October 31, 2016

Frightfully Fun Ways to Celebrate Halloween at National Trust Historic Sites

  • By: Lauren Walser

‘Tis the season for spooks and scares and things that go bump in the night. National Trust Historic Sites have had a few tricks and plenty of treats in store for the Halloween season. Here, we highlight four sites with frighteningly fun ways to celebrate All Hallows’ Eve.


The Shadows

photo by: Mickey Delcambre

The Shadows in New Iberia, Louisiana, was built in 1834 for sugar planter David Weeks.

The Shadows

photo by: Mickey Delcambre

Guests gather in the gardens of The Shadows for "Terror-on-the-Teche," a night of scary stories.

The Shadows

Put on your costume, pull up a picnic blanket, and prepare for goosebumps: Each October, The Shadows, a National Trust Historic Site in New Iberia, Louisiana, hosts "Terror-on-the-Teche," an evening of scary stories told in the gardens of this 1830s manor. A collaboration with the Iberia Parish Library since 1983, the hour-long event features a professional storyteller who shares terrifying tales from around the globe. And there’s no better backdrop for a scary story than the gardens of The Shadows, with its Spanish moss swaying in the oaks above the guests and the sounds from nocturnal animals in the background.


Villa Finale

photo by: Courtesy Villa Finale

Costumes and Halloween-themed snacks are part of "A Spooktacular Halloween at Villa Finale."

Villa Finale

photo by: Courtesy Villa Finale

Kids bob for donuts in a game called "Dracula's Donut Bite."

Villa Finale

With its imposing tower, thick limestone walls, and rooms full of old furniture, Villa Finale could easily pass for a haunted house year-round. But come late October, the Italianate house, nestled in a historic neighborhood in San Antonio, is decorated in the tradition of Victorian-era mourning periods, with dark bunting and wreaths hanging throughout the property. It’s all part of Villa Finale’s highly anticipated annual event, “A Spooktacular Halloween at Villa Finale.”

The family-friendly gathering is in the spirit of 19th-century Halloween celebrations, which were neighborhood events with food, costumes, and games. Geared toward kids ages 3 through 12, “A Spooktacular Halloween at Villa Finale” offers plenty of treats to eat, plus games, crafts, screaming contests, a costume parade, face painting, fortune tellers, and a trick-or-treat dash.


Woodlawn

photo by: Dan Schwarz

Woodlawn, a 126-acre estate that was originally part of George Washington’s Mount Vernon, was constructed between 1800 and 1805.

Woodlawn

photo by: Courtesy Woodlawn

"An Evening at the Twilight Zone: A Parody!" is a night of 1950s science fiction.

Woodlawn

Halloween takes a retro turn at Woodlawn in Alexandria, Virginia, as the site hosts “An Evening at the Twilight Zone: A Parody!,” a night of 1950s sci-fi suspense. The annual event starts with a reception hour and is followed by the Picnic Theatre Company’s performance of three short Twilight Zone­-inspired episodes that explore themes of Cold War-era fears in suburban America; artificial intelligence for daily living; and the promise and peril of contact with alien civilizations.

In the 1900s, Woodlawn was home to playwright Paul Kester, who used the proceeds of his plays to restore Woodlawn. That spirit continues today: All proceeds from this theatrical event benefit Woodlawn Pope-Leighey House preservation and programs.

Oatlands

photo by: Courtesy Oatlands

Oatlands in Leesburg, Virginia, hosts an annual Fall Harvest Festival, with hayrides, music, games, and U-pick pumpkins.

Oatlands

photo by: Courtesy Oatlands

Witches' Brew Tea at Oatlands is a play on the site's traditional Afternoon Tea events.

Oatlands

Halloween is in full swing at Oatlands throughout the entire month of October. There are U-pick pumpkins and hayrides each weekend. And each year, folks flock to the site’s all-day Harvest Festival, with pumpkins, hayrides, music, games, bake sales, and crafts. Plus, Oatlands’ ever-popular Afternoon Tea events in the property’s historic carriage house takes a spooky turn, with Witches’ Brew Tea held for two days at the end of the month.

In the days before Halloween, Oatlands hosts its annual Paranormal Tours, taking visitors on a hair-raising walk through the grounds to share the creepy activity that’s happened at the site throughout the last few decades—unexplained images appearing in photographs, music playing when no one is there, and mysterious voices calling out from the dark. Try it, if you dare.

Lauren Walser is the Los Angeles-based field editor of Preservation magazine. She enjoys writing and thinking about art, architecture, and public space, and hopes to one day restore her very own Arts and Crafts-style bungalow.

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