The Phantom Gazette – News

The Haunting of Hillcrest 2014: America’s Halloween Street

Louisville’s Crescent Hill neighborhood is quickly gaining national recognition as one of the best trick-or-treat destinations in the country!

Looking for somewhere special to trick-or-treat with the kids this Halloween? Many long time Louisville residents already know where they can find more K-Mart cobwebs, grinning jack-lanterns, plastic skeletons and Styrofoam graveyards than anywhere else in town, but recently the rest of the country is catching on too.

Last year, AOL Travel crowned Hillcrest Avenue number nine on the list of the Top Ten Best Halloween Neighborhoods in America.

The annual tradition has been going on for nearly 20 years along the three block stretch between Frankfort Avenue and Brownsborro Road, and many homeowners on the route start setting up their elaborate displays in early October. Each participating household regularly purchases between $200 and $300 worth of candy to hand out to the average of 2,500 to 3,000 trick-or-treaters from all over the city.

That’s just on Halloween. The special effects and lights show goes on every night in October and the sidewalks are packed with people every night, especially on Friday and Saturday nights. Hillcrest generally expects around 75,000 visitors to walk up and down its spooky stretch of road through October 31.

If you plan on trick-or-treating on Hillcrest this year, the official hours next Friday are from 5 PM until 9 PM with police sweeping the streets clean at 10 PM. You can keep up with the latest news at where this year they have a page dedicated to Hillcrest Selfies posted on Instagram or Twitter. You’ll find dozens of Hillcrest Selfie stations up and down the entire street.

I took a twilight trip out to Hillcrest this afternoon to see what was new and snap a few photos before the sun went down and the crowds came out. Many of the usual favorites have returned this year, including Hillcrest Cemetery, the Ghouly Garden, Area 51 and the Clown House.

I think my favorite new creation this year was the house probably inspired by the 2006 animated film, “Monster House,” which has turned an entire two story house into a raging monstrosity with glowering eyes and razor sharp teeth. It already has blood dripping from its front porch fangs, so I’d think carefully before trick-or-treating there even if they’re promising full size Snickers bars.

Have fun and be safe this Halloween, and be sure to regularly check the Louisville Halloween website for more Halloween news and reviews all next week. Our Facebook and Twitter pages will be updated with the latest news as it comes in. Happy Halloween from the Phantom of the Ville!

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“Boo to You” Turns the Kentucky Renaissance Fair into a Child’s Halloween Wonderland this Saturday!

Get treats, have fun and give back to Kosair Charities at the huge “Boo to You” Halloween party this Saturday, October 25th!

Happy Halloween, everybody, it’s the Phantom of the Ville here! Over the last month, I’ve been bringing you news and reviews of some of the creepiest haunted houses and spookiest Halloween events in town, but today I have something really important to tell all you parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, nephews, big brothers, big sisters and anyone else with children in their lives.

This Saturday, October 25th, there’s a big Halloween hootenanny going on at the Kentucky Renaissance Fair at 955 Elm Street in Eminence, KY. The whole medieval park has been transformed into a Halloween wonderland and from 1 PM through 5 PM you’ll have the opportunity to bring your kids out for a complete Halloween experience that benefits Kosair Charities. It’s Boo to You! Louisville Halloween is sponsoring the event, 100% of proceeds go to Kosair, and we couldn’t be more proud to be a part of it.

The cost is only $10 per child and adults get in for FREE. If you’ve been out to the Kentucky Renaissance Fair before, you know how spectacular it’s going to be for this Halloween event. There are wooded trails perfect for haunted trails and trick-or-treating, and a whole medieval village to explore.

Let me tell you about all the cool things they’ll have for you and your kids to do! Of course, there will be a trick-or-treat trail, but that’s just the tip of the candy corn. There will be pony rides, bounce houses, a pumpkin patch, a corn maze and hay rides. You’ll find a fortune teller, clowns, magicians, story tellers and the League of Mascots. There will be arts & crafts, face painting and food & beverages. There will also be a haunted trail for the older kids and some of the braver adults.

There will also be a costume parade that you and your kids can participate in and a costume contest where you can win some great prizes provided by some of the sponsors. There will be prizes awarded in three different categories and age groups, and prizes include Kindle Fires!

Earlier this week, I had a chance to speak with “Boo to You” founder, Jill Childers, about this amazing Halloween event. “This will be our third official year,” says Childers, “and the first three actually took place at our home. Last year we had 500 people, and I knew that we were quickly outgrowing our space. This year, the Kentucky Renaissance Fair has graciously given us their park to use for free.”

“Our oldest daughter, Addie, has cerebral palsy,” says Childers. “We turned to Kosair Charities several times when insurance would not cover the treatment and equipment Addie needed to live a full life. Kosair Charities have impacted our lives tremendously.”

“Boo to You” is just one way that Childers and her husband have chosen to give back to Kosair Charities and it’s also a chance for you to contribute to this worthy cause while having a lot of fun.

“There are a few hidden things and surprises in store for kids,” says Childers, “but I don’t want to spoil all the surprises we have in store. The drive to Eminence is about the same as the drive to Huber’s from Louisville, so we hope people will make the time to come out have some fun with Addie.”

Besides the $10 donation, Kosair will also have the Wishing Well on site if you would like to donate canned goods.

Halloween has been a lot of fun so far in the Ville, and there’s much more to come in the next two weeks, but “Boo to You” is not only fun, but significant too. Please take some time this Halloween to make a difference to the kids in your own life and the kids out there who need your help. Thanks!

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The Phantom’s Top Haunts of 2014

The Phantom of the Ville unleashes his list of favorite scares, haunts and Halloween attractions for the 2014 season.

With only two weekends left in the 2014 Halloween season, it’s crunch time for those of you still trying to decide on which haunted attractions and Halloween events you want to attend before the rising sun on November 2nd officially ends our ghoulish hootenanny for another year. Most, but not all, haunted houses will be open on November 1st since it falls on a Saturday this year, but be sure to check for closing times before you head out the door.

The definition of “scary” is different for each and every one of us, and we all have our own unique fears and phobias, and even the best haunts in the Ville have “off nights” due to weather, crowd capacity, actor availability, faulty special effects and a dozen other factors. This list isn’t meant to be the definitive “Best of Louisville” list for the 2014 Halloween season, but just a highlight of some of my favorite experiences out there in the region on dark nights over the last month. I’ll start off by shining a light on some of the best and most creative scenes, actors and effects I’ve seen this season and finish it off by naming my TOP THREE HAUNTED ATTRACTIONS of the year.

Are you ready? Let’s go!

MOST INTENSE HAUNT OF 2014: The Haunted Hotel! Was there ever any doubt? If you’re looking for a haunt that’s going grab you, shake you and send you out the door a sobbing, shell shocked mess, the Haunted Hotel is for you!

LONGEST HAUNT OF 2014: Field of Screams! When it comes to bang for your buck, nobody delivers like the Field of Screams. You’ll spend over an hour in their signature attraction, which includes a corn maze, haunted barn and haunted woods, and at least another 40 minutes on the Hayride to Hell. This is an action packed, high quality and even exhausting attraction.

BEST OPENING SCENE: Literally, a Haunted House! New Albany’s classic Culbertson Mansion haunt delivered my favorite opening scene this year inside a witch’s manor. This scene includes great acting and interaction with the audience, an atmospheric set, a great “Boo!” finale and a fantastic hidden exit into the haunt.

BEST LAST SCENE: TIE! Nightmare Forest and the 7th Street Haunt! In a brilliant move, Nightmare Forest decided to take advantage of the concept behind “The Purge” and the infamous Internet prank that had Louisville residents locking their doors and hunkering down for “Louisville Purge Night” to deliver an effective and shocking ending to their haunted forest trail.

The 7th Street Haunt ends its tour of Fort Harmony with a descent into the fiery pits of Hell! There you’ll pass through an incredibly creative (and scratch made!) volcanic Hellscape complete with lava monsters and demons!

BEST MOVIE SCENES: Fear Fair! Nobody does realistic horror movie scenes like Fear Fair, and this year they’ve added the prison from “The Walking Dead,” an updated “Exorcist” scene and a brand new, extensive “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” finale.

BEST MAKE-UP AND SET DESIGN: The Devil’s Attic! Nobody pays quite as much attention to detail as the Devil’s Attic. The make-up, monster costumes and Gothic set design are two steps above what anybody else is even attempting in the Ville. In fact, even though the lighting, fog and special effects are tremendous, the Devil’s Attic looks almost as good with the lights on.

BEST NEW SCENE: Grim Trails! Nothing in town blew me away as much the new Maleficent’s Castle scene at Grim Trails. It’s a jaw dropping experience when you step out of the woods and are faced with the imposing drawbridge, 25 foot towers and huge wooden door of the castle. The scene is capped off with a spectacular special effects sequence that witnesses Maleficent transform into a gigantic fire breathing dragon and a jaunt through the castle’s catacombs.

BEST “WOW” FACTOR AND HIGH TECH HAUNT: Industrial Nightmare at Industrial Terrorplex. The signature maze at Industrial Terrorplex was pumped up on high tech steroids last year with a $300,000 renovation and nothing in town can touch it in terms of scale, lighting and special effects. It kept the best scenes of the past, the swamp scene and the giant monster, but completely changed everything else and is now almost overwhelming in its spectacle. Giant rats, bridges over water effects and the best animatronic creatures in town combine to create an unforgettable experience.

BEST OVERALL VALUE: Danger Run! Including THREE of the haunts included on this list for only $20, Danger Run also includes its signature road game puzzle for an entire night’s (or maybe two nights!) entertainment.

MOST INTERACTIVE HAUNT: Asylum Haunted Scream Park! If you want to be a part of the show and feel like you’ve been dropped into a horror movie where you are the star, Asylum Haunted Scream Park is the haunt for you. Zombie City is the most interactive attraction in town and Xterminate lets you actually shoot the zombies!

CREEPIEST ORIGINAL CHARACTER: The Spider Creature at Literally, a Haunted House! This thing is still showing up in my nightmares.


MOST DISTURBING HAUNT CHARACTER: The elevator goon in the Infected maze at Industrial Terrorplex! If you’ve ever met this guy, you’ll never forget him.

BEST UNEXPECTED SCARE OF THE SEASON: The flying vampire in Darkness Falls on Asylum at Asylum Haunted Scream Park.

BEST FAMILY HALLOWEEN EVENT: The Louisville Jack O Lantern Spectacular! The majesty and October beauty on display in Iroquois Park is a MUST SEE for both families and Halloween fanatics alike.

When it comes to total, overall experience, I have chosen my three favorite haunted attractions for the 2014 Halloween season. Each year my list changes and new scenes, new mazes and new cast members can greatly affect the results. It also comes down to personal tastes and what you’re looking for in a haunt. There are a great variety of experiences out there, and there are no bad haunts in the Ville.

Number Three: INDUSTRIAL NIGHTMARE at Industrial Terrorplex! I was blown away by the scale and quality of the new Industrial Nightmare maze, and I think it’s the most impressive big budget attraction in town, comparable in every way to the haunts at Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios in Orlando. 

Number Two: FEAR FAIR in Seymour, Indiana! Fear Fair has actually been my number one favorite haunt in the region for the last five years. It’s a huge haunt that takes 30 to 40 minutes to experience, and as a huge horror movie fan, it just feels like “home.” No one creates realistic horror film scenes like Fear Fair, and no one consistently delivers the number of shocking scares they deliver on an annual basis.

Number One: My favorite haunted attraction this season is GRIM TRAILS HAUNTED ATTRACTION! I don’t expect every haunt fan out there to agree with me because Grim Trails is bringing something completely different to the haunted house scene in Louisville and may not be what some haunt fans expect. There are no chainsaws, clowns or movie scenes. Instead, it’s a dark fantasy haunted woods lit by a tea light trail based on the Brothers Grimm tales and other fantastic childhood stories.

Grim Trails captures the essence of the Halloween season with mood and atmosphere instead of blood and debauchery, and while still certainly delivering on the expected scares, presents an attraction that can be enjoyed by fans of all ages. In only its second season, it was the majesty of the new Maleficent’s Castle scene that pushed Grim Trails to the top of my list this year. When Maleficent disappears into a blast of green smoke and transforms into a fire breathing dragon, I was completely sold on this extremely original and creative attraction. Highly recommended!

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Ray Bradbury’s “The Halloween Tree” Comes to Glowing Life at the Louisville Jack O’ Lantern Spectacular!


The Jack O’ Lantern Spectacular in Iroquois Park is this Halloween’s best nightly operating attraction for families and Halloween lovers alike!

“It’s beautiful!”

Dr. Rene Belloq, “Raiders of the Lost Ark” (1981)

Anyone who has seen “Raiders of the Lost Ark” remembers this exclamation from the films’ primary villain as he stares into the freshly opened Holy relic and at the incorporeal spirits within just before his head promptly explodes. That’s pretty much the same reaction I had on the Jack O’ Lantern Spectacular trail at Iroquois Park because the glowing majesty on display there pretty much blew my mind.

Earlier this week I met with Iroquois Deputy Parks Director, Marty Storch, and Passion for Pumpkins owners and operators, Paul Cadieux and Travis Recknor, to get the scoop on the second season of the Louisville Jack O’ Lantern Spectacular and its history.

“Travis’ father went to Vermont one October nearly 30 years ago and saw a hillside full of pumpkins,” says Cadieux. “That’s where this whole idea started.”

“We had our first event in Massachusetts 26 years ago,” he continues. “It started as a fundraiser for a local high school with about 50 pumpkins. That event quickly got so popular that we moved it to the Roger Williams Park Zoo in Providence, Rhode Island with approximately 5,000 pumpkins per year.”

“Here at the Louisville event we are using around 15,000 pumpkins per year,” says Parks Director Marty Storch. “We just got a batch of Atlantic Giant Pumpkins in, and one of them weighs 1,950 pounds!”

Storch says that a portion of the proceeds this season are going towards building several public playgrounds and “spraygrounds” this year. One will be at the California Park on W St. Catherine Street, another in Russell Lee Park on Southern Avenue and a third in Lannon Park in Portland.

“We had 40,000 visitors last year,” says Storch, “and we’re hoping for around 60,000 this year.”

“Our theme this year is ‘A Walk in Time,’ and it’s a journey through history as depicted on sculpted pumpkin art,” says Cadieux, “but we’ve had all kinds of pumpkins carved already this year, including a couple of wedding proposal pumpkins!”

“One of our centerpieces is the Laughing Tree,” says Cadieux. The Laughing Tree is an enormous tree with branches full of grinning pumpkins and the sounds of laughter echoing through the night. As a lifelong fan of the Halloween stories of legendary author, Ray Bradbury, I couldn’t help but imagine his classic 1972 novel, “The Halloween Tree,” coming to vivid life as I basked beneath the glow of Caudieux and Recknor’s giggling masterpiece.

First on the trail, you’ll discover the magical Clock of Ages before you hear the primordial growls of the Prehistoric Swap and you’ll find yourself in a misty land of dinosaur pumpkins before moving on to the Ice Age. Just around the bend, you’ll encounter a medieval castle set depicting feudal times and some of the fire breathing myths dreamed up in that era.

Soon enough you’ll pass into the Old West, complete with an entire Western town full of gunslinging pumpkins. Then you’ll experience the artistic beauty of the Renaissance and the steam powered glory of the Industrial Revolution. Each section is accompanied by the appropriate classical music and sound effects, and this results in an atmosphere similar to that found in some of our best National History Museums.

As the time gets closer to our own moment in history, the trail gets broken down into decades of American History from the Jazz Age of the 1920’s to the Great Depression of the 1930’s and beyond. Popular culture begins showing up in the form of music and movie pumpkins, such as “Rocky” and “Star Wars” pumpkins in the 1970’s and “Ghostbusters” and “Back to the Future” pumpkins in the 1980’s. I thought the “disco pumpkin” was particularly relevant since 90% of the world’s disco balls are made right here in Louisville.

As crazy as it might sound before October 31st, you’ll get to experience some early Christmas cheer in the holiday area, complete with Christmas music and light snowfall on still nights.

Just before the Louisville Jack O’ Lantern Spectacular’s finale, there is a tribute to Louisville in glowing orange featuring pumpkins depicting Churchill Downs and local heroes like Muhammad Ali, Colonel Sanders and even Jennifer Lawrence!

Then just before going home, you’ll be rewarded with a tribute to everything Halloween from the Frankenstein Monster to haunted houses, graveyards and ghosts.

It’s hard for me to imagine a better Halloween event for families and kids in the Ville. There are overwhelming sights and sounds to be experienced at the Louisville Jack O’ Lantern Spectacular that could very well make for memories that might find themselves etched upon a child’s mind for the rest of his or her life. With that in mind, I can’t recommend this new annual Halloween event any higher to families and lovers of the orange-and-black holiday.

The Louisville Jack O’ Lantern Spectacular is open through November 2nd from 7 PM (dusk) until 11 PM Sundays through Thursdays and until Midnight on Fridays and Saturdays. Tickets for Sunday through Thursday are $12 for Adults, $10 for Seniors (62 and over) and $9 for Children (3-12 years old). Children under 3 are FREE. Tickets for Friday and Saturday are $15 for Adults, $13 for Seniors and $12 for Children.

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Literally, a Haunted House 2014 Review

For 30 years, the Culbertson Mansion has hosted this classic spook house in New Albany, and over the years has become as much of a Halloween tradition in the area as “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown”!

Last night, as I drove down the rain slicked streets of Main Street in the quaint little town of New Albany, past the old Schmitt Furniture building and the row of turn of the century stately homes and manors, I could feel a tangible sense of history. The past, like a ghost that never leaves its earthly home, lives forever in that place.

Nowhere is this more evident than at the gates of the haunted Culbertson Mansion. As you peer up into its third story windows, you may see shadows of the long past looking back at you with curious eyes. Follow the walkway past the 1867 Second Empire-style mansion to the Carriage House in the back and you’ll discover another artifact of Halloweens long past.

Literally, a Haunted House at 914 E Main Street in New Albany, IN is celebrating its 30th year as a non-profit haunt in that creaky abode in the looming shadow of the Culbertson Mansion. While the world in general, and the haunt biz in particular, has changed radically over that time, Culbertson’s haunted house has remained rooted in tradition. I don’t mean to say that Literally, a Haunted House is “old school” in the same way I’ve alluded to the 7th Street Haunt across the bridge in Louisville. No, Culbertson’s haunt isn’t trying to recreate a forgotten feeling from the haunts of yesteryear. It simply is a living, theatrical piece of Halloween history.

In its tight and twisting hallways and up and down its creaking stairwells, there is a kind of magic that conjures the vibe of Midnight Spook Shows of the 1940’s through the 1960’s and tantalizing Spook Houses from long forgotten carnival Midways.

This season, Literally, a Haunted House is celebrating its 30 year haunt history by constructing a maze filled with the best remembered scenes and characters from the past, but it is also dipping its toes into the modern horror business in unexpected ways. For the first time, Culbertson is embracing the idea of “touching” and has amped up the physical intensity level a bit. Last year, the haunt was themed to Classic Monsters and pretty much avoided both touching and gore altogether, so this year they’ve decided to mix things up a bit and get a bit gorier.

It’s still in the spirit of fun, however, and nowhere on the level of grabby intensity and gore soaked depravity of the Haunted Hotel in Louisville. This would still make a great “first haunt” for a curious 8 to 10 year old with proper parental supervision (AKA, a brave human shield!), but there is a slightly darker undertone this season.

You’ll begin your tour with a walk through the Culbertson graveyard where you’ll encounter a coven of robed devil cult creeps conducting a ceremony that will unleash an evil force into the world. Then you’ll climb the steps and enter the Carriage House to meet a cackling hag that promises to end the evil spell if you’ll help her read an arcane text from an ancient book.

This scene ended up being my favorite opening scene of any haunt in the region this year. The great, atmospheric set, complete with all-seeing busts just like the ones in Disney’s Haunted Mansion, a smoldering fireplace and a fantastic “Boo!” finale, really kicks off the whole experience with style. You’ll also see some of the best haunt acting in town in this scene, and throughout the haunt, along with some of the best interactive performances around.

After you pass through the secret entrance into the bowels of the haunt, you’ll see ancient crypts, rooms infested with snakes, spiders & cockroaches, haunted nurseries and forgotten dungeons with moving walls. You’ll meet demented dentists, evil ghost children and chainsaw wielding maniacs. I have to give special props to the fanged, spider-like creature in all black who is truly worthy of nightmares.

On the down side, this is one of the shorter haunts in town, with a total experience time in the 10 or 12 to 15 minute range. The opening jaunt through the graveyard helps extend the experience a bit, but the Carriage House hasn’t gotten any bigger in 30 years. The Culbertson crew makes use of every nook and cranny to the best of their ability.

Also, due to the tight spaces and small rooms inside the Carriage House, the smaller the group you can go through with, the better. A group of three or, ideally, four will likely have a better experience than a group of six or more.

Literally, a Haunted House is open tonight and every Friday and Saturday through November 1st from 7 PM until 11 PM. Tickets are $14. Experience a living piece of local Halloween history this season at the historic—and very haunted—Culbertson Mansion!

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