Things that go Bump in the Night

September 15, 2009  
Filed under Arts & Entertainment

By Richard Daybell

As summer draws to an end, the nights get shorter, darker and more mysterious.  Autumn is foliage, of course, but it’s also a time of things passing strange, things that go bump in the Vermont night, things that make us afraid, very afraid. Why? Maybe it’s the symbolism of spring as a beginning, winter as the end, with autumn hastening us there. Maybe it’s all that darkness. Or maybe there’s just no time for spookiness during the summer. It’s not that dread exactly descends upon us. We seek it out, hoping to be scared, even paying to be scared.

Queen City Ghost Walk

Since 2002, the Queen City Ghostwalk has been treating Vermonters and guests to fascinating stories of Burlington’s haunted history. Tour creator and guide Thea Lewis leads participants on spine-tingling strolls through the darker side of the city, weaving stories of mystery, madness and evil. Haunters and the haunted alike are brought to life on this hour-long adventure into the unknown.

Tours are Friday and Saturday nights through Oct. 18, then nightly from Oct. 19 -31. They begin at 7 p.m. at the back steps of City Hall in downtown Burlington and last about an hour. Reservations are $13 per person. Plan to arrive ten to fifteen minutes early. The tours are not recommended for children under ten.

Hathaway Farm Corn Maze

Who ever thought corn could be scary?  Maybe it’s not – unless you find yourself standing in the middle of a cornfield, surrounded by cornstalks as high as an elephant’s eye, and with a little imagination, much more menacing. Down in Rutland, Hathaway Farm has a 12-acre cornfield with miles of pathways forming Vermont’s largest corn maze. Occasional bridges along the pathways allow you to escape the maze momentarily and possibly get your bearings. A grassy meadow somewhere in the maze allows you to sit down on an Adirondack chair to relax and enjoy the mountain views. On Saturday nights, Moonlight Madness gives you the opportunity to do the whole thing in the dark, enjoying a star filled night sky and wondering if that rustling sound behind you is another stargazer or something else.

The maze is open daily except Tuesdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (until 9 p.m. on Saturdays) through Halloween. Admission is $9 for adults, $7 for children and seniors. It includes the maze, farm tours and, on weekends, hayrides.

Emmons Island Haunted Trail

Grand Isle is home to probably the only spooky attraction with admission by canned goods. Admission to the Emmons Island Haunted Trail is three cans of food (or $5) to benefit the local food shelf. The walk takes place on Oct. 18 from 7 to 10p.m. and features a cast of demons, devils and other ne’er-do-wells. A children’s walk is held earlier in the day at 3 p.m.  It does not feature live actors and no ticket is required, although donations are accepted.

The Haunted Forest

Attracting a yearly audience of over 7,000 people of all ages, the Haunted Forest is easily the most popular place to be frightened in the state. Now in its 29th year, it is Vermont’s largest outdoor theatrical event, one that consistently makes the Vermont Chamber of Commerce Top Ten Autumn Events.

Otherworldly guides lead guests through the dark forest in small groups, along paths illuminated by over a thousand carved Jack-O’-Lanterns. Throughout their passage, visitors encounter strange and fascinating characters in a variety of macabre tableaus, sometimes eerie, sometimes humorous. Elaborate costumes and special effects bring the forest alive (well, maybe alive isn’t exactly the right word). And every now and then, something unexpected leaps from the darkness to cause a few startled screams.

The Haunted Forest makes its home at the Catamount Outdoor Family Center in Williston, with performances Oct. 22-25, and Oct. 29-31. Admission is $12.50 for adults, $8.50 for children. Reservations are made for a specific hour (7,8 or 9 p.m. and, on Fridays and Saturdays, 10 p.m.) although small groups begin the walk every few minutes throughout the hour. There are matinees for children under 8 on both Saturdays at 11 a.m, noon and 1 p.m.

Emily’s Bridge

What about the “real” haunting of Vermont – those places where ghosts and other creatures of the night are thought to dwell – the unexplained, the unimaginable?

One of the most compelling of these is in Stowe. It’s a bridge. A covered bridge, like so many in the state. But this one is Emily’s Bridge, and some people claim it’s very haunted. Many people refuse to walk across the bridge after dark. For 150 years, locals have told of horses and cars being mysteriously clawed, of hearing a woman’s voice, of seeing ghostly figures and strange lights. One account describes a chilling story of several people trapped in their car on the bridge one night sitting in terror as Emily’s ghost circled their car and shook it violently. The most common legend associated with the bridge is that Emily, waiting one night for a lover who never came, hung herself from the bridge 150 years ago. And she’s been angry ever since.

Emily’s Bridge and a host of haunted places – houses, graveyards, woods, and not one but at least seven buildings on the UVM campus – are catalogued in what might be the encyclopedia of Vermont terror, Ghosts, Ghouls & Unsolved Mysteries by Joseph A. Citro. Whether you accept or pooh-pooh his cast of miscreants, monsters, murderers and the murdered, it’s great for curling up with on a stay-at-home night during the spooky season – with doors and windows locked, of course.

Horror Flicks

And for the nights you’d rather curl up with popcorn and a good scary movie, a short list of classic chillers: Frankenstein (1931) is the quintessential monster movie with a great Boris Karloff performance. Night of the Hunter (1955) features a menacing Robert Mitchum as a psychotic religious fanatic in pursuit of two children. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) is a still scary science fiction classic about alien “pods” replacing small-town residents with duplicates. Psycho (1960) Alfred Hitchcock, the Bates Motel, and a shower – often imitated but never equaled. The Innocents (1961) is the film version of the haunting Henry James novel Turn of the Screw. And What Lies Beneath (2000) is not in the same league as the others, but it has a few good scares and it was filmed in Vermont.

Queen City Ghostwalk, 149 Church St. in Burlington.  802.351.1313

Hathaway Farm, 741 Prospect Hill Road, just off Route 7 in Rutland. 802.775.2624

Emmons Island Haunted Trail, 1 Island Meadows Lane, just off Route 2 in Grand Isle.

Haunted Forest, Catamount Outdoor Family Center, Governor Chittenden Road in Williston

Emily’s Bridge (also known as Gold Brook and Stowe Hollow), on Covered Bridge Road, just off Route 100 (by way of Gold Brook Road) in Stowe


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