While it’s façade as a historical interpretation and learning facility is well-known to Long Islanders, have you ever wondered what evil lurks hidden in the pathways and 19th-century buildings of Nassau County’s Old Bethpage Village Restoration once darkness takes hold each evening? For the first time, residents are getting a chance to experience those terrors first-hand this Halloween season.
Ryan Kellas of Syosset normally works at the Restoration as a potter, molding bowls, plates, jugs, and other such items in the manner in which they were originally created long ago. However, he also is the young man behind the inaugural Village Haunted Tails and Trails event, an atmospheric oil lamp-lit historical tour of the Restoration running throughout evenings in October, where history’s dark past comes to life while leading up to the creepiest time of the year- Halloween itself.
“When I was a freshman in college, I saw a similar event at another historical village, and I loved it so much that I wanted to do something like it here,” he said. “I pitched it, and luckily the Parks Commissioners really liked the idea so they took it, ran with it, and changed it around a bit to better suit the location.”
Kellas’ responsibilities included writing all of the scripts for the actors involved in the production, all of whom are employees of the Restoration. He tried his best to maintain an aura of authenticity to balance out the creeps and scares slated to assail attendees at every turn.
“I wanted to keep it very historical, featuring things that are native to the time period that we have here on a daily basis,” he said. “For example, in one of the houses we’re holding a mock funeral, and all of the decorations and practices used are Victorian-appropriate, such as the black crape fabric around the doorways, the mirrors, and so on. They all fit the time period.”
Michael Morgan of Massapequa, a tour guide for Haunted Tails and Trails, normally works at Takapusha Museum in Seaford, another Nassau County facility; however, when offered, the horror buff inside him jumped at the chance to help out with this spooky endeavor.
“The guide’s responsibility is to guide guests through the narrative that takes place through the 18th and 19th century buildings here at the Restoration,” he said. “At each stop on the tour, they experience something spooky, shocking or frightening. For example, at the schoolhouse, the guests get to sit at the desks and listen to a creepy monologue provided by an actor before moving on to the next location. It’s great family fun for all ages, as long as they like to be scared. At points during the tour everyone is screaming and jumping, and it’s great.”
The tour takes Restoration guests brave enough to dare engage in it through many horrific scenes, including a twisted funeral where all is not as it appears; a deadly séance where a husband attempting to contact the spirit of his lost wife takes an unexpected turn; and a visit to the home of the infamous late-1800s axe-murderess Lizzie Borden.
If that wasn’t enough, random scares lurk around each and every tree, bush or corner to keep the unwary on their tippy-toes.
In addition to the main tour, guests will find a majority of the Restoration opened up to them for their creepy All-Hallows-Eve-related (dis)pleasure. Food, inflatable bouncy houses, games, a corn maze, a pirate-themed zombie maze, a “freak show” and other forms of entertainment abound, with ample lighting set up to keep the forces of darkness at bay.
“My boyfriend and I are big fans of Halloween, and we always spend October traveling around and hitting all the haunted houses and attractions that we can find,” said Glenda Burke, a Plainedge resident who had just completed the tour. “The atmosphere here in the Restoration is so well-done, with the oil lamps lining the trail and the guide with his lantern. The fact that they tried so hard to maintain the historical feel instead of just going with the easy out of modern-style demons and monsters really gave the tour a realism that made it even scarier.”
Kellas noted that he was going for a Twilight Zone-style of creepiness, with some random jump-scares thrown in just to shake things up. The result, he said, has been packing in the masses, opening up the very real possibility of repeating Village Haunted Tails and Trails next Halloween season.
“If we do it next year, I would like to change the scripts, that way when people come back, they’ll have a different experience each time,” he said. “So far, reaction has been strong; we hold tours every eight minutes, and we can have up to 20 people per tour. They all come away scared and that’s exactly what I was hoping for when I pitched the idea.”