Haunted Summer: Creepy Regional Road Trips

Greetings good people of the River City. Allow me the quaint southern formality of an introduction; I am the Phantom of the Ville! For decades I have walked among you. I have creeped and crawled through your city streets, your backyards and alleyways, climbed your misty wooded hills and haunted your local theaters and movie palaces. The time has come for me to emerge and make myself known to you.

In the following months leading up to our favorite haunted holiday, I shall thrill you with tales of the strange and the unusual. We’ll journey together in search of local urban legends, haunted mansions, weird historical landmarks, infamous local personalities and places filled with the joy and terror of Halloween.

If you have what an an old friend of mine called the “Halloween gene,” then you’re likely already counting the days to the time of year when there is a chill in the air, a brisk devil wind and the smell of freshly fallen leaves in the air. Since that time is still months away, and we are currently approaching the Summer solstice, I have choosen this first article to suggest some regional Summer road trips that will ultimately lead you to creepy attractions within easy hearse ride.

So start up the Dragula, as we depart our beloved city limits and head South, North and West to get our Summer Halloween “fix.”

Our first journey into the Southern Gothic is headed true South down I-65 towards the central vortex of weirdness in all of Kentucky. First stop: Kentucky Stonehenge! Take the exit to Munfordville and follow the clearly marked signs past a large area of stone monuments and stone carved canons to a farm with a complete replica of the ancient and mysterious stones found in Whiltshire, England. It’s private property, but the owners don’t mind curiosity seekers. I can’t think of a better place to celebrate the Summer solstice this year on June 21.

Just a few miles down the road, you’ll come to epicenter of roadside attractions in all of Kentucky: Cave City! Even if you don’t plan on touring the bat infested miles and miles of underground passages at Mammoth Cave State Park, you’ll find plenty of creepy goodness to investigate.

The most hauntingly historic attraction you’ll encounter is The Haunted Hotel at Guntown Mountain. Guntown Mountain is a recreation of an Old West town just a chair lift ride up the side of a large hill that entertains visitors with staged gun fights and saloon dancers. Formerally known as just The Haunted House, this classic walk through attraction was built in 1972 by a Halloween prop company called Funni-Frite. Although some of the gags and props inside have been replaced and updated, most of the original structure remains exactly as it was originally built ( modern fire and saftey laws be damned!), including Charmin’ Charles, the ghastly skeleton playing his creepy organ music from the second floor!

The building’s facade is a beautiful representation of Halloweens long past. The twisting, turning halls inside are dark, but littered with pop up spooks and shocks. As you travel up and down the tight corridors, you’re sure to get at least one good scare before you exit onto the house’s second story balcony for a breathtaking view of the rolling hills and a photo opportunity. And then it’s back into the dark.

The owners of The Haunted Hotel have recently also built a Haunted Glow-In-The-Dark Mini Golf course next door. A trip through The Haunted Hotel will cost you $5, or for $7 you can also enjoy a round of mini golf. The Haunted Hotel is said to be the oldest still operating walk through attraction of its kind in the United States, and it belongs on your Summer road trip calendar.

Nearly right across the street, you’ll find Dinosaur World. Almost every kid’s love of monsters begins with the ones that actually existed. Nothing screams Americana like giant fiberglass dinosaurs. Taking the trip down Dinosaur Trail is like imagining all the plastic Marx Dinosaur toys you owned as a child blown up to lifesize proportions and scattered among the trees. Adult tickets are $12.75 and children between 3 and 12 are $9.75. Even if you don’t take the tour, stop in and see the greatest dinosaur gift shop in Kentucky.

Just down the road is an attraction that would make Vincent Price proud, the Mammoth Cave Wax Museum. Many people find wax figures inherently creepy, appearing life like yet not alive. Many of the figures on display were the work of artist Katherine Stubergh, whose work dates back to the 1930’s and encompasses many figures made while the subjects were still alive. My conversation with the curator revealed the fact that the Albert Einstein figure is signed by the scientist himself! When I inquired about a “Chamber of Horrors,” she informed me that the new owners are in the process of selling many of the older wax figures and soon intend to replace them with tributes to classic horror and science fiction. I was shown pictures of “Alien” (1979) heads, Linda Blair from “The Exorcist” and other memorable monsters from the silver screen. I was also informed that famous Hollywood monster sculptor, the recenty deceased Henry Alvarez, worked on many of the wax figures made by the Stubergh family. Alvarez scuplted creatures for such films as “The Thing,” “Predator,” “Robocop” and “Pumpkinhead” as well made many classic Halloween masks for Don Post Studios.

Keep driving down Old Mammoth Cave Road until you reach Big Mike’s Rock & Gift Shop, home to Big Mike’s Mystery House! For only $1 (the best you’ll ever spend), you’ll get a tour through the back work shed into a gravitational vortex of illusion and amazement. Right away, I could feel I was traveling back through time as our tour guide confirmed for me that the room full of blacklight posters we entered had been the same ones hanging there since the early 1970’s. He even showed us the dates on some of the posters!

Things only get stranger as you traverse crooked rooms that will have you leaning in odd angles as you try to maintain your balance. Water runs up hill. Humans appear to change sizes as they move about the room. Strange aliens appear to be watching your every move. All for a buck!

More great locations still to come–TO BE CONTINUED!

~The Phantom of the Ville

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