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October 13, 2011

Roundup: Halloween Festivities In And Around Philadelphia; Terrifying Tours, Haunted Houses, Frightening Festivals And More

From devilish dance parties and peculiar pumpkin patches such as Linvilla's to eerie explorations through some of the region’s most historic sites including graveyards and abandoned prisons, there’s something spooky for the whole family this Halloween in Philadelphia. (Photo credits clockwise from top left: credit iStock, courtesy Sesame Place, courtesy Eastern State Penitentiary, by R. Kennedy for GPTMC)

Haunted houses, hayrides and holiday hoopla, oh my! It’s almost time for Halloween in one of the most haunted regions in the country.

Attractions around the city are hosting spooktacular Halloween celebrations, both leading up to the event, on the actual night and afterwards. There’s something for everyone, from candy-hungry kids to thrill-seeking adventurists to history buffs and more.

Check out our top picks for Halloween frights and fun in and around Philadelphia:

Terrifying Tours

Ghost Tours of New Hope: Friday and Saturday nights through October 31. Follow a lantern-led walk along picturesque streets where you’ll see the phantom Hitchhiker who may pass you in the moonlight, or see the historic inn where Aaron Burr appears from time to time and stares with sightless eyes… plus new exciting stories that have been added to the tour.

New Hope and Ivyland Railroad’s Haunted Halloween and Trick or Treat Trains: Fridays-Sundays through October 31. Do you dare to climb aboard? Take a ride on the dark side, or for the Trick or Treat Train, assorted toys and candy will be given out onboard as well as at the station for children (costumes encouraged!) of all ages.

Ghost Tours of Powel and Physick House: Fridays-Saturdays through October 29, plus October 30-31. Peer into the shadows of Philly’s supernatural side as you explore the dark tales and paranormal activity of the haunted, colonial-era mansions in Society Hill, either the Powel or Physick House. Both are said to be
haunted, with strange and unexplainable experiences reported for 70+ years. You’ll get easy-to-use EMF meters (electromagnetic field meters) to peer behind the veil that separates the living from the dead.

Murder, Mystery, & Mayhem Tour: Wednesdays-Sundays through October 30. Have you ever wondered where the first kidnapping for ransom was? Where the first bank robbery in the country happened? On what street in the city Dr. Helmuth would waken to find more than 40 dead in one night from the fever? This is not your typical ghost tour, it’s a macabre fact tour of the city with a little bit of paranormal added for good measure.

Franklin Institute’s Mummies of the World: Flashlight Tour: Friday, October 21, 9-11 p.m. The Franklin Institute turns off the lights for a special late-night flashlight tour of the Mummies exhibit on its final weekend. This unusual experience will have you following an expert guide through the darkened interior of the popular exhibition. Along the way, you’ll meet the tattooed mummy lady, an Egyptian pharaoh and the family that was mummified in their own crypt. Be prepared — behind every mummy, there’s a strange story waiting to be told.

Sinners, Scandals and Suicides Tour at Laurel Hill Cemetery: Sunday, October 16, 2 p.m. Laurel Hill has its brave military heroes and selfless philanthropists. But what about the less than pure spirits? The South Philly gangster who got whacked when he tried to infiltrate the Schuylkill County numbers racket? The noted artist who committed suicide during the Depression when his priceless art collections were sold at auction for a few thousand dollars? The final resting places of these troubled souls will be among the many stops on this walking tour of Laurel Hill’s scandalous, sinful and sordid side.

Flashlight Halloween Tours at Laurel Hill Cemetery: Friday, October 28 and Saturday, October 29, 7 p.m. Guides will lead you along winding, dimly-lit pathways and through forests of gravestones and sculptures, as you learn about the history of this enchanting site. Along the way, you’ll meet some of Laurel Hill’s most restless spirits, as portrayed by talented local actors, the Not Ready for Afterlife Players. Afterwards, feast aside fire pits on cookies, hot apple cider and other spooky treats.

Dozens more options for celebrating Halloween, below.

Dining with the Dead at Laurel Hill Cemetery: Thursday, October 27. Enjoy a buffet-style, catered candlelit dinner and dessert, followed by Halloween flashlight tours through the Cemetery. Along the way, you’ll meet some restless spirits as portrayed by talented local actors.

College Night Ghost Hunts: Thursdays in October. For $7 off the normal rate, students can explore the dark tales and paranormal activity of forgotten burial grounds and a haunted Society Hill Mansion. EMF meters will be provided.

Haunted Moonlight Tours at Graeme Park (PDF): Fridays, October 21 and 28. The Friends of Graeme Park present ghostly Moonlight Tours of this Revolutionary War era estate. Separated lovers Elizabeth Graeme Fergusson and Henry Hugh Fergusson supposedly still inhabit the grounds. Henry, a loyalist, left Elizabeth behind in deep despair during the war. A live theater performance illuminates their spirits and sheds light on subsequent encounters with the duo.

Spirit of ‘76 Ghost Tour Ongoing. The 75-minute tour winds walkers down a spine-chilling path of cobblestone streets to visit Historic Philadelphia’s 20 most haunted attractions, including Carpenters’ Hall, Old Pine Street Church and Cemetery and the Benjamin Rush House.

Spooky Tours of Stenton: October 29. Something Spooky has taken over James Logan’s Stenton for Halloween… the exact day Mr. Logan died in 1751! Join, if you dare, a frightfully fun tour exploring the mysteries of Stenton mansion and the Logan family. If you make it out of the mansion alive, have fun painting a pumpkin to take home. Light refreshments will also be served.

Mercer by Moonlight Tour: October 28. What lurks in the shadows of the Mercer castle? Discover the history and folklore of some of the museum’s more chilling or ghoulish objects, including a hearse, gallows, “witch” doctor’s canes, brooms and more on this seasonal nighttime tour. Light refreshments will follow.

Frightening Festivals

HorrorFest at Shady Brook Farm: Thursdays-Saturdays through October 30. Shackle up a wagon on the Hayride of Horror and visit the depths of Shady Brook’s wooded acres. Walk through the darkness, test the limits of bravery, and find what lurks in the night inside the Barn of Horror. See the fields run red at Carnage, where the earth is tainted with the destruction, and dismemberment, of man: literally. And step outside of the realm of reality and into the 3-D Alien Encounter, a terrifying adventure that will bring the extraterrestrial into focus with out-of-this-world special effects. Hayrides and Pumpkinfest are also available for something tamer.

Laurel Hill Cemetery’s 7th Annual Gravedigger’s Ball: Friday, October 14, 7 p.m.-midnight. This most unique fundraiser will include cocktail hour, entertainment, dinner, dancing, silent and live auctions, and live music by The Sid Miller Band. Open bar will be available prior to dinner, and cash bar afterwards. Black tie or costume is requested. The 7th annual Ball will also mark the 175th Anniversary of Laurel Hill Cemetery’s founding in 1836.

“Boo at the Zoo” at the Philadelphia Zoo: October 22-23, October 29-30, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Children are encouraged to come in costume, visit with their favorite animals and trick-or-treat at stations throughout the Zoo. “Boo at the Zoo” will also feature storytelling, games, crafts, live music performances and more. Don’t forget to take a walk through the Philadelphia Zoo’s not-so-scary Extinction Graveyard to learn about the extinction of species around the world

Sesame Place’s The Count’s Halloween Spooktacular: Fridays-Sundays through October 30. Sesame Place gets even more fun for Halloween, when costumed kids trick-or-treat throughout the park, catch special Halloween-themed shows, wind through an interactive maze and enjoy hayrides and story time with the Sesame Street gang. For even more Halloween fun, families can sign up for The Count’s Dine With Me dinner party, including a buffet, character appearances and sing-alongs (October 29-30).

Spooky Mini Golf at Franklin Square: Fridays-Sundays through October 30. As dusk draws near, Philly Mini Golf becomes a magical playground with tricks around every corner. Pumpkin picking and decorating (October 22-23), the Trick-Or-Treat Trail (October 29-30) and train rides on the Lightning Bolt Express (October 15-16, 22-23, 29-30) round out the Halloween action.

Hershey Park in the Dark: Fridays-Sundays through October 30. hrill-seekers hop on roller-ghosters — all renamed for the season — under the dark cloak of night. Spooktacular attractions, glowing pumpkins and live entertainment await, and sweet adventures for younger visitors include trick-or-treating in Hersheypark’s Treatville.

Rosenbach’s Dracula Festival: October 12-29. To celebrate the man, the myth, the vampire, the Rosenbach Museum and Library, home to Bram Stoker’s original research notes and outlines for Dracula, presents the 9th Annual Dracula Festival. Create Dracula-inspired crafts, read aloud from Stoker’s infamous tale, attend a talk on the Rosenbach’s collection of Dracula notes and collections, or have your image captured in the Dracula-themed photo booth.

The Great Pumpkin Carve at the Chadds Ford Historical Society: October 27- 29.Local artists take on a patch of monster-sized pumpkins at The Great Pumpkin Carve as they carve and decorate the giant gourds into massive masterpieces. Along with live music, food and hayrides, the displays create a spooky-yet-fun atmosphere.

Rittenhouse Row Halloween Celebration: October 29. Little ghosts and witches get a real treat at the annual Rittenhouse Row Halloween Celebration, featuring trick-or-treating at participating restaurants, shops and hotels, as well as activity stations dotting the route.

Society Hill Dance Academy’s yearly Halloween Party: October 28. The BYOBe soiree includes costume contests, games and a putrid potluck with all sorts of gross-enough-to-eat goodies (sautéed brains, anyone?), plus a Thriller dance lesson.

Henri David Ball at the Sheraton Philadelphia Center City Hotel: October 31. For more than 40 years, party animals, celebrities and dignitaries have flocked to the annual Henri David Ball at the Sheraton Philadelphia Center City Hotel for a night of costumed mirth. The host, eccentric owner of jewelry shop Halloween, and offers a discount for attendees who dress up.

Radnor Hotel’s Howl-i-day Tea: October 29. A bewitching afternoon tea party awaits costumed little ones at the Radnor Hotel’s Howl-i-day Tea, which also includes arts and crafts, storytelling and special character appearances between sips.

Spooky Saturday Costume Contest on East Passyunk: October 22. There will be free candy, treats, apple cider and pumpkins and trick or treat bags to decorate. Prizes will be given out for Funniest, Scariest and Most Original Costumes. 11 a.m. is the Ages 4 & Under category, 11:30 a.m. for 5-8, noon for 9-12 and 12:30 p.m. for dogs!

Witch CRAFT Beer Crawl on East Passyunk: October 25. 11 East Passyunk bars and restaurants will be offering $3 craft beers, many with a focus on fall flavors. A $6.66 admission includes $3 Craft Beers, a Witch Hat + a Witch CRAFT Stamp Card. Collect stamps at each location by purchasing a $3 craft beer or any other food and beverages. Collect 6 stamps and you’ll be entered to win a Gift Certificate Prize Package from participating bars worth over $250!

Liberty Lands Halloween/Fall Festival: October 30. Come out to this very popular event, featuring Halloween and other family related activities. There will be a moonbounce, hayride, pumpkin painting, kids running around in costumes while crazed on sugar and more.

“Heroween” Celebration at City Tap House: October 29. Enjoy the ghoulish atmosphere of the City Tap House at the 1st annual Heroween event to benefit the Philadelphia Ronald McDonald House. Featuring DJ, dancing, raffles and a Halloween fashion show. There will be prizes for best costume, best team costume and highest fundraiser. A $10 donation will be collected at the door.

Witches of Narberth and Narberth Halloween Parade: October 29 and 30. On Saturday, October 29, at 1pm, on the corner of Forrest and Haverford Avenues, Halloween weekend kicks off with this popular annual scavenger hunt. Kids search downtown Narberth high and low for thirteen of the witchiest witches around. They collect treats along the way, and then return to the start to collect a Halloween prize. Then on October 30, hundreds of local children and their families will meet at St. Margaret’s School parking lot on N. Narberth Ave between 6 and 6:15 p.m.From there, they will parade in costume all through Narberth’s downtown to the basketball courts in Narberth Park. At the end of the parade all children receive cider, treats and a goody bag.

South Street Headhouse District Pumpkinland: October 29. The day will begin with an array of activities under the Historic Headhouse Square Shambles, including Sleep Hollow Farm’s pony rides and petting zoo, Make-N-Take Art & Pumpkin Decorating with the Queen Village Art Center, Wilby Band kids rock band performance, music and giveaways courtesy of B101, face painting, a roaming magic act, balloon art and more. There will be a costume parade and contest around The Shambles at noon, including a festive doggie costume category.

Paranormal Investigation on the Cruiser Olympia: October 29. Is the Cruiser Olympia really haunted? Are some crew members still onboard over 100 years after the battle of Manila Bay? The Tri-County Paranormal Research Society will lead a paranormal investigation aboard the Olympia. Along with a knowledgeable guide, visitors will investigate areas of the ship that have been reported to have paranormal activity: sick bay, guns deck, admiral’s quarters and engine and boiler rooms. The Olympia has had a history of reported paranormal activity. In October, 2010 the ship was investigated by The Atlantic Paranormal Society (TAPS) and was featured on an episode of the SyFy channel series Ghost Hunters.

Please Touch Museum’s Monster Mash Memorial Hall-O-Ween: October 21. Dress in imaginative attire and join a host of costumed characters for healthy trick-or-treating and Halloween-themed goodies, spooktacular art activities and much more. Monster Mash is part of Please Touch Museum’s Healthy Safe Halloween Presented by PECO, a month-long not-so-scary celebration which features Fly Fishing, a “black light” theater show, Boo Boulevard, a Halloween themed special exhibit, and another healthy trick or treating opportunity on October 31.

Spooky Shows

Edgar Allen Poe: Master of the Macabre at Laurel Hill Cemetery: Monday, October 24, 6 p.m. Edgar Allan Poe returns from beyond the grave to present some of his greatest Philadelphia works. Poe spent his most productive years in Philadelphia, and many of his classics were published by Louis A. Godey and George Rex Graham, both of whom are now interred at Laurel Hill. Poe’s tales come to life at sunset as actor Rob Velella reads from “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” and “The Cask of Amontillado,” as well as other haunting works. Afterwards, an evening tour of the famed City of the Dead will include wine, hot cider and Halloween treats.

Plays and Players’ Halloween Shebang: October 29. The boogeyman is not on the guest list at this event, where a little hocus pocus transforms the playhouse into a haunted house with costumed actors, live music from Alex and the Kaleidoscope Band and plenty of treats for young witches and warlocks.

Halloween Party show at Hedgerow Theatre: October 29. This annual event at Hedgerow Theatre in Media adds more fun to the performance of Agatha Christie’s Black Coffee with intermission treats and prizes awarded to audience members wearing the funniest, scariest, best couple and most creative costumes.

Halloween movie nights at Dock Street Brewery: October 18 and 25. Catch the Rocky Horror Picture Show on October 18 and Night of the Living Dead on October 25, in surround sound on a giant projector. Get $1 off small and $2 off large pizzas, plus $1 off select drafts.

FANGS! Halloween Family Open House at the Wagner Free Institute of Science: October 22. After meeting long-toothed friends visiting from the Elmwood Park Zoo, children are invited to explore the Wagner museum collection in search of fanged creatures and to compare them to other kinds of teeth from many different animals. Kids can make Halloween-related crafts, and will receive a goodie bag with candy and a special souvenir. Come in costume!

Mercer’s Night Tales: October 21. In honor of November Night Tales, Henry Mercer’s published collection of Gothic stories, this special program will uncover Mercer’s love of detective and gothic literature, including the works of Edgar Allan Poe. The program will conclude with a special dramatic performance of Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heart by actor Grover Silcox.

Hoodoo Blues Halloween Party at The Twisted Tail: October 29. Fire breathers, costumed performers, live music by the Gas House Gorillas, a costume contest with various prizes as well as food and drink specials are all part of the night’s festivities. Admission is $10 per person, but for those dressed in costume admission is waived. Dinner will be served in the downstairs dining room.

Scaredy Cats 2: The Shriek-quel! at Voyeur: October 22. Scaredy Cats with luxurious locks: the fabulously bizarre theme for City of Hope and HopeCuts’ 16th Annual Hair Design Competition. Presented by City of Hope, HopeCuts, and Raylon Corporation, Scaredy Cats 2 challenges stylists from hair salons in Philadelphia to put their talent to the test as they compete for awards and prizes in several coveted categories, including: Best Use of Hair Color, Most Intricate Design, Most Outrageous Hair Design, Best Use of Makeup, and Best Theme. Guests will enjoy colorful, over-the-top “Scaredy Cat” costumes and mile-high hair, as well as cocktails, music and dancing all night long.

Monster Entertainment’s Halloween Monster Bash at The Legendary Dobbs: October 22. Monster Entertainment will host its first haunting night of music spotlighting some of the best local and touring musicians. Local musical acts include the spooky indie pop of Conversations with Enemies, the electro pop of Revolution, I Love You, the blue rock swing of Parachuting Apostles, the fresh rhythms of Michael McCarry and New Jersey based pop punk band Case Closed. There will be a prize for the best dressed.

Haunted Houses

Fright Factory: Fridays-Sundays through October 23, nightly October 27-31. This mad man’s paradise consists of four parts. Explore the evil of iChem’s subterranean laboratories. Take a guided tour deep into the Philadelphia Haunted Asylum where Dr. Robert T. Brash, the hospital’s chief of psychiatry, experimented and tortured his patients. Walk among the dead until you reach a strange stone mausoleum lurking in the shadows. It’s time to face your fears.

Midnight Productions at Active Acres Haunted Farm: Thursdays-Sundays through October 30. Haunted House in the Hollow has been listed by AAA as one of the nation’s premier haunted attractions. Seventeen rooms are open to the public along with the vast cemetery behind the mansion. With its secret passages, cobweb choked halls and see-through apparitions it’s a true ghost story come to life.

Valley of Fear at Phoenix Sports Club: Thursdays-Sundays through October 23, every night October 26-31. Ride through the deepest, darkest woods in Bucks County. There are four chilling attractions that will leave you shaking in your boots.

Battleship New Jersey Haunted House: Fridays-Sundays through October 31. Join Dr. Helene Tesla, former Dean of the Transylvania College for the Dead, as she reveals a remarkable new procedure that produces “Super Sailors.” Experience first-hand these experimental beings as they take over duties during your haunted visit. Conclude the tour and eveningwith delicious snacks, libations and graveyard dancing. Keeping in the spirit of the season, enjoy a thrill ride adventure land-side on the Flight Simulator featuring “Superstition” and “Haunted Castle”.

Spring Mountain Adventure Scream Mountain: Thursdays-Saturdays through October 30. In the 1800s, Spring Mountain Adventures was a stone quarry, until a mysterious fire tragically wiped out the quarrymen and their families. They say their spirits still roam the mountain, especially when the site transforms into Scream Mountain. A chilling chairlift ride takes visitors up the dark side of the mountain and lets them grope their way down a windy, dimly lit trail. To up the fright factor, take a Vertigo canopy tour or a haunted hayride.

Lulu’s House of Horrors: Fridays-Sundays through October 23, October 27-30. LuLu’s House of Horrors in Plymouth Meeting was awarded the Victim’s Choice for Best Haunted Houses in America by hauntedhouseratings.com. Its nightmarish wagon ride through the woods stops at the deadly haunted graveyard on the way to the zany horror house. A race through a bewildering corn maze follows.

Terror Behind the Walls: Nightly through November 12. Eastern State Penitentiary can be terrifying enough on its own, as it stands soaring 30 feet high, its castle-like Gothic architecture intimidating even the most fearless of patrons. But when it comes to the penitentiary’s annual Halloween spooktacular Terror Behind The Walls, truly only the bravest should venture forth. One of the nation’s largest, most ambitious and top-rated haunted attractions takes you (and the other 100,000 visitors from around the world who attend each year) on a heart-pounding journey through six attractions, each more gripping than the last.

Bates Motel at Arasapha Farm: Daily through October 31. There’s no escaping the fear at the Bates Motel at Arasapha Farm, lauded as one of America’s scariest haunts by Hauntworld Magazine, USA Today and the Travel Channel. If the mayhem and terror inside aren’t enough, a heart-pounding hayride and haunted corn maze with lurking zombies and creatures will do the trick.

And an extra: the 41st annual Thomas Eakins Head of the Schuylkill Regatta (October 29-30) lands just before Halloween this year, and the elite rowing competition embraces the holiday with rowers in masks, family-friendly activities, food and music.

Note that the Philadelphia Zoo and Please Touch Museum have joined forces to offer the ComBOO ticket, presented by PECO; it’s $25 for children ages 2-11 and $27 for adults, valid for access to either place through October 31. Purchase at either location or online.

Also check out Visit Philly’s Halloween itinerary to celebrate the most bone-chilling day of the year, which takes you on a region-wide tour of events and places that will thrill and scare you, as well as harvest markets to satisfy all your corn maze, pumpkin patch and apple-picking needs.

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Jessica says:

There’s also a haunted house at the Elks Lodge in Norristown. $7 per person.