As autumn wanes and the nights lengthen, the Witches’ New Year draws nigh and the veil between the realms of the living and the dead grows thinner. Unless you are blessed with the Second Sight, you aren’t likely to be among the mortal witnesses of the Faery Rade as it wends its way across the moors by moonlight astride spectral horses – in fact, good luck even finding a proper moor in the mid-Hudson. But there are still plenty of opportunities available to us over the next couple of weeks to experience the mystery and fun of Samhain or Halloween, besides the usual dispensing and consumption of great quantities of candy to and by costumed tots.
Apropos of which, did you know that the average American consumes nearly 25 pounds of candy per year? It’s amazing what you can learn from those indefatigable bean-counters at the US Census Bureau. Besides the number of human beans, they keep track of all sorts of data, analyze trends over time and repackage seemingly unrelated factoids in ways that are user-friendly to kids doing homework, entrepreneurs doing marketing plans and journalists covering holiday observances alike. Halloween is just one of dozens of holidays popular and obscure that you can research, among many other subjects, at the Bureau’s American FactFinder website at https://factfinder2.census.gov/faces/nav/jsf/pages/index.xhtml.
For instance, you can find out that as of 2010, there were some 41 million potential trick-or-treaters in the US, defined as children aged 5 to 14 (not adjusted to exclude those whose parents won’t let them celebrate the holiday because it’s too Pagan). Those who do go out to trick-or-treat have their choice of 116.7 million occupied housing units to visit across the nation (some of which will, of course, hand out only boring healthy snacks, or nothing at all). Surprisingly, the residents of 92 percent of those households consider their neighborhoods safe (although the ones who give no candy on Halloween may find themselves reconsidering as they scrape dried eggs off their front stoops on November 1).
Of perhaps more pressing local interest in the wake of Hurricane Irene, when swollen rivers carried off great floating mats of vine-entangled pumpkins from bottomland farms in our region, is the fact that New York is one of the top four pumpkin-growing states in the US, producing more than 100 million pounds annually in normal years. Americans carve or bake an estimated 1.1 billion pounds of Jack o’ Lanterns and pumpkin pies every year, and this is obviously prime time for such activities. You may find that pumpkin prices have gone up a bit due to reduced supply, and you may have to look a little further afield than usual, but even the hardest-hit local farms are trucking in the fat orange gourds from wherever they can get them. So don’t give up on this seasonal tradition, which goes back to the days when the Valley’s indigenous inhabitants had yet to hear of Halloween from the first European colonists. Squashes, including pumpkins, were, after all, one of the Three Sisters who kept our native peoples alive.
The Hudson Valley may not have as many cool Halloweeny place-names as, say, North Carolina, home to Transylvania County, Cape Fear and the town of Pumpkin Center; but we are the true source of the enduring spooky yarn of the Headless Horseman, and many of our towns celebrate this holiday with extravagant enthusiasm. Herewith is a calendar of some of the spooky events going on throughout the region, organized more or less chronologically and beginning at Sleepy Hollow itself.
October 21-23 and 27-30:
Philipsburg Manor, Sleepy Hollow – Washington Irving’s macabre tale The Legend of Sleepy Hollow inspires Horseman’s Hollow, an interactive haunted attraction recommended for ages 12 and up. Stocked with professional actors and state-of-the-art special effects, it has a high fear factor and is not for the faint of heart. Visitors walk a haunted trail, stumbling upon scary scenes of a town driven mad by the Headless Horseman. Custom-built set pieces and period-correct costumes help orient the experience in Philipsburg Manor’s traditional time period of the mid-1700s. First reservations are at 7 p.m. and tickets cost $20 ($25 on Saturdays). Buy tickets online at https://www.hudsonvalley.org or by calling (914) 631-8200; there is a $2-per-ticket surcharge for phone orders.
Old Dutch Church, Sleepy Hollow – Recommended for ages 10 and up, Irving’s Legend brings the master storyteller Jonathan Kruk into the historic candlelit interior of the circa-1685 Church, where he offers a dramatic retelling of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow accompanied by live organ music. The Church is located across the street from Philipsburg Manor, where visitors will park, and performances last about 45 minutes. Seating is very limited, and there are three performances each evening on the hour (four on Saturday), beginning at either 5 or 6 p.m., depending on the evening. Tickets are $16 for adults, $12 for children under 18. Buy tickets online at https://www.hudsonvalley.org or by calling (914) 631-8200; there is a $2-per-ticket surcharge for phone orders.
October 22-23 and 29-30:
Sunnyside, Tarrytown – Legend Celebration at Washington Irving’s home Sunnyside is a kid-friendly daytime prelude to the evening events listed above. Storytellers and magicians are just some of the colorful characters that perform for all ages, and visitors are encouraged to come in costume. Children can take part in old-fashioned games and hands-on activities such as scarecrow-making. Activities run from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tickets are $12 for adults, $6 for children age 5 to 17 and free for those under age 5. Buy tickets online at https://www.hudsonvalley.org or by calling (914) 631-8200; there is a $2-per-ticket surcharge for phone orders.
October 20-23, 27-31 & November 4-6:
Van Cortlandt Manor, Croton-on-Hudson – The Great Jack o’ Lantern Blaze is an art installation of more than 4,000 carved pumpkins, arranged in tableaux depicting such scenes as mythological Greece, a ghost sheep pasture, an undersea aquarium, Pirates’ Cove, life-sized dinosaurs in Jurassic Park, Pumpkinhenge, a giant “cornfield,” an enormous spiderweb, Celtic knots and a graveyard. Tickets are for reserved times beginning at 6:30 p.m. and cost $16 for adults ($20 on Saturdays), $12 for children aged 5 to 17 ($16 on Saturdays) and free for children under age 5. Buy tickets online at https://www.hudsonvalley.org or by calling (914) 631-8200; there is a $2-per-ticket surcharge for phone orders.
October 21-22 and 28-29:
Clermont State Historic Site, Clermont – Spook Tours of the historic Livingston family manse will recall local legends by candlelight. Tours set out every half-hour from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Admission is $10 for adults, $5 for kids. For more info call (518) 537-4240 or visit friendsofclermont.org.
Unison Arts & Learning Center, New Paltz – A kids’ workshop called “Halloween and Day of the Dead: An Art & Story Experience” for children ages 7 to 13 will run from 10 a.m. to 12 noon. Inspired by the Mexican holy day Día de los Muertos (The Day of the Dead) and Halloween, children will work closely with artist Meagan Shapiro to create masks that express what the holiday means to them. Storytelling will spark the imagination and stir the heart to remembrance with themes of Honoring the Ancestors, The Fruits of Harvest and The Return to Winter. The cost of the workshop is $8 for Unison members, $10 for non-members. Call (845) 255-1559 to register in advance, or visit unisonarts.org.
DuBois Fort Visitor Center, Historic Huguenot Street, New Paltz – With over 300 years of history, you can bet that Huguenot Street is full of secrets and discoveries just waiting to be uncovered in a Haunted Hunt running from 1 to 3 p.m. Kids ages 4 and up are invited to this Halloween-themed scavenger hunt. There will be a special gift for all those in costume. Admission is $5 for kids; their adults get in free. For more info call (845) 255-1660 or visit huguenotstreet.org.
Williams Lake, Rosendale – The Rosendale Chamber of Commerce holds its annual Family Halloween Party from 6 to 8 p.m., featuring a costume parade, pumpkin painting, a bonfire on the beach, treats and other activities. Old Man LeFevre the Miner Ghost will tell scary stories from Rosendale’s past, and there will be a Spooky Walk in the woods where other ghost miners and hotel guests like to dance under the Moon. For more information call (845) 658-4150 or e-mail [email protected].
Hurley Heritage Society, Hurley – At the Historic Hurley Ghost Walk, beginning at 7 p.m., you will hear strange tales and encounter Hurley residents who lived and died many years ago but never left. Who knows what people from Hurley’s past you will meet as you follow your guide through Hurley’s historic burial grounds and linger in the church to hear organ music of the night? This tour is out-of-doors, so please dress for uneven dirt paths and bring a flashlight. It is not recommended for children under age 12; children under age 16 must be accompanied by an adult. Admission is $10 and refreshments will be served. For reservations, call (845) 339-7686 by October 25, or visit https://www.hurleyheritagesociety.org.
Downtown Saugerties – Line up at the parking lot of Partition and Russel Streets for the Halloween Parade, kicking off at 5:30 p.m. Refreshments and costume-judging follow in Donlon Auditorium. For more info call (845) 246-9701 or visit village.saugerties.ny.us.
Bardavon 1869 Opera House, Poughkeepsie – If you think Lord Voldemort had creepy clawed fingers in the Harry Potter movies, you’ll get serious nightmares from Max Schreck’s disturbingly dangly digits as he portrays the ghoulish vampire in F. W. Murnau’s classic silent horror film Nosferatu, beginning at 7:30 p.m. The German filmmaker was the first to adapt Bram Stoker’s Dracula to the silver screen, and Nosferatu is widely considered one of the ten best silent films of all time. This special Halloween presentation will feature Juan Cardona, Jr. performing live on the theater’s Mighty Wurlitzer Organ. All seats are just $5. Tickets are available at the Bardavon box office at 35 Market Street, (845) 473-2072, or through TicketMaster at (800) 745-3000 or https://www.ticketmaster.com.
DuBois Fort Visitor Center, Historic Huguenot Street, New Paltz – For three nights, Haunted Huguenot Street removes the veil of secrecy that stands between the living and the dead. There will be many stories and perhaps just as many “sightings.” If you are prepared for an experience that may be chilling, certainly repugnant, probably morbid, horrid or simply scary, this may be the perfect way to spend an autumn evening (not recommended for children under 12). Tours run every 15 minutes on Friday and Saturday from 7 to 11 p.m. and on Sunday from 6:30 to 9 p.m.
Tickets cost $10 in advance, $15 at the door; reservations are strongly recommended, as these tours typically sell out early. To reserve call (845) 255-1660 or visit https://www.huguenotstreet.org.
Olana State Historic Site, Hudson – Beginning at 11:30 a.m., the Visitors’ Center will host a special tour highlighting Halloween Superstitions, suitable for all ages. Do you believe that a broken mirror brings seven years’ bad luck? Do you throw spilled salt over your left shoulder? Do you think a red sky in the morning is reason to take warning – even if you’re not a sailor? Skeptics and believers alike are welcome at Olana to hear stories of the superstitious practices that our ancestors used to ward off evil. Come join up to 13 others on a tour through Frederic Church’s home and history. There is a $5 entry fee per vehicle.
Colony Café, Woodstock – If you feel nostalgic for the midnight prowls of your 1980s youth, it’s time to do the Time Warp again, as the Castaway Players Theatre Company revives that perennially undead Transylvanian transvestite rock ‘n’ roll romp The Rocky Horror Show, live onstage at the Colony. Sean Matthew Whiteford’s performance as Dr. Frank N. Furter has been favorably compared by some critics to that of Tim Curry himself in the original movie role. Shows begin at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15 at the door. Dress-up is highly encouraged – in fact, prizes will be given out to the best costumes – but the audience is asked not to bring props; this is not a screening of the movie The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Call (845) 853-4176 or e-mail [email protected] for more information.
High Falls Café, High Falls – A Halloween Dance Party gets underway at 9 p.m. Call (845) 687-2699 or visit highfallscafe.com for details.
Williams Lake, Rosendale – Be spirited away on a five-mile trail winding its way through spooky woods, tunnels and caves at the second annual UlsterCorps Service Sprint. Top finishers will receive certificates in gender and age group categories. Open to all levels of competitors, this year’s event features the Zombie Escape, in which those who get to the finish with their brains intact earn UlsterCorps Zombie Response Team certification and an opportunity to promote their favorite Ulster County non-profit agency. Special awards will be given to Best Individual Costume and Best Group Costume. A kids’ one-mile fun run begins at 11 a.m., the five-mile timed race at 11:15 and a one-mile fitness walk/hike at 11:30. Volunteers can press cider for local food pantries and soup kitchens, or join the Rondout Valley Growers’ Association’s Paper Pumpkin Project to raise funds for local farmers impacted by flooding. Pre-event registration is available at https://www.ulstercorps.org; mail-in forms are available at Dick’s Sporting Goods in Kingston, Davenport’s Farmstand in Stone Ridge and Catskill Mountain Multisport in New Paltz. Day-of event registration will take place from 10 to 11 a.m. Pre-registration entrance fees are $15 with tee-shirt or $10 without; day-of registration costs $20 with tee-shirt or $15 without. The team prices are $12 with tee-shirt, $8 without; a team must have at least three members. All funds raised from registration fees will benefit UlsterCorps.
Mohonk Mountain House, New Paltz – This is Halloween Haunts & Happenings theme weekend, for those who can afford the $255+-per-person-per-night rates at the spooky turreted Victorian castle, which many people say reminds them of the setting of The Shining. This year, the special weekend will emphasize medieval and Renaissance times, and guests are encouraged to dress accordingly, so you can give your Ren Faire garb a last airing for the season. Those whose pocketbooks contain more moths than money might want to look into visiting just for the day; for the price of dinner and a day pass you can enjoy the haunted castle on Friday evening, and on Saturday evening attend the Halloween costume ball. The dinner menu will include Tangled Witches’ Hair with Eyeballs (baby arugula with marinated mozzarella balls), Coagulated Blood Soup with Toadskin (beet soup with crispy shallots) and Alien Larvae with Beetles (orzo with crab and tarragon). For meal reservations call (845) 256-2056; for overnight accommodations call (800) 772-6646 or visit https://www.mohonk.com.
Felten Park, Modena – The Halloween Parade kicks off at 2 p.m. at Route 32 and Patura Road. There will be prizes and refreshments. For more info visit town.plattekill.ny.us.
October 31, Halloween:
Main Street, New Paltz – The annual Halloween Parade assembles at the Middle School and steps off to the tune of the Addams Family TV theme at 6 p.m. from the corner of Main Street and Manheim Boulevard, ending at the firehouse. From there, you can go trick-or-treating in the neighborhood.
The Bakery, New Paltz – The Night of 100 Pumpkins begins at 6 p.m., featuring the Bakery’s annual pumpkin-carving contest. Enjoy free pumpkin bread, hot cider and cocoa and dance to the sound of African drummers. For more info call (845) 255-8840; visit the website at ilovethebakery.com for contest rules, categories and entry forms.
Village Green in Woodstock – Around 4:30, costumed revelers of all ages will assemble on the Village Green to enjoy free cider and parade through Woodstock, later gathering complimentary treats from the town’s shops and businesses. Vehicular traffic on the main drag will be closed off starting around 3:30 p.m. Prizes will be given out for the best costumes.
Unison Arts & Learning Center, New Paltz – A new gallery installation of art pieces commemorating Mexico’s Day of the Dead by Annie O’Neill, Michael Lalicki, John Bridges, Iya Battle, Serena Depero and Stevenson Estime will have its opening reception from 5 to 7 p.m. on Friday. The following day, the gallery will host a performance by the dance company Dance Monks titled Postcards from Mexico, with musical accompaniment by a jarocha band from Veracrúz, Mexico.