As cooler temperatures and falling leaves take over the balmy South, so does the spirit of Halloween. Decoration and costume shops are reanimating dead strip centers. Homes and offices are sporting cobwebs and ghosts — both fixtures normally frowned upon in most places, but openly encouraged as the holiday nears.
The observance of Halloween dates back to Celtic rituals thousands of years ago, but the Celts would scarcely recognize what their sacred festival “Samhain” has become. Long associated with images of witches, ghosts and vampires, many Halloween customs and rituals have persevered throughout the years yet still managed to change dramatically. In this day and age, Halloween is celebrated many different ways, including wearing costumes, children trick or treating, carving pumpkins, and going to haunted houses and parties.
The U.S. Census Bureau estimates there will be 41 million potential trick-or-treaters in the United States based on last year’s participation rates, with some 2,000 people expected to rent a costume for the occasion. Still, more and more Americans are foregoing dressing up, opting instead to let others don the scary attire. In this patch of the country, finding a place with the spirit of Halloween on tap is a relatively easy thing to do.
Halloween and BrimstoneWalt Barclay is nothing if not a man with a dream – although to others, it may be more of a nightmare. Sheep and sugarplums have no place in Barclay’s fantasy; all that space is filled with hundreds, thousands of frightfully twisted images conjured up by the man who calls himself a “connoisseur of haunted houses.”
“They’ve gotten away from the spirit of it,” Barclay said of traditional haunted houses during the opening dedication of his manifested dream, Halloween and Brimstone, located at 18533 FM 365 in Fannett.
Halloween and Brimstone is not an ordinary haunted house, Barclay explained, but also serves as a museum for over a hundred “undead skeletons, demons, devils and ghosts.” The 26-room, 9,000-square-foot warehouse filled to capacity with all things that go bump in the night took three years for Barclay to build, he said, but it was a labor of love he is glad he undertook. For those wanting to peruse outtakes of the props used in the haunted house minus the scary atmosphere, Barclay has opened the attraction as a museum on Saturdays and Sundays from noon until 5 p.m. For more information and ticket pricing, call (409) 794-9482.
Haunted Hay Ride Festival
The fifth annual Haunted Hay Ride Festival, sponsored by Stable-Spirit and Tyrrell Park Stables, is another Halloween favorite locals don’t need a costume to enjoy. For the low, low price of just five bucks, guests can take a Haunted Hay Ride through the forest of Tyrrell Park — complete with a special appearance by guest star the Headless Horseman every Friday and Saturday, Oct. 21-29, from 7-10 p.m. Other activities on site will include face painting ($1), bounce house rides ($1), pony rides ($2), cake walks ($1), and pictures of participants riding a horse ($1). All the Halloween fun will take place at Tyrrell Park Stables, 5595 Tyrrell Park Road. For more information, call (409) 365-5277 or (409) 289-2400.
No Southeast Texas Halloween list would be complete without a nod to the staple venue, The Haunted Hotel. Long since removed from downtown, The Haunted Hotel has found a comfortable and lasting locale in the Sports Connection complex.
Now open for business every Friday, Saturday and Sunday starting at 7:13 p.m., The Haunted Hotel is back this season to out-scare last year’s clientele. Management is keeping the details hush-hush, but The Haunted Hotel is also offering the first ever Haunted Hotel Extreme on Oct. 7 from 11 through midnight. At the box office, general admission is $12, with a $15 VIP FAST Pass available for purchase.
With The Haunted Hotel’s new Sports Connection digs come the added activities normally available at the venue, too, such as mini golf, bumper boats, batting cages, arcades, go carts and more. Discount tickets are offered online, and guests can pick up tickets at Fast Lane stores all over the Golden Triangle. Sports Connection is located at 6755 Patillo Road, off Highway 69 S. behind Tate & Co. in Beaumont. Visit www.thehauntedhoteltx.com for more information or call (409) 729-4000.
Haunted Mayfield Manor
A short trek up the Gulf will bring scare-seekers to Galveston’s new year-round haunted house, Haunted Mayfield Manor.
Mayfield Manor is housed in the 1885 Butterowe Building, located off Saengerfest Park (23rd and Strand). The 12-room haunted mansion is themed around the fictional Dr. Horace Mayfield, who supervised the operation of one of the morgues following the 1900 hurricane, which is described by Mayfield Manor haunt experts as the deadliest natural disaster in United States history. “Thousands of bodies were stored in numerous buildings in Galveston’s downtown,” the story says, and “this designation has resulted in Galveston being cited by ghost hunters as one of the most haunted cities in America.”
So, to add to the island’s popular ghost tours, Haunted Mayfield Manor will give visitors a new permanent haunted house to enjoy. Owner Joyce McLean describes the experience as a “psychological theatrical haunt that involves the lost bride of Dr. Mayfield portrayed by actors, mechanical props and pneumatic animations.” The cost for regular admission is $10 per person while a VIP ticket is available for $15. Regular operating hours for Haunted Mayfield Manor are Fridays from 3 to 11:30 p.m.; Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.; Sundays from 1 to 9 p.m.; and Tuesdays through Thursdays from 5 to 10 p.m. For more information, visit www.hauntedmayfieldmanor.com or call (409) 762-6677.