Kersey Valley Spookywoods' story begins with a midnight dare. During a campout with his friends in the summer of 1985, 15-year-old Tony Wohlgemuth needled his friend Chuck into sneaking into the abandoned farmhouse that they were camping behind. As he crept up the steps, the other boys nervously waited outside. Shattering the tense energy with sheer terror, they heard Chuck's screams and pleas for help from within. When they ran inside to rescue him, they found his screeches were brought on by an encounter with a family of bats, which convinced them that the house was, in fact, haunted. This inspired the crew to set up their own haunted house in the same barn that October, and in the decades since, Tony and his wife, Donna, owners and operators of Spookywoods, have grown the operation from a small venue run by 10 teenage friends into a sprawling attraction run by upward of 300 staff members.
Nestled on a 65-acre farm, Spookywoods coaxes screams from visitors from the end of September until Halloween. A variety of attractions, such as the Deadly Harvest, Terror Trams, Fright Lights, and The Dreaded Inn—discovered by Chuck so many years ago—test guests’ bravery. The Deadly Harvest corn maze scares explorers silly, thanks to 10-foot-high cornstalks patrolled by a host of masked ghouls, who are really just misunderstood lost souls looking for someone to hug and love them. Along with its signature attractions, Spookywoods hosts other seasonal events such as the Dark Circus Halloween party, replete with fire shows and DJs.
In the 1780s, blacksmith John Davidson moved from his log cabin, Rural Retreat, into Rural Hill, a majestic plantation-style house he built on his 265 acres of fertile farmland. The land and two houses were passed down through the Davidson family in the ensuing years, but in 1886, the mansion burned down. Then, in 1898, the log cabin also burned down, and the family was forced to live in a log kitchen building.
Visitors can still visit that log kitchen building today (it's the only historical residence remaining on the property) and see how hard life could be in an era without such modern conveniences as easy-squeeze mayo. The property has become, among other things, a field-trip destination, where historical re-enactors teach youngsters how 18th-century people baked, lit their homes, and did other basic tasks.
There's plenty of other reasons to visit, too. The secluded hill plays host to special events throughout the year, such as a fall corn maze and a Scottish festival with Highland games. And visitors can hike through nature on its peaceful 5K trail or entertain wedding guests at the cultural center.
The Great Urban Race is a one-day event pitting teams of two against one another in a race combining physical challenges, scavenger hunts, and puzzles. Up to 700 twosomes will traverse 4 to 8 miles of Toronto terrain on foot and by public transportation as they solve 12 challenging clues in a fun quest to reach the finish line first. Sample clues and challenges from past Great Urban Races include charades, bubble-gum chewing, pig Latin deciphering, bicycle races, and word scrambles, making this race ideal for competitive eaters and cryptographers alike. Teams are encouraged to dress up in matching outfits, and prizes will be awarded for best costume. Prizes are also given for race results, with $300 going to first place, $200 to second place, and $100 to third place. The top 25 teams will qualify for the National Championship in New Orleans in November, with the top three teams receiving free entry. Each participant gets a T-shirt and postrace refreshments of fruit, granola bars, and a run through a Perrier sprinkler. Read over the rules and FAQs for more information.
Seasoned boat captains and crustacean prospectors Sig Hansen, Johnathan Hillstrand, and Andy Hillstrand gather to share with audience members their tales of struggle and survival during crab season on the high seas, as partly documented by the Discovery Channel’s Deadliest Catch. Fishing the Bering Sea in the middle of winter demands strong wills—which can come together in times of treacherous weather and 100-foot waves or come to blows about who performs better in the three-legged crabwalk race. Selected audience members will also have the chance to don the survival suits from the Time Bandit. Following the story-swapping and previously unreleased video footage, greenhorns and avid fans will have the opportunity to launch questions at the captains, wave giant foam claws, and learn how to communicate in claw-snap Morse code.
Throughout the Charlotte Film Festival, projectors will flicker with fresh-faced and classic cinema spanning the subject-style spectrum. From compelling documentaries to inventive indie flicks, highlights include Skateland, a roller-skate-riddled homage to the early ’80s featuring Twilight’s Ashley Greene, and Japanese director Nobuhiko Obayashi's 1977 oddity House, a colorful blend of evil spirits, collages, and psychedelic schoolgirls. Also on the weeknight docket are two soon-to-be-announced award-winning features in the documentary and narrative categories, both of which will face stiff competition from current favorite Flubber. For a crisp picture of what's to come, check out the full schedule and synopsis listings online.
• For $40, you get two general-admission lawn tickets (a $62 value before fees, or up to an $80 value online, including all Ticketmaster fees). • For $58, you get two tickets for seating in sections 4–9 or 10–15 (a $90 value before fees, or up to a $115 value online, including all ticketing fees).