At night, a staff numbering more than 100 stages two new scares the Cave of Terror and the Slaughterhouse and the ever-popular Booger Woods, where visitors struggle to find their way through a forest populated with ghouls, ghosts and murderous villains. Saturday night tends to be date night, Gustafson says, but families and everyone else are welcome every day until Halloween. The hauntings happen from 6:30 to 10 p.m. For information call 227-3601.
Hear real-life tales of horror
Richmond's home to a whole host of ghosts. This weekend, you can visit their favorite haunts with the Valentine Richmond History Center's Rita Bagby, tour guide extraordinaire or "historical interpreter," as they call it now, she says with a laugh.
Bagby doesn't promise participants will see any apparitions on the "Ghosts of Richmond Past" bus tour, but their imaginations conjure enough gruesome images as she recounts stories of city tragedies.
Ghosts have been reported in the Glasgow House, the governor's mansion, and Hollywood Cemetery. But Bagby says the crowd is most fascinated by a story that doesn't involve apparitions at all: the train tunnel collapse of 1925.
Workers had brought in a train of flatbed cars, carrying material to shore up the tunnel, which had been built under Patrick Henry Park and parts of Church Hill in 1872.
Then the ceiling collapsed. Many workers crawled under the train cars to the entrance of the tunnel, and safety, Bagby says. No one knows how many were trapped. One or two may have perished, she says, although some stories tell of 30 or more. Rescuers feared the tunnel would claim them too, she says, and "they finally decided to just close it up." The tunnel still exists, she says, and a few curious people have sought out the entrance on the side of Sugar Hill.
Interestingly, Bagby says, around 25 men were killed in the course of building the tunnel, but few shiver at their story or even remember them at all.
The cost of the tour is $18 for adults and $15 for children and History Center members; children younger than 6 are admitted free.
For information on available tour times Oct. 30 and 31, call 649-0711 ext. 334.
Consult a costume expert
You may not know John Smith, but you can't miss him. Walk into Carytown's Premiere Costumes, and you'll spot a man turbaned and bejeweled, trailing scarves as he darts between aisles of fur, togas and ruffled gowns. Smith makes his own costumes every year this Halloween, look for a blue-painted, sequin-hoofed "Las Vegas devil" and he'll gladly offer advice on how best to impersonate Madonna.
Don't ask for a lesson in the proper application of stage makeup, though. "There's just no time," he sighs.
For procrastinators, Premiere offers a wide array of wigs, masks and accessories for sale. But the shop specializes in elaborate rental costumes. The expected characters pirates, superheroes, the perennial pimps-n-hos are hot this year, says co-manager Jerry Gum. There are a few inexplicable ones, as well. Peter Pan and Tinkerbell outfits have disappeared off the shelves, and the Premiere staff is at a loss to explain.
Premiere has no fewer than 13 political masks, including John Kerry, George W. Bush, Laura Bush and Dick Cheney. Nevertheless, Gum says, year after year "Nixon is overwhelmingly the best seller." Go figure. But Gum doesn't spend much time trying to figure out the peccadilloes of costume hunters. "After a while, it all seems usual," he says.
Get scared at Scream Forest and Creepy Hollow Hayride
"I think we just do more than your basic hayride," says Stephen Bortowski, co-manager of the attraction off Staples Mill Road. At other local scare-trails, he says, "you spend 10, 15 minutes there and it's done."
Scream Forest offers games, a bonfire, candy and "witches' brew" to sample as visitors prepare for the scream-inducing trail and hayride. Many scenes and props are brand new, Bortowski says, to replace some that were damaged in last year's flooding. But he won't breathe a word about what to expect, with the exception of "two half-people" who will greet you at the gates. Try to figure out the illusion, he says or is it an illusion at all?
Admission to Scream Forest is $13, or $20 with the Creepy Hollow Hayride. The attraction is open 7:30-10 p.m.Oct.27-28 and Halloween, 7:30-midnight Oct. 29-30. You can find coupons on www.screamfest.com.
Wander Hollywood Cemetery
For a Victorian-era Halloween experience, climb the winding paths of Hollywood on a chill and misty morn. Peer through the doors of the mausoleums of Richmond's eminent families to see the glowing stained-glass windows illuminating each dim chamber. Sit among the stones at the edge of the highest bluff, look over the rushing James and ponder the brevity of one's span on earth.
Or for a less solemn and more educational experience, tour Richmond's best-known cemetery with the Valentine Richmond History Center and learn about the famous personages buried there, as well as the meaning of mysterious gravestone symbols. Tours take place October 30, 10-11:30 a.m. and Oct. 31 from 2-4 p.m., and cost $7 ($6 if reserved in advance). It's more of a history tour than a supernatural one, Bagby says. But you may meet a few spirits of Confederate soldiers, "moaning and groaning because they want to go home." Call 804 649-0711 ext. 334. S
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