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Things that go bump in the night

photoTimes-Mirror Staff Photo/Beverly Denny Oatlands paranormal tour guide Theresa Schuster gathers a couple dozen tour participants on the porch of the mansion Oct. 19. The tour included numerous stories of paranormal experiences of employees, vendors, investigators and visitors, and let participants measure for changes in temperature and electromagnetic fields.

Oatlands’ Paranormal Tour

With paranormal tours, you never know if you’re going to be scared or simply just get a history lesson.

Oatlands’ Paranormal Tour delivers both.

The 200-year-old plantation is rich in history and stories of the paranormal, so there’s plenty of stories to be told.

However, what separates this paranormal tour from others is the hands-on interaction tour guide Teresa Schuster gives her audience.

You may walk through the entire 90-minute tour and never experience the hairs on the back of your neck standing up.

Still Schuster gives you the chance to test those on the other side.

Tours are given gauges to test for sudden temperature drops in the rooms, which is said to be an indicator of paranormal activity. They’re also give an EMF detector which lights up when the electromagnetic fields in the rooms spike.

What also defines Oatlands’ Paranormal Tour from others, such as some of the more popular ones in Charleston, S.C., Savannah, Ga. or Gettysburg, Pa. is evidence.

Oatlands has had three paranormal investigations conducted on the property in the last few years and Schuster makes sure to share the fruit of the teams’ work with the group.

photoTimes-Mirror Staff Photo/Beverly Denny Oatlands paranormal tour guide Theresa Schuster, right, explains to a couple dozen tour participants, including 10-year-old twins with lanterns Zoe and Ella Busch of Purcellville, center, what to expect before entering the mansion Oct. 19. The tour included numerous stories of paranormal experiences of employees, vendors, investigators and visitors, and let participants measure for changes in temperature and electromagnetic fields.

In the drawing room of the mansion, the tour guide plays voices picked up by the investigation teams to the audience. Disembodied voices can be heard on the recordings saying “I know they’re coming,” among others.

At the end of the tour the group gets a peek at various photos taken by paranormal investigators that show orbs and in one clear picture a woman in time period appropriate dress standing by someone on a past tour of the mansion.

For our tour, we did get an extra bit of hands-on experience.

Judy Strosky of Hamilton, who takes paranormal tours up and down the East Coast, brought along dowsing rods – ancient tools used to find water. However, paranormal investigators have used these tools to locate activity.

Strosky was kind enough to allow the group to use the rods, encouraging them to ask the spirits in the rooms questions. The rods, she said, would cross for a yes answer. And, on at least two occasions, the rods crossed. Whether it was the ghosts of Oatlands’ past saying hello or just coincidence, we’ll never know.

Tickets are available for three more paranormal tours at Oatlands on Oct. 28-31. The Oct. 26 tour is already sold out, so make your reservations fast.

Tours are not appropriate for children 8 and younger. Parents should use their discretion. Tickets are $20 for adults and $5 for children 8 to 12 years old.

Oatlands Historic House and Gardens, 20850 Oatlands Plantation Lane, Leesburg. 703-777-3174. http://www.oatlands.org

– Crystal Owens

Paxton Manor

I am a frequent visitor this time of year to attractions like The Fun House:haunted houses, haunted forests and other scary delights.

I decided to check out Paxton Manor and I have to say I was pretty impressed with what they offered. I dragged one of my best friends along because he typically likes these things.
One of the best things about it is the variety of haunts at your disposal. Paxton Manor has a total of four scary attractions spread about its campus.

To avoid the crowds I suggest waiting on the Haunted Mansion until last due to the line. It is wise to hit the other three attractions as there was no line to speak of to go through those when we first got there.

A classic favorite. If you have Coulrophobia or fear of clowns (that’s right, I had to look it up too) don’t go through this attraction.

While it is not scary from a startling standpoint, there is a prominent presence of clowns. Different rooms will take you back to your childhood. One room has a hidden wall maze and another has a large ball pit to walk through.

Lastly, your mind will be blown at the end.

The Last Ride: Can’t say I had the guts to do this one. Me and confined spaces just don’t seem to mix. The gist of it is you get into a coffin and it closes and moves around. Meanwhile, all of your friends get to watch your reactions while your in the coffin with a small camera.

Haunted Well of Souls: A truly dark experience as you venture down into the depths of the mansion to see what awaits you in the dark and damp basement of one of the oldest buildings in Loudoun County.

When I say dark, I mean can’t see your hands in front of your face dark. So, are you afraid of the dark?

You will soon find out, if you dare to enter.

Haunted Mansion: This is possibly the best haunted house I have visited in years. There is a whole story accompanying you through the house, which is a nice addition.
We had the pleasure of being joined by a couple who came all the way to Loudoun County to visit Paxton Manor.

Needless to say they made the experience more fun with her frequent screams.

The mansion features an elevator, zombies hiding behind hidden walls and a scarred up hospital staff.

-Note: Make sure you visit with Jimmy while waiting in line.

– Andrew Sharbel

Haunted Forest at Halloween Woods

Long ago, there was a boarding school on the grounds of Algonkian Park. A grumpy caretaker, bitter from being fired from his job at the circus, punished children for being late to class. To avoid these punitive measures, children took to cutting through the woods to make it from their dormitory to class on time. The caretaker was eventually fired and soon after, children began disappearing from the woods. Years later, on a Halloween night, a dog uncovered the bones of 13 missing children.

Or so the legend goes of the Haunted Forest at the Halloween Woods in Algonkian Park in Sterling. Open every weekend of October, plus Halloween night, the Haunted Woods takes you through a dimly lit trail in the park, full of ghoulish clowns, zombies, werewolves and chainsaw wielding murderers.

Because groups are staggered, waiting to enter the woods can be a slow process. To keep the feel of the event, walkers are only allowed a poor quality flashlight that is really only good for making sure you don’t trip on stray roots. The darkness enables the costumed actors to be unseen – right until they jump out to get you. Combined with periods of disorienting strobe lights, walkers were ill-prepared for the startling characters.

The make-up and costuming was fantastic; the quality allows walkers to truly perceive the actors as ghouls rather than people in a costume. Similarly, the actors never broke character and manage to frighten not only by startling visitors, but by their behavior and mannerisms.

My walk began late at night and my friends and I were grouped up with four other people, two men and two women. One of the women clung to my arm the entire walk and both the men ended up sprinting out of the forest at trail’s end. Suffice to say, people find the trail scary.

Because the attraction is outside, patrons are at the whim of the weather, so be sure to wear appropriate clothing and footwear. The forest opens at 7 p.m. and the last tickets are sold at 11 p.m. Tickets are $15 and speed passes are available for an additional $10.

– Alanna Dvorak

Ashburn’s Fright Night

photoTimes-Mirror Staff Photo/John Geddie A visitor of The Fright Night stands near a bonfire waiting to enter the attraction.

Do you dare to roam through the woods of Ashburn? It’s just a hay ride away and while there is a chill in the air, the screams emanating from the woods will set your blood racing.

Travel the path and you’ll come to a series of cottages and makeshift buildings. Ignore your instinct to run and push your way through to find that each one houses a tableau of horror that builds upon itself to a terrifying conclusion.

You’ll enjoy yourself – if you survive the monsters that lurk within the woods at Fright Night.

It’s gratifying to see that the Fright Night has become the place to go in October within its relatively short (horrifying life). And as its grown, so have the crowds. Even so, organizers have added more attractions and refreshments behind the ticket booth to entertain you before your group starts. There’s nothing like a fall bonfire.

It makes for a great event for the family (or adults alone), but the local teens have turned it into a major event – coming out in droves. And for grownups, being on a Fright Night tour consisting of easily spooked middle school girls is entertainment all its own.

This journey through terror begins in the field behind Ashburn’s Community Church, 19790 Ashburn Road. But then again, you could just follow the screams.

The Fright Night is supposed to be scary, so use your best judgment about the right age. According to the website, the organizers don’t recommend it for those under age 12.

Fright Night is a project of the Fire Escape Student Ministry at Ashburn’s Community Church. Proceeds from the event go to benefit youth outreach.

Enjoy the final Fright Night weekend Oct. 26-27 from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. Tickets are $20 and can be purchased at the gate or online at http://www.thefrightnight.com.

– John “Get me outta here” Geddie


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