The Southeast’s scariest places

By Nick Fortuna

In late September, event organizers across the Southeast were busily preparing for the scariest night of the year, Halloween, and all the fun that comes with it. Here is just a small sample of the region’s notable Halloween celebrations and attractions. 

The Lost Hollows Haunted Attraction, Lake Charles, Louisiana

The Corpse Bride
(Photo courtesy

If getting lost in the woods at night sounds like a frightfully good time, then you’re in luck with the Lost Hollows Haunted Attraction. Visitors begin their journey with an eerie hayride from the back of the Lake Charles Power Centre parking lot, 3413 Derek Dr., and travel along the Deadly Pines Trail into the “creepiest woods” in southwestern Louisiana, according to event organizers. Hayride shuttle lines start at 6 p.m. and stop at 11 p.m.

The event began Sept. 27 and runs Fridays and Saturdays through the “Lights Out” event on Halloween and Nov. 1. On those nights, the lights above the Deadly Pines Trail will be turned off, and “victims” must make their way through the woods with nothing but a flashlight to guide them. A walk on the trail typically takes about 45 minutes at a steady clip, and costumed actors will scare visitors along the way.

Tickets cost $25, and “fast pass” tickets, which allow attendees to skip the line, are $38. Children ages 12 and under must be accompanied by an adult. Attendees must wear closed-toe shoes. Concessions are available at the initial drop-off point and at the end of the trail. 

The Lost Hollows partners with anti-bullying groups to bring a presentation to local schools. 

Ghost Walk of Pender’s Past, Burgaw, North Carolina
Take a family-friendly, lantern-guided tour of historic Burgaw, exploring local legends, hauntings, ghostly sightings and strange happenings. Starting from the Burgaw Train Depot, tour guides will lead groups to various haunted sites as the Ghost of Pender’s Past tells scary stories. Tours will start at 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. rain or shine on Friday and Saturday, Oct. 11-12.  

“Again, we have new ghost stories,” said Stephanie Key, art director of the ghost walk. “Two of our stories feature films shot in Burgaw – ‘Silver Bullet’ and ‘I Know What You Did Last Summer.’ I’m sure there will be a werewolf or two roaming the streets of Burgaw.”

The ghost walk typically sells out each year. Tickets are limited and may be purchased at the temporary Pender County tourism office, 805 S. Walker St., in Burgaw, or by phone with a credit card by calling (910) 259-1278. Admission is $10 for adults, $5 for students and free for children ages 5 and younger. Proceeds benefit the Historical Society of Topsail Island, the Pender County Museum and the Pender Arts Council.

“We encourage visitors to purchase tickets in advance,” said Tammy Proctor, Pender County tourism director. “We hate to turn people away on the night of the shows.”

Boo at Bellingrath, Theodore, Alabama

Getting into the Halloween spirit at Boo at Bellingrath
(Photo courtesy Bellingrath Gardens and Bath)

Bellingrath Gardens and Home, the 65-acre garden and grand estate home of Walter and Bessie Bellingrath, will welcome little ghosts and goblins of all ages for the annual Boo at Bellingrath on Saturday, Oct. 26. The gardens will be filled with Halloween-themed inflatables, and local businesses and organizations will hand out candy and trinkets from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The event includes two magic shows featuring Dr. Gee and his magic balloons, spooky storytelling from the Mobile Public Library, food trucks and live music. Dr. Gee will perform at noon and at 1 p.m., and between shows, he will create Halloween balloon characters upon request, including pumpkins, ghosts, skeletons, hats and even Spiderman. The spooky-story times are 11:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m., and 1:30 p.m.

Tickets include admission to the gardens for the day, and guests are welcome to come early or stay late. The gardens feature beautiful fall colors in late October and include chrysanthemums, roses, shrimp plants and variegated copper and coleus foliage. The gardens are open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Tickets are available at Admission is $14 for adults and $8 for children ages 5 to 12. There is no charge for Bellingrath members and children ages 4 and younger.

Rougarou Fest, Houma, Louisiana

Rougarou Fest Parade
(Photo courtesy South Louisiana Wetlands Discovery Center)

Have you ever attended a free event named after a French version of the werewolf? Rougarou Fest is a family-friendly festival with a spooky flavor celebrating the rich folklore of the bayous of southeastern Louisiana. It showcases live music, cultural activities, children’s activities, Cajun food and the Krewe Ga Rou parade.

All proceeds go to the South Louisiana Wetlands Discovery Center, a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting Louisiana’s coastline. USA Today ranked Rougarou Fest among the 10 best costume parties in the United States.

Rougarou Fest is Saturday, Oct. 26, from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Sunday, Oct. 27, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

During the parade, the Rougarou Witches will entertain the crowds with their fancy costumes and dance moves while the Rougarou Zombies show off their decaying look and dance through the streets.

Most of the kids’ activities cost only $1, and they include the “Feed the Rougarou” Frisbee throw, the “Lutin Toss” beanbag toss, pin the tail on the Rougarou, the shrimp boot toss, bobbing for apple snails, the free Lil’ Rougarou Picture Station, face painting, the “Cypress Knee” ring toss, the crawfish toss and Rougarou storytelling.

Free registration for the costume contest is from 1 to 4 p.m. that Saturday on the courthouse steps. The top three costumes in each category win trophies, and the winners of the following categories are eligible for the award honoring the best overall costume: pets, most creative, funniest, scariest, movie characters, kids ages 5 and younger and kids ages 6 to 12.

Historic Ghost Walk, Elizabeth City, North Carolina

The 23rd annual Elizabeth City Historic Ghost Walk isn’t billed as a scary-good time but instead is a walk through the city’s rich history. The tour, which takes place Friday and Saturday, Oct. 11-12, from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m., is a combination home tour, history lesson and live theater show.

There are seven homes or venues on the tour, and each one has a ghost from Elizabeth City’s past who tells about his or her life and interacts with the audience. Visitors walk from venue to venue or ride free buses.

This year’s theme is “Project Zebra: Elizabeth City’s Top-Secret Role in World War II.” In 1943, 300 Soviet pilots descended upon Elizabeth City to be trained to fly large amphibious warplanes called PBN Nomads. The pilots then flew the planes to Russia as part of FDR’s lend-lease program. Project Zebra was declassified in 2012.

PBN Nomad
(Photo courtesy Marjorie Berry)

This year’s ghosts include President Roosevelt, Soviet project commander Maxim Chibisov and two ladies who have been shopping in downtown Elizabeth City and run into the Russians as part of a comical skit. There is also a live musical stage show reminiscent of a WWII USO Show at the Arts of the Albemarle Maguire Theater, and it is free with admission to the ghost walk.

Tickets are $15 for adults and $12 for veterans with ID and children under 12. They may be purchased in town at the Arts of the Albemarle, Muddy Waters Coffee House, Page After Page Bookstore and the Shoppes at Kenyon Bailey.