My top five Halloween Haunts 2006

A travel writer without a few favorite deathly destinations? Not I, said the Red Pen. (Only writers will get that joke.)

Anyboo, here’s a list of my current favorite frights of fancy, in no particular order.

1. Scarecrows in the Garden, Atlanta, Ga. – Held each year at the Atlanta Botanical Garden … read about it here.

2. The Hallowed Halls of Oxford University, Oxford, England – The entire town of Oxford is rife with spooky side streets and inexplicable architecture, but in addition, tours by moonlight are regularly led through some of its most historically haunted areas. Pictured is Wadham College’s staircase 13, where bumps in the night have been known to scare off even the most studious. Oxford was also host for a number of years to two groups of writers, the Oxford Fantasists, and the Victorian Gothics, who penned such teeth-chattering classics as The Picture of Dorian Gray (Wilde), News from Nowhere (Morris), and Dracula (Stoker).

3. The Goodtime Stove Company, Goshen Mass. – The stove guy, Richard Richardson, refurbishes and sells vintage stoves, often to celebrity customers. But in his spare time, Richardson has created a massive rock wonderland on his property, complete with bicycle gardens, a granite amphitheater, and soon, a fire-breathing dragon the size of a small car. The garden is creepy in the daytime and downright unnerving at night, and perfect for an autumn pumpkin party. Keep in mind, however, that this is a business, so if you’re in the neighborhood, give Richardson’s stoves an earnest look.

4. Plymouth, Mass . – Though not as famous as nearby Salem for its Halloween happenings, Plymouth is home to one of the best ghost tours out there. It winds through graveyards and homesteads where myths, legends, and – well, tales of things that actually happened – abound. The tours are led by local residents and are lit by little more than the light from handmade, punched-tin lanterns.

5. Fryeburg County, Maine – With acres of untouched land sitting in the shadow of ominous hills and mountains, this area of Maine is the epitome of creepy during the fall months. But it’s also home to several homespun harvest festivals and other Halloween happenings. I’m not the only writer who thinks these hills are alive. Stephen and Tabitha King both reside in the county’s Kezar Lake area, and if you play your cards right, you might be able to eat breakfast with the master and mistress of horror in Lovell, at the old greasy spoon in the center of town.

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