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On the bank of a broad part of the brook, where the water ran deep and black, was found the hat of the unfortunate Ichabod, and close beside it a shattered pumpkin.
—Washington Irving, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow
This year Halloween takes a literary and theatrical turn in several historic Wisconsin settings. Enhanced by authentic creaking floorboards, real rusty hinges and the dark of night, these events are guaranteed to spook the bejabbers out of you and your little goblins:
After feasting on the season's harvest at the Clausing Barn Restaurant, warm your bones with a glass or two of claret and sink your teeth into the tale of the fella with the shiny incisors, none other than Count Dracula. A troupe of dramatic performers presents Bram Stoker's classic story of the vampire's insatiable thirst for blood in a series of moveable vignettes set against the darkened backdrop of Old World Wisconsin's historic buildings and wooded hills. Performances run October 15-17 from 6-9 p.m. at Old World Wisconsin, Eagle. For tickets and reservations, call 262/594-6305 or visit Old World Wisconsin. For your safety, turtleneck sweaters are the recommended attire. BYOG. (Bring Your Own Garlic.)
In the fog-shrouded valleys of the Hudson River gangly schoolmaster Ichabod Crane swoons for the fair Katrina, but ends up two ears shy of a head at Heritage Hill State Historical Park in Green Bay. There you can relive The Legend of Sleepy Hollow on October 22-23 and 29-31 from 5-8 p.m. Expect a night of fun and fantasy – costumes are encouraged. All Headless Horsemen invited to attend. See Heritage Hill State Historical Park or call (920) 448-5150.
The questionable events surrounding the disappearance of Emma Thomas, granddaughter by marriage of John Richards, the original owner of Watertown's most famous structure, are laid bare in the comedy/mystery "Dead Emma." The Watertown Players present Emma's harrowing but brief saga on October 29-30 every 15 minutes from 6:30-9 p.m. at the Octagon House Museumin Watertown. The charming 1854 solid-brick house with far too many corners was one of the largest single family residences of the pre-Civil War era in Wisconsin. Visit The Watertown Players or call the eight-sided museum at (920) 261-2796. See The Octagon House for details.
The City of Neenah embarks on its first annual BooFest from October 22-24. By all means cut a swath through the pumpkin carving contest, dally at the costume ball, march in the costume parade, and screech through the night at the drive-in Halloween movie screening – but be sure to stop in at the Neenah Public Library for some classic scary storytelling. See Future Neenah or call (920) 722-1920.
As far as over-the-top grand theatrics go, you can't beat the Portage Pumpkinfest, October 22-23. In an attempt to claim the world record for decorated and lit-up pumpkins, city residents will line the Portage Canal with more than 500 of the carved and glowing monster orange cucurbits. It's certain to be a good fright and a stunning sight. (608) 742-6242.