date published: October 23, 2006

From Boston to Salem and beyond, our best bets for scaring up fun this Halloween
by Brittany Lyte and Katie Veillette

Haunted Tours
Any city as old as Boston is bound to be brimming with ghost stories. From the “Lady in Black” to the Boston Strangler, horror stories are as common in the Hub as sports fanatics and clam chowder. If you think you’re brave enough to hear the spooky history of Boston’s dark side, there are several tours you can take this month that explore how these creepy legends were born.

If you like horror and humor, the Ghosts and Gravestones Tour presented by Old Town Trolley Tours is for you. This “frightseeing” tour explores Boston’s scariest legends, such as the Boston Common’s “hanging tree,” the chilling tale of Boston’s real-life bogey man, and a book bound by actual human skin. Guided by a 17th century gravedigger, you’ll also tread softly upon Boston’s oldest burial grounds (every night through October 31). Refer to the ghosts and gravestones tour listing.

You’ll scream louder than a banshee on Boston by Foot’s Beacon Hill with a Boo tour. Leaving from the State House steps, it explores the buried terrors of this historic neighborhood, including the home of the murdered George Parkman and the alley said to be stalked by a “sleepwalking” murderer (October 31 at 5:30 p.m.). Refer to the Boston by Foot listing.

Equally hair-raising is Spirits & Mayhem of Boston Town, a 90-minute tour led by two ghostly ladies who haven’t let being deceased keep them from a nightly stroll through Boston Common (October 27–31 at 8 & 10 p.m., and midnight on October 31). Refer to the Boston Walking Tours listing.

Salem: Halloween Town, U.S.A.
For true horror, Hollywood could never top the goings-on 400 years ago in the seaport town of Salem. What could be more haunting than true accounts of mass hysteria set off by witchcraft, devil encounters, witch hunting and hangings? Visit the Salem Witch Museum to learn about the Salem Witch Trials of 1692 and the real story of witches of yesterday and today, dispelling witchcraft stereotypes and proving that flying broomsticks and poison-brewing black cauldrons have nothing to do with this fascinating, nature-based religion. Refer to the Salem Witch Museum listing.

In addition to Salem’s historic frights and sights, the town also boasts Halloween fun you won’t find in any history books. Frankenstein’s Laboratory—Salem’s newest haunted house located in the Salem Wax Museum—invites those who dare to go inside the dungeon where literary figure Dr. Frankenstein created his terrorizing monster. Or jump aboard the Salem Spirits Trolley Tour (October 26–29) for a scenic 90-minute ride that clues visitors in on legends of pirates, ghosts and unusual creatures from a costumed-storyteller.

Really, though, the whole town of Salem becomes one giant costume party in the days leading up to All Hallow’s Eve—with the whole burg jammed full of so many spooky activities they need their own website ( If you find yourself among the elaborately-costumed throng of Salem residents and visitors on October 28, 29 & 31 from 4–10 p.m., stop by Fountain Stage on Essex Street for live music and free hot chocolate, palm readings and dream interpretations. Refer to the Salem Haunted Happenings listing.

A less horror-filled Halloween
Celebrating Halloween as a family can be a frustrating struggle to satiate your thrillseekers’ quest for terror without frightening the little ones to tears. To that end, we suggest Franklin Park Zoo’s family friendly Zoo Howl (October 28 & 29), which includes entertainment from Radio Disney, a trick-or-treat trail through the animal habitats, costume contests and Halloween crafts and games. And for a good spook, creature encounters and a haunted maze await those who dare. Refer to the Franklin Park Zoo listing.

On October 29 from 11 a.m.–1 p.m., take the family to trick-or-treat for charity, visit with zoo animals, marvel at the tricks of magicians and participate in face painting at the Shops at Prudential Center’s Pru Boo. For a $3 donation to the Molly Bish Foundation, children will receive a bag for store-to-store trick-or-treating. How’s that for bargain shopping? Refer to the Shops at Prudential Center listing.

And there’s no saying you can’t learn something amidst Halloween’s flurry of sugar and shocks. The Harvard Museum of Natural History’s Halloween Family Festival on October 31 allows youngsters to embark on a scavenger hunt and make Halloween crafts, then learn about skulls and skeletons and discover the history and secrets of owls, moths and bats from the experts at this Halloween-day celebration. Refer to the Harvard Museum of Natural History listing.

Chills and Thrills
At some point on Halloween, though, there’s at least a little part in all of us that wants to get the bejeesus scared out of us. And for that, there’s really no better thing for the job than a good old haunted house.

The venerable Spooky World has been haunting Bostonians for years. After a hiatus of a couple of Halloweens, Spooky World’s new digs inside the Bayside Expo Center promise plenty of creepy funhouse thrills. Tiptoe through the haunted corridors of the Creature Feature Haunted Mansion (if you dare), embark on an eerie gothic journey through “The Catacombs,” visit Hollywood’s most legendary creatures in the International Monster Museum, and visit the Jack O’Lantern Jamboree. Your family will be dying to go back more than once. Refer to the Bayside Expo Center listing.

Or, bring the kids to the spooktacular Halloween Town 2006 at the Seaport World Trade Center October 28 & 29 from 10 a.m.–6 p.m. This bash for kids features trick-or-treating, pumpkin decorating, and a monster mash dance party. Explore the Halloween Town Tomb, help stop an alien attack, create a monster in Frankenstein’s Lab and explore Dracula’s Castle. It’s a real graveyard smash for kids of all ages. Refer to the Seaport World Trade Center listing.

Trick or Treating Tip
Every year on Halloween, parents looking to go door-to-door with their costumed princesses and super heroes know to do it in classy Beacon Hill, where the combination of cool old buildings and generous bluebloods in the holiday spirit can add up to the best loot in town, found in a neck of the woods that’s spooky, but not scary.

Adult Halloween
Fun Who said dressing up has to be for kids? This year on October 28 at 8 p.m., Boston hosts the First Annual Gayla Gala: An Enchanted Forest, a costume party for the LGBT community at the Back Bay Events Center, 180 Berkeley St. Guests will be transported to the mysterious Enchanted Forest of myths, legends and spirits. Come masquerade as your favorite character and dance the night away to tunes spun by Kiss 108 FM’s DJ Jim. The party ends at the stroke of midnight, at which point (hopefully) your date won’t turn into a pumpkin! Call 617-204-4263 for more information.

Even bands like to dress up on Halloween. In true holiday spirit, a number of popular area bands will be playing shows masquerading as their favorite groups, playing entire sets covering their heroes’ music. On October 28, TT the Bear’s Place hosts The Rudds as Hall and Oates, the World’s Greatest Sinners as Sly and the Family Stone and The Silver Lining as The Who. On October 31 at Allston’s rock club Great Scott (1222 Commonwealth Ave., 617-566-9014), The Daily Pravda slips into Suede’s shoes, Lifestyle channels New Order, and The 8mm Fuzz becomes Echo and the Bunnymen. That same night at the Middle East, Taxpayer performs as Massachusetts indie legends The Pixies, Ho-ag adopts the guise of Devo, The Appreciation Post does Rocket from the Crypt and The Chainletter becomes The Cure. So even if you can’t see your real musical idols this month, this has to be considered a Halloween musical treat. Refer to music listings.

Finally, you’ll be powerless to resist the bewitching seductresses of Beantown’s own burlesque group The Boston Babydolls during their enchanting Halloween extravaganza, Out for Blood (through October 28 at the Cambridge YMCA Theater, 820 Mass. Ave., Cambridge). Though a Halloween treat, expect a few tricks while these vixens of the night cast a spell over the not so unfortunate souls hypnotized by their magic charms. Call 866-811-4111 for more information.

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