Every ghoul, ghost and goblin were welcome at the Atlanta History Center’s second annual Haunted Halloween. The event, held Oct. 21, was brought back by the Director of Adult and Family Programs Joanna Potter.
“The event tripled the number that we were expecting,” Potter said. “Whenever we do a new event on a holiday, we set an attendance goal, and the specific one we set was a pretty modest goal of 150, and we had well over 400. The feedback was all really positive,[The visitors] just wanted more.”
And more is exactly what they got. With extended hours to accommodate the more than 400 people estimated to attend this year, Haunted Halloween offered more frights for the those brave enough to stop by. The event was organized by Scare Factors, with 1 being All Ages and 5 being Very Scary!
“That means if you and a couple of your friends want to come to our event, then you’re going to have something for young adults, but if you want to come with your two kids there’s also something for you as well,” Potter said. “Last year we were a little bit surprised by how many younger children were out pretty late.”
The majority of this year’s events settled around a Scare Factor 1 or 2, including the Swan Hotel: A Dead and Breakfast. The 1930s hotel was transformed into a haunted house, decked out with butlers and creepy mannequins in the rooms. There was also a witch in the kitchen who allowed visitors to feel her concoctions and try to guess what they were. On the Swan Woods Trail, children could meet up with the woodland fairies to build their own wands at the Woodland Fairy Wand Workshop.
For kids not interested in magic, there was also a carnival at the Smith Family Farm. The carnival offered fun games for kids of all ages, including darts, cornhole, a balloon pop and a DIY skee ball game. All the games were free to play, and players got tickets which could then be exchanged for popcorn or cotton candy in the amphitheatre.
The Carnival Castaways trail in the Quarry Garden allowed the same carnival vibes with the added bonus of being scared out of your mind. At a nice Scare Factor 4, the trail offered plenty of jump scares in a short amount of time. Admittedly, the rating was given with children in mind, so it wasn’t terribly scary for adults, unless you were scared of clowns.
The other adult-oriented events were the Cannibal Carver Family and the Museum Basement, both a Scare Factor 4. These events operated much like the Carnival Castaways trail, except in the Cannibal Carver event visitors were running away from a family who wanted to harvest their flesh and sell it to the butcher shop. Yikes.
All of the actors on the trails and houses were members of the History Center staff.
“We are so fortunate to employ a lot of actors as our part-time staff,” Potter said. “They get pretty excited about this time of year. It’s just fun. The trail greeters are almost all volunteers.”
Haunted Halloween also offered an escape for parents or kids who had a little too much excitement. A screening room just off the lobby played several Halloween classics, including “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown,” “Hocus Pocus” and, although not really a Halloween movie but certainly is a classic, “The Goonies.”
There was also a live DJ playing all the Halloween hits from Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” to the Ghostbuster’s theme. The dancing kicked off around 8:30 p.m. as kids unwound from a night on the trails. The cast came out to join them after the trails closed at 9:30 p.m.
What’s in store
Potter has high hopes about bringing the event back next year and hopes that one day the Center can make it a two-day event.
“Each year our hope is to continue tailoring it to our audiences and to try to provide something that’s kind of different and unique than what your normal Halloween offerings around town are,” Potter said. “So much of this is limited because we need to have enough staff and volunteers to populate the trails. We’re actually playing around with the idea of creating a volunteer corps that just thinking about Haunted Halloween all year.”
As part of its Halloween series, the Atlanta History Center will also be hosting a Day of the Dead Festival in collaboration with the Consulate General of Mexico in Atlanta and the Institute of Mexican Culture. This is a free admission day to the Center, so no tickets are required. Guests can come and enjoy authentic Mexican art, entertainment and food.
Sunday, October 30, 2016
12 p.m. – 5 p.m.
Atlanta History Center
130 W Paces Ferry Rd NW
Atlanta, GA 30305
Parking at the History Center is free for all guests. There is a parking garage next to the History Center off of W Paces Ferry Road. If that’s full, there is also street parking and Valet parking next to the Swan Coach House Restaurant on Slaton Drive.
Most Fang-Tastic: Catrina’s thoughts
While Haunted Halloween offered plenty of tricks, the best treat was the Swan Hotel. At a Scare Factor 2, it offered a fun adventure for visitors of all ages. It also showed off what the Atlanta History Center is all about by capturing the 1930s lifestyle but adding a fun twist. It was cool to see all the vintage furniture and architecture of the Swan Hotel while being able to enjoy the Halloween season.
Overall, the events were fun but not very scary. Maybe field testing them with an older audience first could give the center a good idea of what’s scary to young adults next year. Of course, I’m not expecting a mini-Netherworld, but four clowns on a trail just didn’t scare me out of my socks.