By Leilani Roberts Ott
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.
• Fright combo, $25: Casa Morte, Domus Horrificus, Trail of Blood, Ultimate Maze.
• Child fun pack, $15: Hayride, Ultimate Maze, Torture Chamber, Pirate Ship Stage, Enchanted Boardwalk.
• Adult fun pack $20: Hayride, Ultimate Maze, Torture Chamber, Pirate Ship Stage, Enchanted Boardwalk.
• Pumpkin Kingdom: A child-friendly atmosphere open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. For $5, your child can pick out a pumpkin, visit the petting zoo, and receive a ticket to one bounce house.
• Halloween Village: Start in the Halloween Village with free admission. You can find hot and cold drinks, food, shops, ghost stories, fortune tellers, music, games, bounce houses, and friendly Halloween characters in the streets. The village is wheelchair accessible. Children 15 and under must be accompanied by a parent. Once inside the village, go to the main ticket booth to purchase your tickets for any of the haunts. If you purchased tickets online, you will exchange them at the E-ticket booth just inside the main gates.
• Halloweenland: A safe Halloween area for the little ones open from 6 to 9 p.m.. For $4 per child, it’s an indoor carnival with no scares for children 8 younger. Accompanying adults do not need a ticket.
• Pirate Ship Stage: Experience the Raks al Hassana dance and the magic of Matthew van Zee on the outdoor stage. Cost is $8, adults; $5, children 12 and under. The 30-minute shows start at 7 p.m. and the last show starts at 9:30 p.m.
If you go
WHAT: Halloween Festival.
WHEN: 6 to 10 p.m. today and Saturday.
WHERE: The Castle of Muskogee, just off U.S. 69 north on Fern Mountain Road.
ADMISSION: Free to enter the village with expanded attractions costing $4 to $25 for package prices.