By Leilani Roberts Ott
You wouldn’t catch Bill Overby at a haunted house when he was a teenager.
“I was the biggest chicken,” he said. “I wouldn’t even sleep out in the backyard in a tent.”
Today, he’s the site director at The Castle of Muskogee building fun and scary haunts for the 18th annual Halloween Festival. For the first time, the event will continue for two days after Halloween.
Jeff Hiller, steward of the castle, said he had many requests and decided to do it.
“It’s a great weather forecast and should be a good time to come out,” Hiller said.
The festival is open from 6 to 10 p.m. today and Saturday, and has been open weekends in October. Hiller said he estimates about 95,000 people will attend by midnight Saturday.
Overby said there are 11 events with Zombie Hunt being the new attraction this year.
“You are issued a lazer rifle and fight your way through a swarm of zombies,” Overby said.
Building the haunts lets him use his creative side, he said. He worked as vice president of a bank and then for a surveying company working at Fort Gibson Dam when he came out to help with the Renaissance Festival 12 years ago. He’s been there ever since.
“When I started, we had 12 or 13 buildings. Now there are 102 structures. It’s very gratifying.”
There are no plans. He works from a sketch and makes it come to life. He’s really happy about the cast like Freddy Kruger, Jason and Michael Myers. There’s also Batman, Harry Potter and Ghost Busters. Hiller said guests who come at about 6 p.m. get to see the cast wander through. They do a few dances to songs like “Thriller” and “Time Warp.”
Hiller said many local people put on costumes and come out just to hang out or eat. He said there’s lots of great food. Prices on the attractions range from free to $25 packages including several activities.
You’ll find activities inside and out across 60 acres from pumpkin picking to ghost stories. Of course, there’s still plenty to give you a scare like 15-foot Annie, an animatronic, that growls, breathes and throws her fist around in a dark corner.
Characters wander the village and might be found dancing under the tent with guests, doing face painting or dancing.
There’s something for all ages, Hiller said.