As darkness falls across the land this Halloween weekend, Howard County will come alive with activities for both the brave and faint of heart. All across the county, familiar landmarks will reveal a side seen only by the light of the Halloween moon.
Many people enjoy Rockburn Branch Park in Elkridge for its numerous ball fields, playing courts and hiking trails. For the last 25 years or so, the park reveals its Dr. Jekyll side every October as it is transformed into a "haunted experience" on weekends.
"It is very scary," said Anna Hunter, public information and marketing director for Howard County Department Recreation and Parks. "There have been many incidents with people being scared whose pants are a little less dry."
Featuring a hayride into the woods to a haunted dwelling, the "haunted experience" is a fundraiser for Elkridge Athletic Association, with all of proceeds going to scholarships, Hunter said.
For the younger clientele (the Haunted Experience is recommended for ages 7 and up), a happy haunted hay ride is on Sunday, Oct. 30 at Rockburn. Howard County Recreation and Parks offers several other friendly Halloween events, Hunter said, including a Monster Mash party on Oct. 28, at Roger Carter Community Center and a Halloween OneMile Fun Run/Walk on Oct. 29 at 9:30 a.m. at Gary J. Arthur Community Center.
While Shakespeare's plays can be heard throughout its ruins in the summer, Patapsco Female Institute is rumored to be the home of several apparitions throughout the year. For the first time, HCRP is inviting the public in on its investigations of the paranormal. On. Oct. 28, 30 and 31, an interactive after-hours tour will take participants through the 179-year old ruins of the old girls school to search for signs of the paranormal and to hear staff encounters, according to Erin McNamara, Recreation and Parks program educator.
"We have had a lot of things happen up there," McNamara said, adding that all but one person in her office has experienced something in the ruins. Built in 1837, PFI has been a girls school, a hospital and a nursing home, McNamara said, and there are numerous stories as a result.
"There is definitely a lot of history behind it," McNamara said. "It is cool for people to come up and experience it themselves."
Tours are recommended for ages 18 and older, McNamara said. Tickets can be bought in advance.
"People really enjoyed it," McNamara said, of a previous tour. "We've had great feedback."
Ghosts may also be spotted at Belmont Manor on Oct. 28 during its investigation and ghost tour at 7:30 p.m. Built in 1738, Belmont is reported to have "several ghosts," according to Jessica LaPota, events coordinator, and the manor hosts numerous events, from talks to investigations, throughout the year to learn more.
Led by investigators from Inspired Ghost Tracking, the investigation on Oct. 28 will lead participants throughout the manor and cemetery and use temperature sensors, data recorders and other equipment to attempt to communicate with the other side.
"The tours are really an interesting thing to do," LaPota said. "You get to go around and explore the house ... and have access to the tools they use to talk to ghosts."
Though not rumored to be haunted, the Fort-Heine House on Fels Road will be the site of the third annual Ellicott City Haunted House, "The Derangement."
"We're promoting a fake story about a zombie virus that was released by the flood," said Daniel Murphy, director of Haunted House. "There will be a lot of zombies."
As the house was deemed unsafe to use, guests will enter a tent on the property to be "decontaminated" by scientists, Murphy said.
"They might have ulterior motives," Murphy chuckled, of the scientists.
Proceeds from the Haunted House will be donated to the Ellicott City flood relief. All of the Haunted House's props from the past two years were destroyed in the flood, according to Murphy, as they were stored in the Wine Bin's basement.
"We're trying to get Ellicott City back to normal," Murphy said. "We're raising money for a good cause."
A campfire won't be necessary to hear spooky stories on Oct. 28 at Howard Community College. "The Return of Hallowscream" will feature an improv show presented by Arts Collective's What Improv Group, HCC's Humanities Department and the Howard County Poetry and Literature Society. Anyone who wears a costume to the show will receive a discount ticket and audience participation is encouraged, according to Susan Kramer, producing artistic director of Arts Collective.
"We want people to come and see the show and have a good time," said Kramer, adding that the show was geared for ages 12 and up.
"It is not for the faint of heart," she said.
Haunted Experience at Rockburn Branch Park, Elkridge, Montgomery Road entrance, Oct. 28 and 29, from 6:30 to 10 p.m. $10, cash only. 410-313-4551
Happy Haunted Hayride at Rockburn Branch Park, Elkridge, Montgomery Road entrance, Oct. 30, from 2 to 4 p.m. $5, cash only. 410-313-4451
Monster Mash Party, Roger Carter Community Center, 3000 Milltowne Drive, Ellicott City, Oct. 28, from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. $5. 410-313-4625
Halloween One-Mile Fun Run/Walk, Gary J. Arthur Community Center, 2400 Route 97, Cooksville, Oct. 29, from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. $15; $10 members. 410-313-4842.
Interactive after-hours tour of Patapsco Female Institute, 3655 Church Road, Ellicott City, Oct. 28, 30 and 31, from 8 to 11 p.m. $30. 410-313-0421
Belmont investigation and Ghost Tour, 6555 Belmont Woods Road, Elkridge, Oct. 28, from 7:30 to 10:30 p.m. $25. 410-313-0200
Ellicott City Haunted House, 3713 Fels Lane, Ellicott City, Oct. 28 and 29, from 7 to 10 p.m. $10. eventbrite.com/e/ellicott-city-haunted-house-tickets-28760859505
The Return of Hallowscream, Oct. 28, from 8 to 10 p.m., Howard Community College Smith Theatre, 10901 Little Patuxent Pkwy., Columbia. $15; $10 for students, seniors, military; $8 for those arriving in costume. 443-518-1500.