Each year as the Countdown to Christmas begins earlier and earlier, Halloween often gets overlooked. The only Hallmark movie that I can think of that embraces Halloween is October Kiss, where homemade costumes are crafted, Halloween decorations go up, and trick-or-treating happens. Although Hallmark is overlooking Halloween in favor of launching the 10th Anniversary of the Countdown to Christmas, there is no ignoring it in Real Life. So in the spirit of October Kiss starring Ashley Williams and Sam Jaeger, I wanted to embrace fall and attend a great Halloween-themed event. (An option I suggested in a previous post, Fall Harvest Checklist.)
When I envisioned a Halloween-themed fall weekend, I was picturing myself wearing jeans, my cute brown Fry boots, a great sweater, and maybe even my favorite green vest. I was dreaming of apple cider donuts and hot spiced drinks. At no point did I picture myself wearing flip flops. But when the actual Hallmark-inspired girls fall getaway weekend arrived at the end of September, the temperature was in the 80s. The 80s!
So, while these may not be fall temperatures, we adapted, strapped on sandals, and forged ahead. (And in fact, Hallmark films its Christmas movies during the summer, so maybe I’m more on brand then I think I am!)
Now, what do a group of New York City women who have no cars and hail as far afield as England and Canada do when in search of a Halloween weekend? We travel to upstate New York by train to attend the Headless Horseman Hayride and Haunted Houses. Research suggests that it’s one of the top haunted attractions in the country, so I wanted to check it out—with friends in tow.
Since I’ve begun this Hallmark journey, friends near and far have sent me supportive themed gifts. On this trip, I brought along a new travel mug from my friend Heather in Hawaii, which reads “pairs well with Hallmark movies” and also paired well with rosé on the 2 hour train ride to Poughkeepsie.
By nightfall, we arrived in Ulster, brimming with enthusiasm. We entered the Headless Horseman, guided by twinkling lights strung between trees down a dirt path, and stood among an enthusiastic opening night crowd, awaiting our turn to embark on a mile-long hayride. Once onboard the flatbed truck covered in hay, we sat around the edges with our feet dangling in the wind. My phone was tucked away because I was worried if I got spooked I might throw it into the dark, never to be seen again. My concerns were valid, as actors in costumes played out various gory scenes and surprised us during our ride. I screamed especially loudly when men with chainsaws started chasing us and barking dogs with fangs nipped near my feet. In reality I was always safe, but the effects and live actors were so good, I reacted at each and every scare. Even when I could see a human mixed in with mannequins and told myself to be prepared, I still jumped when they emerged, because it was never when I expected them to.
As the haunted hayride concluded, we were dropped in the middle of a farm to proceed through a series of eight different themed haunted houses and a corn maze. It was every bit as scary as you’d want a haunted Halloween adventure to be.
Before entering The Lunar Motel, the first of the haunted houses, we were smiling, impressed with the magnitude of the sets, the detail of the costumes, and the expansiveness of the space dedicated to spookiness. Still, we entered cautiously, because we were walking into darkness in the middle of a farm under a pitch-black sky. There was a couple in front of our group of four, and after the man got spooked a few times, he stopped in front of a door, turned, and told me to go ahead first. Initially I thought he was kidding, a guy turning back to tell a group of women to go ahead of him, but he wasn’t. I gulped and nodded, accepting the challenge. Then, I took a deep breath and extended my arms to move the plastic drapes hanging in my path to enter the dark room. When my eyes adjusted, I saw a large bed in the middle of what must have been a hotel room. The bed was stacked high with suitcases, and I expected something to come out of those suitcases . . . and it did. A terrifying-looking woman popped out screeching, and although I jumped a bit, I thought to myself, I’ve got this, no problem. As I let myself get cocky, thinking I wouldn’t get too scared, I kept my eyes focused on the bed watching the grotesque woman squeal and didn’t notice a man lurking in the doorway with his face covered by a hoodie. When I turned to walk forward into the doorway, the hooded man and I were within inches of each other. I let out a scream at the top of my lungs and jumped back so fast I caused a domino effect down the line of people behind me.
Either my wide-eyed reaction encouraged the actors to focus on me more, or my place as first in line set me up for a night filled with screams and scares, but I got spooked in each and every room as I wandered through Glutton’s Diner & Slaughterhouse, The Horseman’s Tomb, Mama Rose’s Swamp Shack, the Nightshade Nursery and Greenhouse, Dr. Dark’s Black Spider Circus Sideshow, The Feeding Presents “The Pain Killer”, and Two Raven Manor. I felt breath on my shoulder, was followed through a graveyard, got chased by axe-wielding ghouls, and more. It was awesome, even though as we walked between haunted houses, I was always trying to catch my breath (unless, of course, someone jumped out at me from the corn maze, which also happened).
It wasn’t until the very end of the evening that my friends shared that they could see these terrors unfold from behind as they watched masked men and women following me. Incredulous, I asked why they hadn’t warned me. They admitted they were too afraid to warn me, because they thought the ghouls might direct their attention towards them. So room after room in eight different houses, as the head of the line, I got each scare first, which warned everyone behind me to beware.
Needless to say, I got my Halloween-themed adventure, but more then that, I had a fun, spooky girls weekend with a lot of laughs at my expense. In the end, I even got that apple cider donut. All in all, it was a success, and despite the Hallmark calendar skipping over Halloween, I hope you, too, have some fun fall adventures planned with your friends and family . . . In Real Life.