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Spooky season: COVID-safe Halloween activities abound for New Mexicans

EDITOR’S NOTE: The information was current at the time this story was compiled. COVID-19 may affect program offering and hours of operation. Check before going.

The onset of fall signifies the changing of leaves, pumpkin everything, warm sweaters, cool nights and the scariest time of the year.

There is no doubt that many love Christmas and all that comes with it. But there’s another group that becomes giddy when the calendar flips to Oct. 1., the arrival of Halloween season, time to relish the macabre, supernatural and eerie.

Illustration by Cathryn Cunningham/Journal

Halloween dates back to ancient times and has for centuries represented the mingling of the living and the dead. Each culture has put its own spin on the celebration.

The first known celebration of Halloween was the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain. For the Celts, who inhabited what is now Ireland, the United Kingdom and northern France 2,000 years ago, the festival marked the end of summer and beginning of the cold, dark winter.

They believed that on Oct. 31 the wall between the living and dead came down, allowing ghosts to walk the earth. The Catholic Church replaced the pagan celebration with All Saints’ Day, but immigrants brought the pagan-laced traditions with them to America. Halloween today in America is celebrated by dressing up, trick-or-treating, fumbling through haunted houses and attending costume parties.

Here are 10 haunting things to do in New Mexico this year that are guaranteed to bring out the festive spirit of Halloween.

OUTDOORS

Every Halloween, Sharon Chism sets up a graveyard for the public on her property near Jemez Springs. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

Jemez Haunted Graveyard: Canon resident Sharon Chism will once again turn her 1-acre property along N.M. 485 into a graveyard full of hellish attractions, including animated monsters and flashing lights. Chism said she debated whether to open this year but decided to move forward with COVID-safe practices such as wearing masks and social distancing, which she said is easy to do on her large property. She has expanded this year with more monsters and creepy scenarios. New this year is a group of witches brewing up something special.

“We’ve got them out there working on a COVID vaccine,” she said. “But I wouldn’t use it, if you know what I mean.”

Chism doesn’t charge for the visit, but donations are appreciated. She said she uses the money to purchase more decorations for next year. The graveyard is open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily at 2897 N.M. 485, about eight miles south of Jemez Springs. Chism said she may stay open a bit later on the weekend if she gets requests.

Cyclists gather for the Day of the Tread in 2016. (Greg Sorber/Albuquerque Journal)

Day of the Tread: This annual bike riding event is still taking place, but this year organizers have included a virtual event. The live ride will take place Oct. 25, and the virtual ride can be done anytime from Oct. 24 to Nov. 1.

This Day of the Dead-themed event is for any skill level. Cyclists may choose 7-, 18-, 25-, 47-, 60- or 100-mile bike rides. The longer rides are completed by teams. Riders launch from the Sawmill District near Old Town and pass through some of the city’s most scenic neighborhoods.

Participants usually dress up in costume or paint their faces in keeping with the day’s theme.

The event benefits Carrie Tingley Hospital Foundation’s Zia Freewheelers program and Pegasus Legal Services For Children.

Visit dayofthetread.com/rider-info to register and get more information about pricing, start times and routes.

A ghoulie greets visitors at the haunted corn maze at McCall’s Pumpkin Patch in Moriarty. (Lee Ross/Mountain View Telegraph)

McCall’s Haunted Farm: McCall’s Pumpkin Patch in Moriarity is a favorite destination for families at this time of year, but when the sun sets, the landscape exudes a more chilling atmosphere. The farm usually has a haunted barn and Field of Screams to entertain its nighttime adult visitors. The Field of Screams is a giant corn maze with possible scares waiting around every corner. Under orders from the state, organizers will not be allowed to open their haunted barn this year because of the pandemic. However, the spooky field waits for visitor every Friday and Saturday night from now until Oct. 31.

Tickets must be purchased online in advance and cost $19 for Friday night and $23 for Saturday night visits. There are no refunds. Visit mccallshauntedfarm.com for more information.

Old Town Ghost Tour: A long-running event is the lantern-lit ghost walk in Old Town, which gives participants not only a chance to encounter astral beings, but a history lesson about Albuquerque’s beginnings.

Tour guides talk about some of the city’s nefarious and interesting characters, some of whom met an early end. The stories are a mix of legends, folklore and history.

Hosts are offering private tours for up to six people and public ghost tours in both daytime and nighttime hours.

The ghost walks take place almost daily, and according to the website, they “will be held in all weather conditions including, sun, snow, ice, thunder & lightning, storm and/or Extraterrestrial Alien invasions.”

Visit abqtours.fun/ghosttours for pricing and to book a time and date.

INDOORS

New Mexico Escape Room: Test your problem-solving skills with a visit to the New Mexico Escape Room. Participants are locked into a room and required to solve a case before they can escape. Each room represents a different scenario and has matching props to fit the storyline. The Escape Room has several haunting scenarios, including the secret lair of a superhero who fights monsters, an old, haunted manor and a secluded cabin where a killer may be waiting. The owners have a background in producing haunted houses.

Escape rooms are rated by difficulty level: beginner, intermediate and advanced. First-time attendees are encouraged to chose the easier rooms. Prices range from $20 to $32 a person, depending on the chosen room, and each reservation must have a minimum of two people.

Participants can choose from two locations: 3916 Carlisle NE or the West Side location at 4401 McLeod Road, Suit B. To book a room, visit nmescaperoom.com or call 289-1002.

This is one of the dining rooms at the Double Eagle restaurant in Old Mesilla, which is said to be haunted. (Anthony Jackson/Albuquerque Journal)

Old Mesilla Haunted Restaurant: This old village three miles southwest of Las Cruces not only transports visitors to another era, but it’s also rumored to be teeming with ghosts. The area has a colorful history. It was settled by the Mexican government after the Mexican War of 1846-48. It also served as the capital of the Confederate Arizona Territory and most infamously was the place where Billy the Kid was sentenced to death, although he escaped before the end came.

One of the star attractions today is the Double Eagle restaurant, which was the personal residence of the Maes family, which was in the import and export business. The family matriarch had plans for her son Armando to marry someone from a prestigious family, but he fell for their servant girl Inez. Armando’s mother became enraged upon finding the two together and killed them both with a pair of sewing shears. It’s said the young lovers still haunt the restaurant’s Carlota Salon, which was once Armando’s bedroom.

The restaurant is at 2355 Calle De Guadalupe in Mesilla. It opens at 11 a.m. daily and closes at 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and at 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Visit doubleeagleonline.com for more information.

AUTOMOBILE

Taiban is one of many ghosts towns in New Mexico that were given life when the railroad came through but faded into obscurity as the railroad industry waned. (Anthony Jackson/Albuquerque Journal)

Ghost Towns: New Mexico is full of abandoned settlements, and this a great opportunity to become a tourist in one’s own state. These former towns, villages and pueblos were once home to the Native peoples of the land and later European settlers who came to the area to explore and make a new life. These ghost towns are also remnants of once-thriving industries such as the railroad and mining. Crumbling buildings, abandoned storefronts with dusty, opaque windows and faded signs greet visitors who pass through these former bustling towns that are scattered throughout New Mexico.

The state has put together a list online (newmexico.org/places-to-visit/ghost-towns) of ghost towns, which are separated by region. The recently published book “Abandoned New Mexico” by John M. Mulhouse provides more ideas.

Bill Skarsgard in a scene from “It: Chapter One.” (Brooke Palmer/Warner Bros. Pictures)

The Drive-In: The city transformed part of Balloon Fiesta Park into a drive-in theater this summer in response to the pandemic. It’s got some classic horror films on the menu for this month. “Gremilins” will show tonight; “It Chapter 1” on Sunday, “Kong: Skull Island” Oct. 23; “The Nightmare Before Christmas” Oct. 24; and “Godzilla King of the Monsters” Oct. 30; and “Hotel Transylvania” and “The Conjuring” on Oct. 31. Tickets range in price from $25 to $75 per vehicle, depending on proximity to the screen. Some spots allow for tailgating.

Food trucks are available at each showing, and attendees are allowed to bring in their own coolers, but alcohol is prohibited. Visit balloonparkdrive.in to purchase tickets or for more information.

A skull greets visitors to Dragon’s House of Horrors, a drive-through haunted house. (Courtesy of Kori Kobayashi ABQ-Live The Magazine)

Mile of Terror: The operators of Dragon’s House of Horrors in Rio Rancho have turned their experience into a drive-through haunted house they are calling the Mile of Terror. The trail will wind through the parking lot at Santa Ana Star Center, 3001 Civic Center Circle NE. The haunts take place Wednesday through Saturday night from now until Halloween. Tickets can be purchased online or, with cash only, at the door. The cost is $40 per vehicle for a maximum of five people. Visit dragonshouseofhorror.com to purchase tickets; call 450-6421 for more information.

AT HOME

Bruce Campbell in a scene from Sam Raimi’s horror classic “The Evil Dead.” (New Line Cinema)

Horrorfest From The Couch: For those not willing to venture into the world during a pandemic, make a list of scary movies and series to watch from home. Every major streaming service has horror stories on deck for this month, including cult classics such as “Anaconda” and “The Evil Dead,” both on Netflix. AMC has returned this year with its annual “FearFest,” showing scary movies every day in October. Hulu has its annual “Huluween,” a collection of scary movies and television shows.

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