Priscilla was born in Bristol, England in 1967. She toiled in public transportation until the 1980s, when she begrudgingly entered early retirement. She spent some of it in Liverpool, and some in Flitwick, but eventually succumbed to the promise of greener pastures in the U.S.—she moved to Kansas in 1993, and eventually settled in Tennessee.
Priscilla is the double-decker bus that Rufus, the owner of Nashville Double Decker, loads up with guests before touring the city. The idea for a bus-tour company came to him before his second deployment with the Tennessee Army National Guard on a visit to Nashville. He took a trolley tour that left him disappointed. The tour didn’t cross any of the city’s bridges, and he couldn’t enjoy some of Nashville’s best views thanks to the trolley’s closed top. So while Rufus was still overseas, he convinced a friend to drive Priscilla across the country from Washington, and now she shows guests the sites around Nashville.
Obscured by the jagged branches of towering trees, the pale moonlight scarcely illuminates the night. Through the darkness, the sound of snapping twigs and rustling leaves sends a clear message: you are not alone. This is the spine-tingling setting waiting to welcome brazen guests as they embark upon their journey through the Haunted Woods in Howell. The one-hour odyssey is interrupted by spine-tingling scenes, including an encounter with the headless horseman, an exorcism, and at least one terrifying tête-à-tête with a high-school gym teacher. More than 70 live actors ensure a night of novel scares, and all funds raised will benefit the Hazel Green High School baseball and theatre programs.
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In the gulches of an abandoned phosphate mine, a labyrinthine path echoes with the roar of unseen chainsaws and the rustles of hidden ghouls. Monsters and zombies lurk in the darkness at Millers Thrillers Zombie Paintball Hayride and Haunted Woods, but it isn't mere craving for blood or brains that makes them so eager to terrify––the scary staff members actually receive a bonus for making visitors wet themselves. Really. “I did always like Halloween," says founder and owner David Miller.
Miller wasn’t always in the pants-wetting business, but you might say the business of Halloween in his blood. He grew up growing and selling pumpkins with his grandfather and––though he admits he was too scared to try them as a kid––his interest in haunted houses led him to intense study in the art of scaring, including seminars and conventions. His interest in creating eerie worlds inspired him to begin his walk through haunted woods and zombie-paintball hayride––during which visitors wield mounted paintball guns to fire upon advancing zombies and blank canvases hurled by poltergeists. But landing a few paintball hits won't be enough to ease the natural terror of the haunt's surroundings. “There’s a lot of spooky stuff around all this country farmland… with no streetlights in sight,” Miller says. “We…play on the fact that people are going to feel like they’re lost in the middle of nowhere.”
Despite the fright fest’s scariness, Miller’s real aim is to give visitors a good time. Staff members go easy on little kids and the elderly, and at the end of the walk, customers can calm chattering teeth around a fire pit and rejoin the world of the living by gathering around the concession stand or a stage that hosts a nightly illusionist and zombie drum line.
Replete with ornate gardens and a brick mansion fronted by towering, white columns, Rippavilla Plantation winds the clock back to the time of the Civil War. In the fall, the smells of bonfires and steaming hot chocolate fill the sprawling grounds as they host pumpkin paintings and other old-timey, outdoor fun. The Rippavilla corn maze tests internal compasses and scarecrow-bribing techniques on a 10-acre, labyrinthine path. As they pass through the maze, guests encounter signs that boast historical facts about major Civil War battles in 1862, putting them in touch with the site's legacy. For a plus-size serving of fresh, autumn air, guests can also board the hayride to circle the grounds, which are devoid of the sinister ghouls that often emerge at many fall festivals; instead, the grounds remain family-friendly throughout the night.
When Franklin On Foot founder and guide Margie Thessin discusses the Civil War’s impact on Franklin, she shuns dry textbook summaries. Instead, she gathers groups before historic homes and battle sites, and she explains, “The war happened here. The people who lived here– this war was their 9/11. This was their Pearl Harbor.” Suddenly, she sees sets of eyes light up, as minds make the leap from musty tomes and texts to the people who lived¬—and fought and died—where they now stand 150 years ago.
To make history relevant, Ms. Thessin humanizes it, honing in on the famous and lesser-known people who shaped Franklin and the struggles they faced to do so. In that spirit, she seeks out guides who are not only passionate about history but possess a natural knack for storytelling.
In keeping with her commitment to orchestrate vivid tours, Ms. Thessin conducts them by bike or on foot. “You get so much from a place by walking it instead of looking out a window of a bus—you may as well fly at 32,000 feet,” she says. Small groups of sightseers stroll or if preferred, Charleston across the downtown area or expand their tour’s scope by cruising on one of Franklin On Foot’s 24-speed Fuji bikes.