus Circus, a 3-D traveling circus owned by the devil.

Hearts won’t do the racing though at the Pumpkin Palooza Festival in Lyons on Oct. 18. The all-day event is best known for its traditional Pumpkin Race down Pearl St, when about 200 pumpkins race at top speed down a steep hill. Also on tap are craft and food vendors, family-friendly games and a 6 p.m. Zombie Walk.

Greater Niagara: Genetics and Spirits Gone Wild 

The Greater Niagara region is plagued by some scary stuff around Halloween. While by day, Becker Farms & Vizcarra Vineyards in Gasport offers kid-friendly hayrides, mazes, pig races, pony rides and pumpkin picking, after sunset on the weekends of Oct. 17-19 and Oct. 24-26, things get crazy, with hairy hayrides through the forest and a walk through a biogenetic lab. Here, instead of improving the taste of fruits and vegetables, the lab’s genetic experiments have produced monsters with a taste for the human visitors who venture into the twisting passages of their lair.

The region also has made the news for its paranormal activity. Open year-round, Rolling Hills Asylum in East Bethany was ranked as the nation’s second most haunted location by “Haunted North America.” A hot bed of paranormal activity, the site buzzes with disembodied voices, mysterious door slammings, footsteps and sounds of furniture moving as well as full body apparitions. The site offers historical and flashlight tours and ghost hunts.

Every Saturday through October 25, the Lewiston Peace Garden in Lewiston offers guided Marble Orchard Ghost Walks that showcase Lewiston’s rough and tumble frontier and its ghost-filled present. During a one and a half hour guided walk, theatrical guides relate true tales of crime, mayhem and murder in the city and ghostly legends on a stroll the the Historic District and cemetery.

The Adirondacks: Spooky Sightings

In the Adirondacks, spooky characters add Halloween spirit to October weekend fun at the Adirondack Fright Fest at Great Escape in Queensbury. Kids can dress up in costumes and trick or treat, decorate pumpkins and see “Fright Shows” by day. At night, zombies, ghosts and other creatures take over, creating hair-raising havoc in the streets, haunting the attractions and putting on shows.

Great Escape also is hosting a Zombie Run! 5k race on Oct. 11 which benefits the American Red Cross Adirondack-Saratoga Chapter and ends with medals for all and a post-race party. Also in Queensbury, West Mountain’s Fall Festival features Haunted Hayrides during the weekend of Oct. 11- 12 along with fall staples like apple cider, roasted corn and candy apples.

Plus, kids aren’t the only ones who love costume contests. At last year’s annual Halloween Party and Pug Parade in Chestertown, more than 80 pugs and their families competed and this year’s event, this year’s Oct. 18 event is expected to be equally fun, with awards for most creative, scariest, cutest, best duo, youngest, oldest pug, best wrinkles and more. Halloween themed races, listed on the Adirondack Road Runners website, include a 5k and 10k Wandering Witches run on Oct. 19  in Greenwich and a 5k Goblin Gallop on Oct. 25 in Glens Falls.

The Adirondacks are also rich in another Halloween tradition, mazes , with fun twists in store at Adirondack Coast orchards such as Apple Jack’s Orchard, Rulfs Orchard and Fort Ticonderoga. Also on offer are delicious home-baked goods, jams, fruits and vegetables. The maze at Country Dreams Farm in Plattsburgh also hosts an annual “aMAZEing halloWINE celebration with wine and beer tastings in their maze. The farm also puts on family-friendly events such as its Oct. 4 ghost stories around the campfire, a pumpkin patch, petting zoo and horse-drawn wagon tours.

Another fun Adirondack tradition is the Pumpkin Train, which runs on Oct. 18 and 19 between Thendara, NY near Old Forge, NY and Wally’s Pumpkin Patch. Each child who arrives in costume can pick a complimentary pumpkin.

Capital Saratoga: Facts and Legends

Curious ghost hunters in the Capital-Saratoga region might start with the free Capitol Hauntings Tour of the New York State Capitol in Albany where guides talk about a dedicated night watchman who died in the Capitol fire of 1911, believed to still be making his rounds, and two United States Presidents thought to have visited the Capitol after they died. There’s also a secret demon carved in stone, said to hold a Capitol curse. The legends connected with this historic building will be explored on weekday tours, Oct. 6-31 (except Columbus Day).

Murder at Cherry Hill at the historic Cherry Hill Mansion in Albany was the site of a notorious 19th century crime of passion.  It resulted in two sensational trials and Albany’s last public hanging. On a dramatic tour led by historical players on Oct. 24 and 25, visitors will “meet” the murderer and others involved in this ghastly story.

Haunting tales are also the subject of the Oct. 31 Proctors Ghost Tour and Paranormal Investigation, which shares tales and first-hand accounts as participants take a spine-tingling walk through the historic theater’s creaky backstage hallways, haunted dressing rooms and eerie balcony boxes.  New this year is Spirit Circle, an event conducted by a Spiritualist minister, certified psychic-medium and paranormal investigator, who will reach out for messages from loved ones, guardian angels and other spirits.

Central New York: Ghost Hunters

Ghosts seem to love Central New York and October is the month they are most celebrated. The Ghost Reveal at Historic Fort Ontario in Oswego on Oct. 17 and 18 from 7 – 10 p.m. is hosted by the Central New York Ghost Hunters.  Fort Ontario was the subject of an episode of the SYFY Channel’s Ghost Hunters in the fall of 2012 and ghost sightings and soundings have been associated with the fort since the 19th century.  During guided tours, evidence gathered in the fort’s buildings and underground casemates will be presented in the rooms or areas it was obtained.

Historically accurate, detailed stories about Cooperstown’s ghost stories and history, including famous author James Fenimore Cooper, are the subject of the Cooperstown Candlelight Ghost Tour, offered throughout October.

Spirits of a more explicable sort are sure to be sighted on Spooky Night Rides on a tractor-pulled wagon through a forest haunted with live monsters; night rides and family-friendly day rides operate on October weekends by Godfrey’s Last Stand, just north of Phoenix.  Ghosts and other haunting sights also beckon at Screamwood Forest in Pennellville on Oct. 17-18 and 24-25.  Here, friendly frights for younger kids happen at 6 p.m.; serious scares begin at 7:30 p.m.. Proceeds benefit the Phoenix Central School Chorus and Drama Boosters.

A less scary side of Halloween attracts families to the Fall Fun Festival at Fort Rickey Children’s Discovery Zoo in Rome on weekends from Sept. 27 to Oct. 26.  Here, families can enjoy activities such as pumpkin painting, pedal tractors, pony and wagon rides and the chance to see Mrs. Lumpkin, the talking pumpkin.

Chautauqua-Allegheny: Racing in Character

Do you wish you could extend the Halloween spirit into November?  At the EVL Halloween Half in Ellicottville in the Chautauqua-Allegheny region, on Saturday Nov 1, 2014, costumed runners can compete in a half marathon, 5K or kid’s races, with the emphasis on fun.  Medals are awarded for costumes as well as race times, and sponsors include home-town candy-maker Watson’s Chocolates of Distinction.

Ellicottville is also home to one of the state’s hairiest hayrides, Nightmare Hayrides on Sommerville St., on October weekend evenings, where you’re sure to encounter scary creatures. The ride ends at a haunted maze leading to a barn with a vortex tunnel.  More haunting beckons in Gowanda, where theater-goers can decide for themselves whether the Historic Hollywood Theater is home to ghostly spirits at its annual Haunted Theater evenings on October 24, 25, 26 and 31.

Halloween is also about pumpkins and Pumpkinville in Great Valley is the go-to spot for all things pumpkin including pumpkin picking, pumpkin jumping pillows and sweet treats like fresh-baked pumpkin bread, pies, donuts, muffins and even pumpkin ice cream.  The farm also offers hayrides, pony rides and a six-acre cornfield maze.

Long Island: Jack O’Lantern Art

Halloween creativity takes many turns in Long Island. One of the most astounding is the Rise of the Jack O’Lanterns at Old Westbury Gardens in Old Westbury, where more than 5,000 hand-carved Jack O’Lanterns line a quarter-mile trail that winds past carvings from dozens of artists.  Open the weekends of Oct. 16-19, Oct. 22-26 and Oct. 29- Nov. 2, the site includes a re-creation of the New York City Skyline, sports and TV stars, a giant graveyard and life-sized dinosaurs, all made of lit jack o’lanterns.

Bizarre happenings and gruesome creatures also take creative twists at Gateways’ Haunted Playhouse in Bellport, open weekends through Nov. 1.  In addition to its scary attractions, the park also offers a “Not So Scary Adventure for Kids” where creatures are more goofy than ghoulish.  Another Long Island attraction, the Bayville Scream Park in Bayville also comes in multiple levels of terror. Open weekends through Oct. 5 and on Nov 7-8 and daily Oct. 10 through Nov. 2, its five terror attractions require kids under 12 to come with an adult; while a pumpkin bounce, haunted train and hay rides and the regular attractions of Bayville Adventure Park are suited to the under-ten crowd.

Thousand Islands-Seaway: Getting Pumpkin-Ready

Families can get a jump on Halloween in the Thousand Islands – Seaway region at the CNY Great Pumpkin Festival in Oswego on Oct. 4-5, when the area celebrates its role as a major international giant pumpkin weigh-in site with music, scarecrow building, pumpkin carving lessons, ghost stories and other fearsome and farm-related fun.

Kids will also love the annual Boo at the Zoo Halloween fun on Oct. 25 at the N.Y. State Zoo at Thompson Park in Watertown, where kids can come in costume and trick-or-treat and pick up goodies from their favorite characters.

The Haunted History Trail of New York State

What frightful experiences are on your bucket list?  Spending the night in a haunted castle?  Touring a cemetery as shadows waver in the torchlight?  The Haunted History Trail of New York State offers ghost-enthusiasts year-round thrills.  Investigate the hauntings on your own or with friends. The not so brave can take a guided tour of haunted happenings at select locations.  The state-wide trail  has a full calendar of Ghostly Events offering fun for the whole family.  Muster your courage, and if you dare, Explore the Hauntings of New York State.

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