I am a planner. It’s what I do. No, I do not have rigid schedules or have all my reservations in place. I like knowing what’s in an area, have some thoughts about where I am going, or a destination in mind. I don’t like missing something and then looking back and thinking that I wish I had. Sometimes, it’s about a last minute experience, so here are some last-minute ideas for adults and kids for Halloween. I have links to the sites and where there are no links it’s because there are multiple sites. Make sure visit the website before you go to get updates on Covid mandates, ticket prices, and ticket availability. Have fun and stay safe.
Halloween Horror Nights: Universal Studios Hollywood and Orlando
I try to get my kids interesting things for Christmas. My husband and I eliminated traditional gift giving in favor of travel and experiences when the kids were around middle school age. His business was always at a lull between Christmas and New Year, so we were able to get away. One of my favorite and most memorable trips was Rome for Christmas. Although I am not Catholic or particularly religious, I appreciated the grandeur and festivities of Christmas at The Vatican. Those pictures are on my photo page. Another wonderful trip was New Years Eve at Disney World. I loved dancing to Cuban music with Alex (the luxury of embarrassing your kid). It was about spending time together, experiencing the world and not collecting more stuff. Even after his death, I try to continue the tradition of get togethers and travel.
Italian Christmas 2015
Both my kids love to travel and have made trip without Mom and Dad. Amanda studied abroad in Cyprus for a summer and Alex spent three weeks with his friend Andre in Sao Paolo and Rio. Alex flew to LA to meet a then girlfriend who was attending Fashion school there and his friend Andre who was seeing his father who was in town from Sao Paolo. So, this year I am thinking of Bob Dylan tickets for Alex at the Met in Philadelphia. He actually lives on the same block. For Amanda and Jimmy, a night in Salem, Massachusetts. Yes, a HALLOWEEN night in Salem. This proved to be more difficult than I thought.
I let the kids know of my intent and Amanda and Jimmy were thrilled. They are looking to explore a bit of New England and Amanda really wants to go to Connecticut. They were taking my advice to stop in Mystic, Connecticut which is 2 hours south of Boston and 6.5 hours from were they live in NOVA (Northern Virginia near DC). Then a few days in Boston with the Isabella Gardner Museum and a history tour as part of their agenda. Then they planned a night in Salem. I offered to pay for their night in Salem as a Christmas present.
I started doing some research and found most of the hotels and airbnbs in Salem booked. The only ones left were $500 plus a night or rated very poorly. I was astounded. I started doing some research and found that booking sooner rather than later is the best approach with one person suggesting that almost a year in advance is ideal. I told them that I am sending them money and they said they will figure it out. They are looking for a flexible road trip and may be making several stops along their predetermined route.
I began looking into Halloween in Salem and found the site http://www.hauntedhappenings.org which had a lot of useful information and a link to an app. Some of the festivities include fireworks over the water on Halloween night, ghost tours, a parade and so much more. There are several sites I would suggest such as the Salem WItch Trial Memorial, the Hocus Pocus house, the statue of Bewitched, the Salem Witch Museum, the Salem Witch House, House of the Seven Gables, and The Old Burying Point Cemetery. If you are so inclined to visit some witchy shops, include Laurie Cabot, the official witch of Salem. Whether or are looking for fun or to experience a dark period in US history, Salem is worth the visit.
I’ll be updating later on as Amanda and Jimmy’s trip commences. Happy Hauntings from Salem!
Imagine living in a town that is on fire, where the ground bubbles and boils, and life consuming sinkholes appear suddenly. In 1984, the US Government ordered a total evacuation of the town on the heels of a gas station explosion and several children having been eaten by sinkholes. Yet, 5 people still live amongst the poisonous gas and constant threat of danger. This is one interesting and unique story and its legend survives in pilgrimages and popular culture.
First, here is the timeline of the infamous town of Centralia. Centralia was founded in 1749 when a parcel of land was bought by Colonial agents from a Native American tribe for £500. The land exchanged several times from there:
1770: Colonial settlers surveyed and explored the area
1793: Robert Morris, Revolutionary War hero and signer of the Declaration of Independence bought the land
1798: Morris declared bankruptcy, was sent to debtors prison, and turned the land over to the bank
1830: French sea captain, Stephen Girard, bought the land at an auction in Philadelphia for $30,000 because of his interest in anthracite coal in the area
1832: Jonathan Faust opened the Bull’s Head Tavern, which gave the town its name
1842: Locust Mining Coal and Iron Company purchased the land around Bull’s Head
1842: Alexander Rea of Locust Mountain Coal and Iron relocated his family to Bull’s Head and began planning a town, which he named Centralia
1854: Mine Run Railroad was completed and large scale coal mining began
1856: Locust Mine and Coal Ridge Mine opened for operations
1860: Hazeldell Colliery began operations
1862: Centralia officially opened
1866: The Borough of Centralia was incorporated
1868: Alexander Rea was murdered in his buggy on the road to Centralia from Mount Carmel by a gang of Molly McGuires
1890: The population peaks at 2,761 and had 5 hotels, 27 saloons, 7 churches, 2 theaters, 1 bank, a post office, 14 general and grocery stores
1917: Production began to decline due to workforce participation in WWI and new forms of energy
1929: The stock market crash caused Lehigh Valley Coal Company to close 5 mines which cause bootleg mining in the area
1960: In the early 1960s all remaining companies closed
1962: The Centralia Coal fire began
1966: Rail service ended
1979: Surface problems began with the explosion of the gas station and sinkholes. Carbon Monoxide levels are critical
1980: The population declined to 1,012
1983: Congress allocated $42 million for Centralia relocation
1992: Governor Ben Casey invoked eminent domain and lawsuits began
2002: The US Postal Service discontinued Centralia’s zip code
2005: Pennsylvania ended the relocation contract
2006: 16 homes are left in Centralia
2009: 11 homes are left in Centralia: Governor Ed Randall began formal evictions of the remaining residents and more legal efforts began
2010: 5 homes remain in Centralia: near by Byrnesville is required to be abandoned due to the extension of the fire to the town
2011: A Federal judge refused to issue an injunction to stop the condemnation of the remaining homes
2012 A Commonwealth court concluded that the taking of the homes cannot be reopened since its purpose for the condemnation of properties no longer exists
2013 the remaining 7 residents settled their law which stated that the condemnation was no longer needed since the fire had moved and the air quality had improved to the point that it was the same as the town of Lancaster. They received a total of $349, 500 in compensation
2020: Pagniotti enterprises closed old route 61 used by tourists due to Covid
So, what is left of Centralia? Not much, I found some pictures since my trip to the site was derailed by Hurricane Ida and the subsequent flooding. I plan another attempt and will update you on Centralia. In April 2020, Pagnotti Enterprises, who owns Route 61 and the adjacent land, filled the graffitied road with dirt, trees, and grass. The road is now obscured and state police still continue to monitor for trespassers. There are quite a few YouTube documentaries and films. Here are a couple:
Not everything October needs to be dark and creepy, although I am sure my daughter Amanda would disagree. During my recent trip to the land of the Mouse, Disney was decorated for the upcoming holiday in fine style for their Boo Bash. The Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party for 2021. has been cancelled but the Boo Bash is a great alternative for those seeking some Disney Halloween magic. The party begins at 9PM and ends at midnight for the following dates:
Friday, October 22, 2021
Sunday, October 24, 2021
Tuesday, October 26, 2021
Friday, October 29, 2021
Sunday, October 31, 2021
The event details directly from the Disney website are as follows:
Disney After Hours Boo Bash will take place on select nights from August 10 through October 31. Ticket holders will be admitted to Magic Kingdom park as early as 7:00 PM on the valid date of their ticket—giving them even more time to enjoy park favorites before the event begins! These dated tickets do not require an additional day theme park ticket or Disney Park Pass theme park reservation.
Admission to Disney After Hours Boo Bash can be purchased online for $129 to $199 per adult or child (plus tax), depending on the event date. Annual Passholders and Disney Vacation Club Members can take advantage of a $10 discount on event dates in August and September.
Tickets are nontransferable and nonrefundable. The number of tickets available is limited. Tickets are valid only during specific event dates and hours. Prices, entertainment, attractions, experiences, ticket types, entitlements and other event elements subject to availability, closures and change or cancellation without notice or liability.
Festivities were a little different this year due to Covid. There were small parades as opposed to long ones. We saw a parade on Main Street flush with music and costumed characters that lasted less than 5 minutes. A reservation for the park you are attending is need along with the ticket, which can be purchased and reserved on the Disney website. A lot of the causal dining ordering is done through their mobile app and then you are alerted when the food is ready for pickup. Masks were required when indoors, not required outdoors, and yes there were people wearing masks outside. Character interactions were from afar. The characters stood in a roped off area approximately 6-10 feet from where guests and speak to them and take pictures. Also, some resorts like the Grand Floridian had restricted access.
All -in-all, this did not diminish our enjoyment. I have experienced most Holidays and all seasons at Disney and my favorite is Christmas/Thanksgiving followed by Spring, although Halloween is a force to be reckoned with. I enjoyed seeing the characters from afar since there were no lines and fewer people. The only issue I had was the hot weather. We experienced temperatures in the upper 80’s. I much prefer the cooler weather even though I’m unable to experience the water parks. Another potential issue was making sure that you had the information needed to enjoy your visit, like mask restrictions, closures, and restaurant guidelines and reservations. Honestly, the Disney app is your best tool for visits to Disney World because there are constant updates and information to help you navigate the parks.
I was inspired by In Your State’s articles about haunted sites in Pittsburgh. I found some famous Revolutionary sites which are open as museums for your own haunted tour. Most of these sites are in the same area with the exception of Fort Mifflin and are easily walkable. If you feel less inclined to go the DIY route, some of these sites are stops along the Spirits of ’76 Ghost Tour. I have linked some information about each site on the list with the spirit that is said to haunt them.
Pittsburgh is an interesting city. Camille is from Greene County, which is south from there and I appreciate her candor when it comes to Pittsburgh. She truly does love some parts of the city and one of them being football. I tripped across this article about Pittsburgh and I thought I would share scary spots from my best friend’s hometown.
Only In Your State website mapped 8 sites around Pittsburgh in their article:
This time of year brings out haunted houses, ghost tours, and the search for what goes bump in the night. One of my daughter’s life list items (I am not a fan of the phrase bucket list) is to spend Halloween in Salem, Massachusetts, which she will be doing this year. I like trips to the Poconos for viewing fall colors and making my special apple compote.
For those of you that prefer something a little more heart racing and unnerving, the Travel Channel published a list of the scariest Airbnb haunts in the world. Most of these places are in the US with a few in the UK, Germany, Canada, Italy, and Iceland. Check it out and do keep the lights on. You never know who may be there with you…
I was in Knoxville, Tennessee at the beginning of October picking up my BFF Bob for our road trip to Orlando. We were going for coffee when I saw the National Park Service sign for the Manhattan Project. Bob was not aware of the park, so I decided to look into it and there is a National Park for the K25 site in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. In 2015, The Manhattan Project National Historical Park in Oak Ridge was authorized as part of the Levin and McKeon National Defense Authorization Act. The Department of Energy owns, preserves, and maintains the park facilities and the National Park Services administers the park, interprets the story of the Manhattan Project, and provides technical assistance to the DOE on historic preservation.
K25 was the codename given to the site in Oak Ridge for the part of the Manhattan Project program that produced enriched uranium for atomic bombs using the gaseous diffusion method. After the war, sites K-27, K-29, K-31, and K-33 were to continue this program. In 1955, the site was renamed the Oak Ridge Gaseous Diffusion Plant. To this day, the area operates as a national security complex for a manufacturing facility for nuclear weapons components and related defense purposes by supporting “defense needs through stockpile stewardship, assistance on issues of nuclear non-proliferation, support for the Naval Reactors program, and to provide expertise to other federal agencies. Y-12 is also responsible for the maintenance and production of all uranium parts and “secondary” mechanisms for every nuclear weapon in the United States arsenal.”(Wiki Y-12).
K25 stand for Kellex 235. Kellex is a subsidiary of the Kellogg Corporation, who specialized in chemical engineering. Kell stood for Kellogg and the X was for secret. the 25 is part of the indicator for uranium. The subsidiary was to be kept secret because of the sensitivity of the Manhattan Project. Kellex was in charge of designing a facility, processes and equipment to enable to produce enriched uranium from the gaseous diffusion method. The headquarters in Oak Ridge was just one site used by the Kellex Corporation.
That is an extremely brief history of what has become the major turning point of World War II. The Manhattan Project produced two different types of combs “Fat Man”, a plutonium implosion-type nuclear weapon and “Little Boy”, an enriched uranium gun-type fission weapon. After the development of the bombs, they were tested at Alamogordo, New Mexico. On August 6, 1945, the Enola Gay dropped “Little Boy” on to Hiroshima killing up to 166,000 people. On August 9, 1945, the Bockscar dropped “Fat Man” on to Nagasaki killing up to 120,000 people. This provided the Allies with a victory. Japan surrendered on August 14, 1945.
We started at the NPS Manhattan Visitor Center which is housed inside the Children’s Museum. The ranger gave us a wonderful overview with pictures from that time period. It was a wonderful introduction to the sites and gave us an overview of the project sites. There is a map available, and he outlined which sites were closed to Covid.
Bob is familiar with the area, and we began our journey by stopping at the guard stations. These buildings are not open. There is a small parking area behind the larger station and there is a informational placard there.
We then moved on to the K25 site. It is a little difficult to find. It is in the back of the complex next to the fire station.
The inside was a gem of a museum. We were greeted by an employee who was so sweet and smiled the whole time. There was a volunteer that actually worked at the site in 1974! He had met some of the engineers who worked on the project and marveled at the stories that had to tell. A “security card” is offered and it allows the bearer further information through interactive displays. I learned a lot about the workers, pay, and life at the Secret City by choosing what I was interested in.
We were offered the intro movie. We watched it and I’m glad we did since it was an excellent introduction to the site. It starts out with an army officer coming out to “talk to the new employees”. He was projected on a side screen and would watch the film and look out over the crowd. Bob swears he was staring at him. After the short film, we wandered through the displays in the museum.
The volunteer joined us after a time asking if we had any questions. He told two very interesting stories. The first was of a teenager who could not find work in the secret city and went into Oak Ridge to work for a fast food chain that was having financial problems. This was not just any chicken fast food restaurant, but one made famous by a southern colonel. The teenager became highly involved in the business and helped the Colonel make the restaurant a success. That teenager went on to form his own fast food Empire. That young man was Dave Thomas of Wendy’s fame. The other story was about a uranium courier. These couriers would have some product in a locked briefcase that was handcuffed to them. The courier would take the briefcase to another courier. Those couriers did not know where the other came from or where the other was going. One particular courier began a breakfast empire through the Waffle House. It seems that the Manhattan project was the mother of invention.
The last part of the museum was a timeline of the Cold War and a photo gallery. It is not a huge museum and the telling of the K25 story is concise, informative, and well done. I appreciate the passion that the staff brought to the site. Well done! If you have an opportunity to visit this site, do. It is a dark point in our history and the K25 museum does a wonderful job of telling the story.
I decided to take some detours on my way to Knoxville, Tennessee. My BFF, Bob, lives there and we are heading down to the Orlando area for a bit of theme park time. I decided to stop at Camp Michaux on the way and I must say I’m glad I did.
The GPS headed me in the right direction and was very accurate. I took the roads and was really surprised at how remote Camp Michaux really is. It is on the Appalachian Trail in Gardner, Pennsylvania. The road started off as two lanes and paved. It became narrower and narrower and turned into one lane, then became a one lane gravel road, and narrowed from there. I became very concerned as it became more and more remote which really didn’t surprise me given the fact that it is a former POW camp but I wonder why someone would make that spot into a church camp.
I wondered if I was in the right area for Camp Michaux. There were some site markers there and a parking area. The markers coincided with a guide I found online. The Cumberland County Historical Society created a self-guided tour guide to make it easier to explore the site. The guide is well laid out and I highly recommend it. I decided not to take the trail because hiking is not in the cards right now with a torn meniscus and didn’t want to end up alone and needing help.
I must say it is a lovely area , albeit very remote and it was difficult because I lost signal. Luckily I’m good with directions and was able to get myself back out. If you do take this hike, please be careful. The Cumberland guide outlines the perils of some poisonous snakes and poison ivy. Make sure that there is someone that knows where you are,in case of emergency and have a check-in time.
I am kicking off October with a series of October related travel. There is a whole industry related to dark tourism which caught my attention with the Netflix series Dark Tourist. Dark Tourism is related to death and tragedy but has been expanded to include the historical value to certain sites. This is not everyone’s cup of tea so I found some family friendly and less frightening options for enjoying this beautiful month.
I have to admit I am faint of heart and of compromised disposition when it comes to live haunted amusements. My kids, Amanda especially, indulge in those attractions and it was something they enjoyed with their dad. When it comes to paying to have someone chase me with a chainsaw, I am disinclined to do so. I’ll meet you at the car. My fascination is with the history, the stories and the people behind the stories. There is something for everyone.
Amanda and her husband, Jimmy, went to Field of Screams a couple of weekends ago and they really like it. One of their favorite scenes was the crawl through the attic in the Den of Darkness. They had to feel their way out and through objects. They’re weren’t any actors scaring them just the crawl through the unknown. Their least favorite was the Haunted Hayride. Other attractions include the Den of Darkness, Frightmare Asylum and the Nocturnal Wasteland. The characters were well made up and frightening. The scenes were different from other attractions they had been to which ensured they couldn’t predict what was coming for them. I realize that this is a pretty general review without a lot of details but Jimmy and Amanda don’t want to give out a lot of details so that the experience is fresh. There are also games, live music and concessions. For more information and tickets go to https://fieldofscreams.com/
Even though they enjoyed Field of Screams, their favorite is Pennhurst. It has to do with the setting and the horror that stems from the realities of the site. This attraction was once a real asylum and children’s home. If you want more information about Pennhurst there is an excellent documentary called Suffer The Little Children from 1968. There are also other documentaries and exposés on YouTube about what happened there during its time as an asylum and state school. Another difference is that in Pennsylvania, the characters can touch you while in Jimmy’s home state of Virginia they cannot. So, here you have to sign a waiver. It makes these sites more frightening.
Jim,y and Amanda have gone through Eastern State Penn and Amanda and Alex went to the Bates Motel when they were in high school. There are quite a few of these attractions in Pennsylvania and throughout the nation. I am reposting the haunted attractions information since I know this is something that people will start looking for this coming weekend. Have fun and stay safe! Here it is: