"There's more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy" is a quote from Hamlet in a conversation with Horatio in which he relates just seeing his father's ghost. I think it is a fitting way to begin this column just two days prior to Halloween, the night the veil between man and spirit is at its thinnest if you believe the Celtic people and ancient traditions.
This is quite a busy month full of Halloween attractions and events including parades, haunted houses, real paranormal investigations, specials and scary movies. In some ways, this holiday sees more action than Christmas. Not a bad achievement considering it really has only been celebrated in its present form within the last 100 years and much of its current form was brought into being by observers in the United States.
Personally while this month is quite busy, it is also one of my favorite months for several reasons. Fall foliage is at its peak by mid-month. The weather is cooler, but not cold and yet in the daytime it is warm but not hot. The month itself almost seems to know that Halloween tricks or treats are its climax and the weather offers its own version. I remember Halloween nights that were quite warm almost 70 and yet in other years it is freezing by that time. This year has been relatively temperate considering that two years ago we had our first snowfall of the season on October 15th. I remember simply because it was Kathryn's birthday and we were preparing for her grandparents to come and celebrate with us.
There are plenty of Halloween attractions as well for those who are brave at heart. I learned from a conversation with a friend who moved here from Germany that haunted houses which are a prime October attraction are primarily an American invention. She told me that they don't exist in Germany. She also told me that one trip to a haunted house was enough for her as it terrified her and she didn't understand why people like being scared in that manner. My wife Katie and I love going to haunted house attractions and we try to find at least one every year. Over the years we have been to several in the area including Country Junction, The Waldorf Hotel in Palmerton, a haunted hayride in Drums whose name unfortunately escapes me, smaller haunted houses for charities in Franklin Township and other locations. We have also traveled to Eastern State Penitentiary and took its famous tour and found it quite good.
This year we went to the Pennhurst Asylum outside of one of my first post-college stomping towns in Spring City. It was quite a spooky ride into the complex and it helped set the stage along with the decaying buildings of the former state school and hospital. Pennhurst, one might recall, was closed in 1986 after a very public legal trial in which a former student sued for inhumanity and cruelty toward its residents. Stories of abominable abuses and heinous acts among patients and between staff and patients closed this horrible location permanently and it was left to decay.
Last year it was opened by its current owners as a haunted house attraction and we traveled down last weekend to visit it. While it does live up to its scary billing and has three neat attractions which I'm not going to spoil here, I do feel the need to warn any readers wanting to visit Pennhurst of a few caveats.
First since this is a new attraction the number of people attending is ridiculous. We stood in lines with no seating for almost three hours just to get into the first haunted house feature with several hundred fellow unhappy thrill seekers. By the time we got there, the anticipation was replaced with annoyance from standing in a single line that barely moved for almost the total amount of time the gate was open to the Asylum. It was a three hour to ten minute ratio which I personally found quite unacceptable without any type of entertainment, seating or any other distraction for that time. The second attraction which we arrived at by 10:30 almost three and a half hours after we got there was another 20 minute wait which wasn't bad on its own, but just seemed to be more drudgery.
The last attraction we made after midnight was the tunnels which were scary and the only redeeming part of the evening in my opinion. They were disorienting and unnerving and worth the trip, but the long lines and high prices made the attraction overall quite disappointing. In addition there was billed a "ghost hunt" in a darkened building which was a walk-through of the Mayflower Hall which was featured on several of the live action ghost hunting shows. While I do think the hall may have ghosts as well as the rest of the grounds, this attraction was a bit disappointing in that the building really wasn't dark and everyone was allowed to shine flashlights everywhere which detracted from the atmosphere.
Basically be forewarned, this excursion as far as haunted attractions go is quite pricey for the entertainment value and be prepared for long lines. If that doesn't bother you, then the Pennhurst Asylum might be an exciting adventure, but I personally was disappointed by the cost versus the entertainment value.
If you are looking for something local, I'm hosting an interactive lecture this afternoon at 2 p.m. at the Summit Hill Heritage Center. There will be prizes and treats.
Til next time, Happy Halloween….