By Emily J Weitz
As the sun sets earlier and the leaves swirl down the quiet streets, the time of year to explore the dark side has arrived. Halloween is a holiday devoted to the human fascination with magic and make-believe as well as gore and guts, and Sag Harbor has a little bit of everything to honor the occasion.
One thing our community prides itself on is its creativity. As a result, you might notice the pumpkin carving contests are a little more high-brow; the haunted houses a tad more authentic. These factors combined with the growing number of people spending their late October weekends here make Sag Harbor the place to be to celebrate the spookiest time of the year.
The Ragamuffin Parade is when people young and old get to showcase their creativity by getting out into the street and flaunting their costumes. You’ll see everything from the walking dead to little baby fairies marching down Main Street.
“Last year we had over 1000 people,” says Phil Bucking, a member of the Sag Harbor Chamber of Commerce. “And the costumes were fantastic.” Since Halloween falls on a Sunday this year, Bucking suspects there might be even more people.
“We’ve been doing it about fifteen years. Each year more and more people march in the parade.” Bucking attributes this growth in popularity not only to a growing awareness, but also to people’s desire for community.
“It’s a community event and a social outlet. It brings everybody together, and people get to show their creative side.”
The Ragamuffin Parade begins at 1 p.m. on Sunday, October 31. Participants will gather behind Bookhampton, and the parade will go up Main Street to the Custom House, where food and drinks will be waiting. The Food Pantry provides all refreshments and will be accepting donations.
Since Halloween falls on a weekend this year, the Ragamuffin Parade will happen in conjunction with another Halloween Day tradition: the Pumpkin Trail. This trick-or-treating extravaganza is an opportunity for kids to safely rake in as much candy as they can. Just look for the pumpkin faces in the store windows throughout the business district to find out what stores are participating. The Pumpkin Trail will be open directly following the Ragamuffin Parade.
For those looking to wander towards the more sinister this Halloween, there is ample opportunity. Two screech fests promise to really keep you up at night. The Wailing Museum here in Sag Harbor starts a new tradition of terror this year, and you couldn’t ask for a better venue. The rickety old mansion on Main Street, built in 1845, probably has ghosts in the basement anyway. And the way Zach Studenroth and the staff have decked out the premises, you’re sure to get a good scare. They’ve combined the real artifacts of the museum with creepy effects to create a haunting and realistic experience.
“We felt the architecture of this building, both outside and in, is extreme,” says Studenroth, director of the museum. “It’s conducive to doing something grotesque. We have a lot of curiosities in the collections.”
For example, old whaling pots, with diameters the size of dining room tables, act as cauldrons, from which random limbs might emerge. The winding staircase, the hanging chandeliers, and the Gothic columns are all authentic parts of the museum’s architecture. But the cannibals, the butcher shop, and the hall of mirrors – those turn a vaguely spooky setting into fright fest.
Studenroth hopes that in the future the haunted house might grow into a more complete Halloween celebration.
“It’s our first year,” he says. “And we’re having a lot of fun. Once we do it once, we can build on it. We’d love to have a costume party for adults and maybe a kids’ event on Sunday. Our inspiration is to grow it.”
The Wailing Museum is recommended for adults and kids over twelve. It takes place nightly at the Sag Harbor Whaling Museum at 200 Main Street between October 27 -31 from 6 to 9 p.m. Admission is $10.
Speaking of spooky settings, Mulford Farm in East Hampton, which dates back to 1680, hosts an interactive Halloween scare on over four acres of indoor and outdoor property. Kate Mueth, who has orchestrated Haunted Mulford Farm, says “This is a theatrical event. I try to create images that are disturbing. My lighting designer is a genius.”
Some images you’ll find as you wind your way through the barns and pathways include hangings and burnings.
You’ll begin with a witch trial, and then follow a story “about the witches, the accused, and the accusers… The thing I like is the element of reality to it,” says Mueth. “Using the natural scariness of the farm, you’re transported to the 1600s – people lived and died there… I hope people will come away thinking about what happened when people were so afraid of what they didn’t understand.”
Haunted Mulford Farm is recommended for adults and kids over 12. It takes place nightfall to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday nights. Admission is $10 for families, $5 adults, $2 kids.
The annual pumpkin carving contest sponsored by the Bridgehampton Lion’s Club, which always produces a stunning array of intricately carved pumpkins, took place at the Community House in Bridgehampton on Monday night. John Musnicki, who started the contest more than 12 years ago as a private party, has since seen it grow into a major community event. Musnicki sets up a variety of categories, from Classic Jack to Punk-a-licious. “The categories are the lead-in for all this creativity,” Musnicki has said. “So the material can help [contestants] think of something. If you just give a person a pumpkin they may say – now where do I go? But if you give them something to target, it will help you. To me it’s the most creative part of doing this event.”
“We only added one new category this year: Bozo Bizarro,” says Musnicki. ”Usually we put three or four new categories, but last year was so good we didn’t want to mess around with it.”
“I carve a new pumpkin every year too, for display. Lately there have been some people who have outdone me. Some very cool stuff,” he added.
Whether you’re looking to tap into your creative juices or rustle up a good scare, there’s something for everyone in and around Sag Harbor this week.