5 Spooky Literary Places to Visit (in person and virtually) this Halloween
With COVID still putting a damper on holiday celebrations and so much uncertainty in the world (Will there be trick-or-treating? Or should I polish off that 432-piece candy bag myself?), I think we could all use something fun to look forward to.
The Halloween season might look quite different this year, but I've rounded up five literary-themed events you can still attend (either in person or virtually) to lift those spooky spirits.
On the bright side, events going virtual means you can experience and attend many more than you could otherwise if everything were still in person. So here's a list of events (and corresponding recommended readings) for your All Hallow's Eve enjoyment.
1. Watch an artistic reenactment of one of these 3 scary stories from home
Virtual, October 23-24
For one weekend only each October, the California Riverside Ballet puts on an elaborate Halloween spectacle, collaborating with writers, actors, and musicians. Last year, they reenacted the tales of Edgar Allan Poe. This year, three different shows will each center around a literary spooky tale: Dracula, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and The Haunting of Hill House.
Due to covid, the 2020 shows are all virtual, so you can watch from the comfort of home anywhere around the world.
Best of all? It's only $15 for your household to "attend!" Which one will you choose? (As for me and my house, we will be attending "Dracula"). Purchase your ticket here to support the arts.
Additionally, you can purchase these titles at Amazon:
2. Take a Virtual Ghost Tour of Edith Wharton's Home
Virtual, Fridays at 8 pm EST
Now this is an event I am very excited to share with you, because this was a LOT of fun.
Friday night Ghost tours at the Mount have gone virtual, and this is one of the most successful in-person-to-online transitions I've seen.
Rather than being inhibited by the online format and making it a mere imitation of the in-person tour, they have embraced the opportunity to include parts of the tour you can't get in person, such as by taking you up into the home's attic, normally off limits to visitors.
From the very start, when tour guide Robert makes a creeky double door entrance, to the very end, "sitting" together in Edith Wharton's attic and hearing inexplicable shuffling footsteps and the cameraperson's resulting exclamations, this tour was a positively eery delight. The tour is given live as the tour guides move throughout the home, which I found replicated the feeling of being there in person quite well. A couple of technical issues at the beginning of my tour were quickly resolved, and the very palpable feeling that the tour guides were passionate about their work greatly enhanced the experience.
My favorite bits of the tour were, unsurprisingly, the literary ones, like getting to see Edith Wharton's library and hear the story of a resident who once walked in to see what seemed to be the ghosts of Edith and lifelong pal Henry Miller having a chat by the fire.
Whatever your thoughts on the paranormal, this tour is just brilliant, spooky fun, and an experience I can't recommend highly enough.
Tours cost $10 (plus a $1.19 eventbrite fee), and in my opinion, it's well worth the cost.
Please note they are also leading a special Halloween ghost tour on the 31st, including a tour of the stable at 8 pm EST and the house at 10:30 pm EST. The tour guide mentioned they will have a psychic and a paranormal investigative group present to hold a "ghost hunt" of sorts, which sounds like a very intriguing spectacle.
Recommended reading: The Ghost Stories of Edith Wharton
3. Tour Edgar Allan Poe's home
Baltimore, MD or virtual
When you think of writers who embraced the macabre, no one stands out like Edgar Allan Poe. After all, what screams "Halloween" more than stories about being buried alive or hearing body parts in your floor?
The Poe House & Museum in Baltimore, MD is open on a limited basis for tours (with safety precautions due to COVID). This is the home in which Poe's literary career began. He lived here with his aunt and cousins, and it's in this house that he fell in love with one of them, Virginia, whom he later married (when she was the ripe old age of 13).
If you're a local, you won't want to miss this tour. Not a local, or tickets sold out? They are also offering live virtual tours every Friday on a pay-what-you-can basis (the suggested donation is $5, but there are free tickets available for every tour if times are tough). All proceeds support the non-profit museum's ongoing work.
I signed up for the virtual tour last week, and I definitely recommend it. The tour begins with a short video giving background context to Poe's life in Baltimore and an introduction the house. Then, the tour guide plays a pre-recorded GoPro walk-through of the house and comments on what you see. By far the coolest was the bedroom in which Poe likely slept. One wall is covered in quotes from famous writers and artists talking about the impact Poe has had on them and on literature. It features quotes from the likes of Alfred Hitchcock, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and Stephen King. Finally, the tour guide discusses the mysterious and strange circumstances of Poe's death, burial, and reburial (this was by far my favorite part). And of course, there is time for questions and discussion throughout.
While I do wish the tour guide had been present in the home giving the tour with live video, I wouldn't say that's reason enough to dismiss the experience entirely. You're likely to learn a lot about Poe throughout the tour and get a greater appreciation for the less-than-supportive circumstances in which he wrote such memorable and impactful fiction.
Recommended reading: "Shadow -- a Fable" (one of the stories Poe wrote while living in this house, at the very beginning of his writing career)
Read Poe's entire collected works by purchasing this book from Bookshop, supporting indie bookstores or from Amazon.
4. Revisit the 17th Century at Salem Haunted Happenings
Salem, MA, and virtual, all October-long
The Crucible might be required reading for just about every high schooler in the United States, but this is some extra credit anyone will want to do! If you want to soak in the creepy vibes of the most famous witch-burning town in US
history, Haunted Happenings in Salem, Massachusetts is not one to miss.
Although much of the festival has either been cancelled or moved online this year, you can still visit Salem and walk its spooky streets for that Halloween feel. A few in-person events are open with restrictions, including an exhibition on the Salem Witch Trials at the Peabody Essex Museum and the Tales & Tombstones Trolley. If you're planning to attend in-person, make sure to check their website in advance to see if reservations are required and what regulations and protocols you will need to follow (though it should go without saying at this point, please social distance and wear masks. We don't need to ruin the fun of Halloween with the very real terror of further COVID outbreaks).
Online events are abundant, including at-home costume contests (including one for your pet, if you're that kind of pet parent) and virtual Halloween house tours, haunted magic shows, Horror movie bingo, Halloween crafts, performances, and even a virtual seance (I think I'll skip that one, personally). And you don't have to wait for Halloween, either; events go all month long.
Recommended reading: The Crucible by Arthur Miller
5. Get Frightened at Halloween in Sleepy Hollow
Tarrytown, NY, and virtual, all October-long
Tarrytown normally hosts an extensive Halloween festival, themed after Washington Irving's famous novella, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, and it's one to top your Halloween bucket list. This year, the in-person festival has been dramatically scaled back. In-person activities you can still participate in include walking around Old Dutch Church (the scene of the frightful climax of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow), take a walking tour of Sleepy Hollow Cemetery (by day or by lamplight, if your nerves can handle it), walk through the Great Jack O'Lantern Blaze, participate in the Historical Society Walking Tours, and do a scavenger hunt on the grounds of Washington Irving's Sunnyside.
Virtual events this year include a Tarrytown Music Hall Ghost Tour, the Irvington Film
Festival, and a Harvest Hunt.
Learn more about this year's happenings here.
Recommended reading: The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving
Well, that rounds out this year's list of 5 literary spooky places to visit this Halloween. Tell me in the comments, what are your favorites? What should we all check out next year?
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