With the arrival of the Halloween season, the grounds of Nassau County’s Old Bethpage Village Restoration have transformed from a bastion of historical preservation to a sinister landscape of darkness and horror.
It’s all part of the Villages annual Halloween extravaganza, the Haunted Tales attraction, which faces its final frightening night on Oct. 30.
Whereas last year’s event consisted of guided tours throughout a series of houses where visitors could watch creepy skits, this year guests are more or less on their own, free to wander and take in the many Halloween sights and sounds to their own content. Darken pathways are illuminated by oil torches and colored lights, providing a foreboding atmosphere well befitting the season.
That’s not to say that you’re completely on your own. The main draw of the evening is the infamous Ghost Tour, where guests are led about the grounds of the Village to visit several of its reputedly haunted homes. While stopping at each house, tour guides Jack and Joanne laid out some of the tales of the all-too-real supernatural events that employees and visitors claim have experienced over the years while walking within their walls.
The first stop on the tour was the Schenck House, a colonial-period structure originally built in Manhasset in 1730. Jack noted that it is but a handful of Dutch-style farm houses left in the United States these days, making it an important part of history.
However, architecture aside, the Schenck House also has a dark past. Over the years, Joanne noted that numerous otherworldly experiences have been reported by various people—both Village workers and guests—while inside.
“One of our security guards had heard the tales about the house, so he came in, walked to the back and heard a tremendous bang from upstairs,” she said. “He ran outside and hid behind his truck. Later, he got another employee to go upstairs with him and there was nothing out of place, but people continued to feel a presence when entering the house and often heard voices or heard strange noises.”
Joanne also relayed tales of EVP—or Electronic Voice Phenomenon—where she had used digital sound recorders to capture the supposed utterances of actual spirits inhabiting the homes within the Village. Playing some of these recordings for the tour guests was easily one of the most chilling aspects of the entire Ghost Tour.
Elsewhere in the Village, the Manetto Hill Church had been transformed into the epicenter of a period-era Cholera epidemic, compete with bodies piled under sheets while hurried medical workers rush about frantically, driven to the very edge of reason by the horrors they are forced to witness on a daily basis. So heavy was the turnover at the makeshift ward that a full-time coffin-maker was stationed outside, crafting a never-ending series of wooden caskets for the recently deceased.
“There was a massive Cholera epidemic back in the 1800’s, and right inside the church there is a hospital where there are tons of bodies lying,” said, Jonathan, who played the coffin-maker. “There’s a doctor in there who is trying to treat the patients, but to no avail…the Cholera epidemic is continuing to spread, and coffin-makers like myself were needed on-hand because the bodies had to be buried quickly because of the lack of embalming fluid and things like that.”
Of course, not everything within the Village is historically-accurate. As a distinct departure from years past, the Lawrence Home has been transformed into a bona-fide haunted house and maze, complete with pirates, zombies, evil clowns and chainsaw-wielding maniacs around every corner. It’s certainly a nice contrast to some of the less-intense attractions that the Village is offering this year and a great way to get your blood pumping in the cool autumn night air, especially for those who craze a good scare or two during the Halloween season.
Other attractions of Haunted Tales include spooky skits held within random houses (including an encounter with the infamous Lizzy Borden), a corn maze, music and the amazing fire juggling antics of the talented Keith Leaf. And when you needed to take a break and warm up, there was Village bonfire where attendees could create their very own s’mores treats, complete with an ample supply of pointy sticks upon which to roast their marshmallows.
Janice Renyolds and her family made the trek all the way from Jericho for Haunted Tales and said that it was a great attraction and a real bargain to boot.
“Most Halloween things are way over-priced and are over before you know it, but this was very reasonably priced and it’s a whole evening with so much to do,” she said. “We’re really having a wonderful time, and we hope the Restoration does this again next year.”
Richard Hewlett was attending the event with his wife and daughter. The Hicksville family said that they enjoyed the Ghost Tour the most of all and found that the grounds of the Village made for the perfect setting for a Halloween spooktacular.
“It’s such a nice place to come to during the day, but at night it’s pitch-black here and the torches everywhere are so eerie,” he said. “I’m a big haunted house guy, and while this place is tame compared to some of the places I’ve been to, it’s perfect for families and kids. They have amazing atmosphere here and so much to do.”