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Creepy Fun Time!

Have your palm read or your tarot cards done as part of the annual Poplar Grove Halloween Festival, taking place this the 19th-21st. Courtesy photo, Poplar Grove.

Carving pumpkins and making costumes certainly are indicative of the cool temps of October. Likewise, it means the ghosts and ghouls prepare to jump from every nook and cranny along our haunted cobblestone streets, forests, plantations, warehouses and whatnot, as festivals, tours, haunted attractions and so much more get underway this month! All Hallow’s Eve lurks near and so many events will take place throughout the month to celebrate its frightful pleasure.

Ghost Walk of Old Wilmington
Though the tour is open year-round, the haunted history into Wilmington’s past certainly hits closer to home during October. Tours take place at 6:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. nightly and are led by costumed guides who trek among back alleyways and side streets to share the chilling tales of places like Gallow’s Hill, St. James Graveyard, the Harper House and more! Folks meet at Water and Market streets, but must make reservations first by dialing 910-794-1866; Tickets are $10-$12.

GORE AND HORROR: Panic Attack uses Hollywood-caliber props, special effects and lots of local actors to make their experience one of the most frightening in Wilmington. Photo by Kris Beasley

Panic Attack
Open Thursdays through Saturdays and Tuesday and Wednesday, the 30th-31st at 6 p.m., Panic Attack Haunted Attraction is the scariest romp across the Port City. Boasting to be North Carolina’s largest and most intense haunted attraction—20,000 square feet to be exact— Panic Attack features a variety of live actors as ghouls, ghosts, clowns, robots, yetis and demons—all who promise to terrify and exhilarate visitors. Every year the sets grow grander with Hollywood-quality special effects, not to mention elaborate decor. The video preview on the attraction’s website is deeply unsettling, as a large blinking banner above it declares it may be too intense for children under the age of 13. From what we hear at encore: It’s true. Wussies need not even come in the parking lot.
The box office opens at 6 p.m., and the attraction begins when the sun sets and continues until midnight. Tickets are $20 plus tax, with discounts for military and groups.

Aqua Camp
For the youngsters looking to make the fearsome holiday a bit more tolerable and even educational, the NC Aquarium is offering “AquaCamp: Spooky Critters.” For ages 5 to 12 years, the Halloween day camp will cover all that’s slippery and slimy in aquatic life. Live animal presentations, fun crafts and more will take place! Interested participants must pre-register by calling 910-458-8257; cost is $36-$40, depending on membership. The camp lasts six and a half hours and begins at 8:30 a.m. on October 18th.

Ghost Hike/Halloween Festival
If you’re looking for thrills off the mainland, then head over to the Ghost Hike held at the Fort Fisher State Recreation Area on Pleasure Island. A park ranger will happily guide you through the exploration of trails usually closed at night to the public. Learn about an old confederate guard who watches over the dunes, among other unexplained phenomena. Bring a flashlight and make a reservation for the free soirée at 8 p.m. by calling 910-458-5798; hikes take place the 18th through the 20th and October 30th.
But on the 27th, along with a trail tour, Fort Fisher will have a Halloween Festival from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., with another trail tour taking place that night at 7:30 p.m. There will be games, candy for trick-or-treaters, and of course the hike—trail may not be appropriate for young children. Advance registration required for tour during the festival; however all events are free! Fort Fisher State Recreation Area parking lot, 1000 Loggerhead Road. 910-458-5798;

Ghost Ship
The Battleship NC is one of the best spots in town to feel the fright! Starting the 19th through 20th and running through the 26th and 27th, visitors will climb aboard the ship and learn all about the ghosts which linger among its bow, boiler room, barracks, etc. The original haunted attraction opens at 6:30 p.m. Must be in line at 9:30 p.m. to get the last ticket sold; $10.

Poplar Grove Halloween Festival
It’s become the official kickoff to Wilmington’s Halloween celebrations. The annual Poplar Grove Halloween Festival welcomes families and friends to their most popular fund-raiser of the year. Though the admission is free onto the grounds, the individual attractions and rides are priced accordingly, with proceeds going to the Poplar Grove Foundation, Hampstead Fire Department, Topsail High School (THS), Hoggard HS Latin Club and Drama Department and other local non-profits. Slated for the 19th through the 21st—Friday, 6 p.m. and Saturday through Sunday at 2 p.m.— Topsail High School will host the all new Terror Town, offering a spirited hayride and ghostly barn. Also slated for enjoyment: inflatable, camel and pony rides, a petting zoo, games, pumpkins, a non-scary Kiddie Funhouse, palm and tarot-card readers and so much more! A costume contest will take place on the 20th at 6 p.m., so come dressed to impress.

Trick or Treat Tennis
What? Yes, it’s true! Tennis and trick-or-treating will pair up for a charity tournament to benefit Friends of Empie Park on the 19th (5:30 p.m.) and 20th (9 a.m.). Taking place at the Althea Gibson Tennis Complex at “Eerie” Park, teams can make up four players, two men and two women, ages 14 and up. There will be women’s and men’s doubles matches, as well as mixed doubles. Come dressed up in the best costume for a chance to score the Best Dressed Team prize on Friday the 19th. There will also be music and fun Friday evening. Call 341-4631 to register.

Evil in the Port City
Students man the haunted house every year as a major fund-raiser for New Hanover High School’s Lyceum Academy. These studious kids have gone literary in their 2012 theme: “Evil in the Port City.” Based on the hotel in Erik Larson’s best-selling novel “Devil in the White City,” soon to be a movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio, find out how the World Fair of 1893 turned dangerous for society as a serial killer lurked among its attractions. Lyceum students have devised several frightening rooms, including one with live snakes.
The show gets underway at the old Marine Reserve Barracks at 2150 Burnett Boulevard—all 14,000 square feet of it. Tickets are $10; the event begins at 7 p.m. nightly and ends at 10 p.m. on Thursdays, and midnight on Fridays and Saturdays; 19th-21st, 25th-28th and 31st.

Science Spooktacular
10/20: It’s not spooky, it’s science! Cape Fear Museum wants to UNfrighten you by uncovering the science behind the creepy and mysterious. Create concoctions that bubble, glow, or even smoke in the Mad Lab and discover the secrets of magic in the Little Shop of Physics. Explore skeletons, spiders, bats, and more. Admission charge. Cape Fear Museum, 6 p.m. 910-798-4350;

Halloween Haunted Trail
Also happening off the mainland and 45 minutes away from Wilmington is the Grissettown Longwood Fire and Rescue’s fourth annual Halloween Haunted Trail fund-raiser. Expect this to be a hanuted attraction with ghouls and ghost perfectly situated to scare the pants off you! The event takes place at 758 Longwood Road in Ocean Isle on the 19th and 20th, 26th and 27th, and 30th and 31st. Tickets are $8 a person with kids 5 and under entering for free. If you wanna skip the line, purchase a $15 fast pass; all proceeds benefit the Grissettown Longwood Fire and Rescue.

Murder Mystery Dinner Cruise
Though another year-long event aboard the Henrietta III in downtown Wilmington, any Murder Mystery becomes all the more intriguing when situated around Halloween. Taking place on the 23rd and 30th at 6 p.m., folks can board the Henrietta at Water and Dock streets for an exciting “Whodunnit?” kind of evening. Clues are given throughout the evening for diners to solve the mysterious storyline acted out by local talent. The two-hour event takes place on the Cape Fear River and even gives prizes away for audience participation. Reservations are required: 910-343-1611 or Tickets are $47.

Trick or Treat Under the Sea
The NC Aquarium has been bringing families out to Fort Fisher for a safe, engaging evening of trick-or-treating every Halloween for 11 years now. Taking place the 24th and 25th, dress up the tots and bring them out from 5 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. for free candy, offered up by local business vendors. Not only is there indoor trick-or-treating, kids will enjoy a carnival of fun, from face painting to story-telling, magic shows to spooky divers and even haunted gardens (only umbrella strollers permitted). Admission is $8, but children 2 and under are admitted for free. Call 910-458-8257 or visit for more information.

In Memoriam—Victoria Mourning
With the plethora of historic homes, mansions and museums all over town, it’s no wonder visitors revel in stories of their past—some perfectly creepy, captivating and educational for Halloween celebrations. Come the 26th and 27th, 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., the Latimer House Museum, a Victorian Italianate house from 1852, will provide an experience which showcases the customs and rituals of death in Victorian America. Expect the digs to be decorated in full mourning, with all five rooms displaying authentic funerary objects. There will be guides in period costume, samples of food served at Victorian funerals and ghost stories will be told! Why go fake when you can go authentic? The program only costs $7; 126 S. Third St. 910-762-0492 or

Kooky Spooky Jam-Boo Read
10/26: Kids’ literacy event disguised as a street festival with scary stories and non-scary fall-theme activities. Kids dress in costume or as a book character. Other Halloween/fall activities throughout October. Admission charge. Children’s Museum. 4:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. 910-254-3534;

Halloween Ghost Trolley
Every year Springbrook Farms decks out their horses and guides to take kids through fascinating tales of historic Wilmington. From the 26th through the 31st, the Halloween Ghost Trolley takes place from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., offering kid-friendly, 30-minute, horse-drawn trolley rides. They’ll even venture into the fun and frolicky “ghost barn.” Families can expect Halloween-themed stories, songs and lots of yummy treats. Tickets are $12 for adults and $5 for children under 12. The tour departs at Market and Water streets. Make a reservation by calling 910-251-8889 or visiting

Halyburton Halloween
The gorgeous public park and trails will be open during the spookfest of October with lots of great events taking place, including the Halloween Spooktacular on the 26th, from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. First of all: It’s free! Secondly, they’ll have hayrides, trick-or-treating, a costume contest, food, music and more!
On the 27th, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. they’ll beckon all athletes to participate in “Run, Ride & Roll”—a free bike-, run-, walk- or skate-a-thon on the Gary Shell Cross-City Trail. There will be a scavenger hunt, trick-or-healthy-treating, trick-your-bike competition, live music vendors and more.
On the 27th, the darkened depths of Halyburton can be explored on their Haunted Hayride, from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Folks will hear about the ghosts, culture and folklore which lurk in its past.

Luminary Tour of Oakdale Cemetery
Is there a more appropriate way to celebrate All Hallow’s Eve than one involving a cemetery? On the 28th, the Friends of Oakdale will put on a Luminary Tour of Oakdale Cemetery from 6:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. The evening stroll will feature the stories of graves of Dr. James H. Dickson and the Rev. John Lamb Pritchard, each of whom lie in the yellow fever section, where more than 400 victims are thought to be interred. Around 600 luminaries light the way to five grave sites. At each stop there will be a speaker telling the stories of those who are buried there. Refreshments and light snacks will be offered but the event is limited to 100 tickets sold for only $10; first come, first serve. 910-762-5682;

Batty Battleship
If you miss the Ghost Ship, then there is still time to celebrate aboard the Battleship NC as their annual Batty Battleship Halloween Bash takes place on the 30th from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Kids will be able to trick-or-treat aboard the ship and then enjoy the various vendors set up on the lot and enjoy the bouncy house, petting zoo and carnival-esque attractions. Located at the junction of Highways 17/74/76/421 on the Cape Fear River; admission is $5 a person.

Trick or Treat at the Mall
On Halloween day, Wednesday the 31st, from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. the Independence Mall off Oleander Drive will transform into candy fest! Trick-or- treaters are allowed to stroll through participating retailers to enjoy a safe Halloween indoors. Dress up!

Pumpkin Party
Fit for Fun Center at 302 S. 10th Street will throw a Pumpkin Party, on the 31st from 9 a.m. to noon.  For only $5 a child (adults enter free), kids can come in their costumes to enjoy donut-biting, fly-swat painting, a spaghetti toss, duck pond and so much more! A special snack will be served!

Great Pumpkin Hunt
On November 3rd, Halyburton will take those leftover Jack-o-Lanterns and turn them into a Great Pumpkin Hunt. For ages 3 to 9, the cost is only $3 a child and lasts from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at Maides Park, located at 1101 Manly Avenue. There will be face-painting, pumpkin-hunting, horse rides, arts and crafts, cookie decorating, hayrides and more. Pre-registration is recommended: (910) 341-7867.

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Encore Magazine regularly covers topics pertaining to news, arts, entertainment, food, and city life in Wilmington. It also maintains schedules and listings of local events like concerts, festivals, live performance art and think-tank events. Encore Magazine is an entity of H&P Media, which also powers Wilmington’s local ticketing platform, Print and online editions are updated every Wednesday.

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