Written by Jennifer Fitzgerald & Marla Hardee Milling
The thrills and chills of Halloween make family entertainment frightfully popular (and profitable) for area businesses.
Susan Sertain has a different perspective on Halloween than most of us. As the owner and designer of The Costume Shoppe located in Asheville, she finds herself at her busiest during October.
“The impact of Halloween on the business is very strong, and October has always been our best month,” she says. “Next, is our Christmas Santa rentals followed by, of course, the Easter Bunnies!”
Sertain waits each Halloween to see how late the very last customer arrive, searching for a costume to wear to that night’s party.
“There is always a frantic flurry, flying in the door around 7:30 or 8:00 on Halloween evening, with the challenge that the party has started and ‘What am I going to be?’”
These last minute shoppers are not a surprise when one considers the record number of people who now celebrate Halloween. The National Retail Federation reports that more than two-thirds of Americans will buy Halloween costumes this year, with total spending for the holiday on costumes, decorations, candy, and more estimated at $7.4 billion.
Sertain says that the average rental at The Costume Shoppe is $45, with the most popular costumes being pirates, vampires, and zombies.
“My favorites are always the (costumes) folks have built in their living rooms with cardboard and hot glue. I love seeing the creativity and imagination. I’ve always tried to have things at The Costume Shoppe that anyone could use in their creations like feathers, sequins, buttons, fabric, trims, and the always popular $2 bin. So much awesomeness to play with!”
As with any business, Sertain faces challenges and her business has changed over the years since it first opened in 1981.
“There continues to be a noticeable effect on the costume business across the country from the temporary Halloween pop-up stores and, of course, from online costume stores. Internet use is increasing and has a huge, challenging effect year round.
“The business has changed a great deal over the years. In 1981, when it was started by Valerie Naiman, it was in an old house on Broadway where the Daily Planet is now. I moved it to Haywood Street to a much larger building with better parking. We were there for six years, then I moved it to downtown on Lexington, hoping for more foot traffic, and I was there for six years.
“I no longer have my shop set up as a store front on Lexington. I now have a year round booth and makeup counter at The Downtown Market, 45 South French Broad, and I love being a part of that group of collectors, artists, and designers.
“My costume rental business is at my studio in Woodfin, and I meet customers by appointment for rentals and also so that I can work with customers to create their costumes and art-to-wear fashion.”
Sertain, the owner for 13 years, opens her studio once a month for a “Shoppe Poppe Up” and will be open for three weeks in October for those searching for the perfect Halloween costume.
This month, she will be busy costuming ghosts and goblins of all ages in Asheville.
“The Costume Shoppe is an icon here in Asheville and is in position to be purchased and re-established as the go-to place for all your year-round costume needs. It is loved by many, and everyone who has lived in Asheville awhile has memories of going to The Costume Shoppe as a kid and now bringing their own kids in for school projects or parties.”
The Costume Shoppe
Retail at Booth #100 Downtown Market, 45 South French Broad, Asheville, North Carolina, 28801
Rental by Appointment at Riverside Business Park
Take a Ride on the Ghost Train
Written by Marla Hardee Milling
Imagine a big skull on the front of a train with steam coming out of its nostrils and mouth. That’s a scene that will greet visitors this month at Tweetsie Railroad in Blowing Rock, when engineer K.C. Bones steers the #13 locomotive into darkness. This is the 26th year for the park’s Ghost Train.
“It’s hard to believe, but when we started October was not a big month,” said Cathy Robbins, Tweetsie’s marketing director. “We were trying to think of something to get more people in and came up with the ghost train idea. We were really one of the first in the country to do anything with Halloween on a larger scale, and I still don’t know of anyone else who has a haunted train.”
Monster Mountain Hunt is the theme of the Ghost Train this year, with monster hunters and news media covering monsters in the dark woods as the train rolls past. The Ghost Train runs on twelve Friday and Saturday evenings from late September to Halloween night, from 7:30 pm to 11:30pm. The park is open during the day from 9am to 6pm before the Ghost Train events. “A lot of people do both. They leave and come back,” said Robbins.
While Tweetsie has always prided itself in offering fun for families, the suggested age for the Ghost Train, Haunted House, and Freaky Forest is age eight and up. “For younger kids, we have Professor Peppercorn’s Black Light Puppet Show, trick or treating, and rides,” said Robbins.
Tickets are limited for Ghost Train runs because they cater to the guest experience. Right now, you can ride the train whenever you can get a seat, but due to its popularity they are considering timed tickets to board the train.
Ghost train tickets are $34 regardless of age, but children aged two and under are free.
Ghost Train Halloween Festival: Fridays and Saturdays, through October 31
Get Ready for a Fright
Written by Marla Hardee Milling
The amount spent on Halloween can seem downright spooky as you watch dollars drain from your bank account. Consider these figures from the National Retail Federation: In 2014 the average person spent $77.52 on Halloween and total spending reached 7.8 billion dollars. Of that 2.8 billion went to costumes for adults and kids, and another $350 million for costumes for their pets. Toss in Halloween decorations, candy, and greeting cards and the costs keep climbing.
What is it about Halloween that draws such attention? We turned to Joshua Warren for the answer. He’s an internationally renowned paranormal investigator, author of many books including How to Hunt Ghosts, creator of the Haunted Asheville Tours, and owner of the Asheville Mystery Museum.
“We love Halloween for the same reason we love movies, TV shows, and good books,” said Warren. “It gives an opportunity to escape from ordinary reality. When you don a disguise and run out into the night, it becomes an interactive fantasy. One can be a superhero, a mischief-maker, or a seducer. It’s role-playing accepted by the mainstream at large. Of course, it also provides a rare opportunity for us to openly discuss dark, ghoulish, and taboo topics that are usually only associated with the weird. Knowing that it’s okay to scare each other for a holiday appeals to the roller-coaster thrill-seeking types.”
While Warren has investigated many so-called haunted places, including being hired by the Grove Park Inn in 1996 to investigate tales of a resident ghost known as “The Pink Lady,” he says one of the most unnerving experiences he has personally had was near Helen’s Bridge, which is one of Asheville’s most famous haunts atop Beaucatcher Mountain.
“They say a grief-stricken woman named Helen hanged herself from the bridge after her daughter burned to death in a fire,” explained Warren. “A narrow road passes beneath and locals always claimed you could stop your car below, roll down the window, and call “Helen come forth” to see her ghastly apparition appear. Being an especially foggy and creepy night, around 1am I foolishly decided it was a good opportunity to test the tale.
“There wasn’t another car, or soul, in sight as I eased my silver Chevy Lumina to a stop,” he continued. “I rolled down the window and spoke with authority: ‘Helen come forth… Helen come forth.. Helen come forth!’ Instantly the alternator died on my car. I didn’t have a cell phone back then, and I had to roll my car off to the overgrown shoulder of the road. I’ll never forget heading on foot all the way down that silent mountain, the fog seething around me to the nearest payphone on Tunnel Road. As I walked from under the bridge, clear human footsteps suddenly crackled in the dry leaves behind me, following me at a steady pace. I had long decided my research that night was done, and I high-tailed it down the mountain without ever looking back.”
Warren says his Haunted Asheville tours always sell out around Halloween. While he says it’s an excellent time for paranormal phenomena to manifest, he also admits that some experiences are based on expectation. “People want the paranormal to manifest. The mind is an important factor in stimulating many paranormal phenomena,” Warren said.
Whether imagined or real, he does pay attention to reports he gets from customers who take the tour. “After almost every tour we do around Halloween, I receive phone calls and emails the next day,” he said. “Inevitably, someone will say, ‘A ghost followed me home after the tour last night.’ Recently a lady said she woke up at 4am after taking one of my tours to find a hooded, 7-foot-tall being, cloaked in black, standing at the foot of her bed. I’d say she got what she paid for!”
Halloween Activities across Western North Carolina:
Beary Scary Halloween: October 31
Beary Scary Halloween in Linville from 10:30am – 3:30pm. Celebrate Halloween at Grandfather Mountain with crafts, nature programs, trick or treating, and a costume contest
LaZoom Haunted Comedy Tour: Ongoing
Explore Asheville’s strange, sometimes sordid past.
Haunted Asheville Ghost Tours: Ongoing
Hickory Nut Gap Farm: Month of October
Activities and fun for families and visitors of all ages – animal barn and goat walk, corn maze, pumpkin patch, trike track, hay climb and rope swing, apple picking, cider press, nature walk, and picnic areas. Kiddie cart rides, hay rides, and horse rides are offered Saturdays & Sundays from 11am – 4pm. Tickets for rides must be purchased in addition to regular admission.
The Rayburn Farms pumpkin patch: Saturdays in October
Buy some pumpkins and a pumpkin pie.
Eliada’s 2015 Corn Maze: Through October 31
This year’s theme is “Soaring to New Heights!” This design features an airplane, air balloon, and bird, all in keeping with the newest feature, a giant jumping pillow. 100% of proceeds help care for the 300 children who come to Eliada Homes annually for services and care. Hours: Wednesdays and Thursday 9am – 3pm; Fridays 9am – 8pm; Saturdays 10am – 8pm; and Sundays 10am – 6pm.
Swannanoa Valley Museum’s Historic Haunted House Tour: October 23 and 24
Explore the Terry Estate, or “In the Oaks,” a historic treasure in Black Mountain. The estate was once famous for the lavish prohibition-era high society parties. The tour features exhibits of photographs and objects from the museum collection, as well as guides dressed in ’20s attire. Guided tours begin are every 30 mins from 5:30 – 8pm. The cost is $25 for members of the Swannanoa Valley Museum and $30 for non-members.
Trick-or-Treat at Haunted Museum: October 31
A free (donations appreciated) event for children from
10am – 8pm, at Swannanoa Valley Museum.
Howl-O-Ween Pet Parade and Festivities in Downtown Black Mountain: October 31
Costume contest at 2:30pm. Parade at 3pm on Town Square.
Clay County Punkin Chunkin: October 17 and 18 Haywood County Pinhead’s Graveyard: October 2, 3, and 8, November 1 Treats On The Street: October 31 Henderson County The Myers Haunted House: Weekends October 2 – November 1 Haunted Farms: Weekends October 2-31 Trick or Trail 5 Mile Run and One Mile Spooky Sprint: October 30 Trick-or-Treat Street: October 31 Jackson County Highlands Downtown All Hallows Eve Celebration: October 31 Pumpkin Patch: October 30 Treat Street Sylva: October 31 Dillsboro Trick or Treat: October 31 Macon County Deal Farms Corn Maze and Pumpkin Patch: October Pumpkin Fest in Downtown Franklin: October 24
Pumpkins take to the air in Brasstown.
Enjoy this outdoor haunted house.
Downtown Waynesville, merchants offer treats to young children from 5 – 7pm.
Includes the Woods, the Farm, and the Haunted Hayride.
From 6 – 9pm in Hendersonville. Limited entries – only 300 spots. Headlamps are required for this event.
Main Street in Historic Downtown Hendersonville, merchants offering trick or treating. Halloween costume contest and dance party from 4-7pm.
On Main Street Highlands from 6 – 8pm.
From 5 – 7pm at Cullowhee Recreation Park. Costume Contest immediately following; Fun Run at 7:30pm.
Get candy from around downtown Dillsboro from 5 – 7pm.
The corn maze is open Friday – Saturday from 10am – 9pm; Monday – Thursday from 9am – 6pm by appointment or corn maze only general admission.
Street festival along Main Street with crafters, famous pumpkin roll, live music 9am – 4 pm .
Punkin Chunkin: October 17 and 18
Pinhead’s Graveyard: October 2, 3, and 8, November 1
Treats On The Street: October 31
The Myers Haunted House: Weekends October 2 – November 1
Haunted Farms: Weekends October 2-31
Trick or Trail 5 Mile Run and One Mile Spooky Sprint: October 30
Trick-or-Treat Street: October 31
Highlands Downtown All Hallows Eve Celebration: October 31
Pumpkin Patch: October 30
Treat Street Sylva: October 31
Dillsboro Trick or Treat: October 31
Deal Farms Corn Maze and Pumpkin Patch: October
Pumpkin Fest in Downtown Franklin: October 24
Pumpkin Run 5K-Run/Walk: October 24 Rutherford County Park in the Dark at Chimney Rock State Park: Swain County Corn Maze, Hayrides and Pumpkin Patch at Darnell Farms: October Downtown Trick or Treat Bryson City: October 29 Peanuts Pumpkin Patch Express: Weekends October 3 – 31 Hauntober Weekend and Haunted Trail: October 11-15 Haunted Cherokee: October 25 – November 1 Masquerade Dinner Train on the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad: October 31 Transylvania County Heart of Brevard’s 33nd Annual HALLOWEENFEST 2015: October 31 Watauga County Blowing Rock Halloween Festival: October 31 Downtown Boone Boo: October 31 The full article continues below. Click to open in fullscreen…
9am at Tassee Park, Franklin.
October 24 From 7:30 – 10pm. A nocturnal family-friendly fundraiser to benefit the Friends of Chimney Rock State Park organization.
With a Haunted Corn Maze the week of Halloween.
From 4 – 6pm in downtown Bryson City.
Enjoy the ride, play games, pick out your own pumpkin, and meet Lucy and Snoopy on the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad.
At Fontana Village
This is a fundraiser for the Cherokee Historical Association.
All aboard at 8:30pm.
From 10am – 10pm in downtown Brevard
All free and open to the public in downtown Blowing Rock.
From 4:30–6pm in downtown Boone. Entertainment, games, arts and crafts, trick-or-treating with the downtown merchants,
Pumpkin Run 5K-Run/Walk: October 24
Park in the Dark at Chimney Rock State Park:
Corn Maze, Hayrides and Pumpkin Patch at Darnell Farms: October
Downtown Trick or Treat Bryson City: October 29
Peanuts Pumpkin Patch Express: Weekends October 3 – 31
Hauntober Weekend and Haunted Trail: October 11-15
Haunted Cherokee: October 25 – November 1
Masquerade Dinner Train on the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad: October 31
Heart of Brevard’s 33nd Annual HALLOWEENFEST 2015: October 31
Blowing Rock Halloween Festival: October 31
Downtown Boone Boo: October 31
The full article continues below. Click to open in fullscreen…