In the early dark, people come out into the streets. They swing through drifts of leaves on the sidewalk. The night smells and tastes of fall — pumpkin and hot wax, apples and chocolate.
Halloween has grown into a holiday of varied events stretching almost a month long.
As the leaf season wanes, the ghost season comes in. Family events celebrate the fall, and frightening ones blend theater and thrill. Halloween parties invite adults to dress up and dance, and night conversations ask them to face their ghosts and fears.
Family fall days
Anticipation builds from through October, as young people take wagon ride to choose a pumpkin at Ioka Valley Farm in Hancock, or walk through the field at Whitney’s Farm Market in Cheshire, or choose one after apple picking at Lakeview Orchard or Bartlett’s Orchards …
Costumed figures will line the Halloween Parade on Tyler Street in Pittsfield on Oct. 26, with floats and monsters, and Hancock Shaker Village welcomes them on Oct. 27 for masks and doughnuts, stories and art.
And then the pumpkins light up.
Jack-o-lanterns flare at the John F X Keator Pumpkin Walk in Washington, Mass., and in the gardens of the Stockbridge library on Oct. 26, the night of the Stockbridge Halloween Parade, as Costumed families march up Main Street from Pine to the Town Offices for cider and doughnuts.
At Naumkeag, a lightening bug, wild turkeys, black bears will walk the gardens after dark, telling stories by candle light. The Gilded Age mansion in Stockbridge will extend its pumpkin trail this year, says general manager Brian Cruey.
Luminaries and Jack-o-lanterns line the pathways — Berkshire Bank carves more than 300 — and this year and electric lighting and sound through the garden will enhance the nocturnal creatures from the fall woods (volunteers actors from CHP) who come to tell their stories.
As Halloween approaches, walk softly from the night garden to the cellars of the haunted mansion. What moves in these rooms at night where no one has lived since the Choate family left them in 1959?
Limelight in Lee and stage and set-design students from Bard College at Simon’s Rock help to create the scene at Naumkeag, and local actors people it with spirits.
The haunted mansion is not recommended for children under 12, and specters and monsters wait in wilder places than this.
In Dalton, Grimm’s fairy tales take on new and twisted life at Purgatory Road (facebook.com/purgatory.rd.haunted). Mary and her lamb, Red Riding Hood and more lurk in the corn, says Betsy Nichols; her family hosts the two-acre haunted maze at their farm at 190 Cleveland Road, Oct. 12 to 13 and 19 to 20 at 7 to 10 p.m.
This is her family’s seventh year of haunted nights, she says. High school students and others that have moved on to college and beyond return to act in the event each year. All proceeds benefit the Berkshire Coalition for Suicide Prevention, and they have already raised more than $120,000 by 2018.
Farther north, the mountains’ past reawakens in a haunted wedding in Jericho Valley. Ride through the night woods to the summit of a mountain, and ride the Giant Swing or the Soaring Eagle zip line, as Jiminy Peak in Hancock opens in the dark for 13 Nights between Sept. 28 and Oct. 31.
Adults wanting a night out can relax on the dance floor, in disguise or out.
GreylockWorks in North Adams (greylockworks.com) will host a Halloween costume party on Oct. 27, say co-owners Karla Rothstein and Salvatore Perry. They will offer prizes for themed costumes, local beers from Bright Ideas Brewery and cocktails. DJ BFG mixes the music, and lighting artist McZawa (Brian McCreary) collaborates with him to make the room pulse.
Up the road, Mass MoCA rolls out the dance floor with 4AD Presents Tune-Yards + U.S. Girls for a rave on Halloween Eve, Oct. 30. New England native Merrill Garbus released her fourth record this year, and her labelmates, an eight-piece band, have their own new album, In A Poem Unlimited.
For aspiring sorcerers, Blantyre in Lenox will host an adult Harry Potter soirée on Oct. 27, a roaming house party with brews and wine, themed cocktails and live music (and note, a $100 ticket). Chef Jeremy Berlin and pastry chef Tumi will prepare Hogwartian fare and pastries. Costumes are welcome.
And the Egremont Barn brings northwestern Connecticut guitar, bass and a beat to The Nice Ones Halloween Party Show, Oct. 27.
Ghosts and fears
Or step into the night for an accounting of past and future.
The Mount (edithwharton.org) leads ghost tours through Edith Wharton’s stories and the mansion’s glory days. And this year Hancock Shaker Village (hancockshakervillage.org) opens its paths by lantern light with stories of ghost sightings and the spiritualist movement, Oct. 18 to 20 and 25 to 27.
Looking farther into the past, a storyteller walks the Stockbridge Cemetery at dusk. On Oct. 25, at 5 p.m., after cider and doughnuts, Norman Rockwell Museum’s curator of education, Tom Daly, will lead a tour beside the graves of Norman Rockwell, Elizabeth Freeman, the Sedgwick Family, Chief Konkapot and more.
And looking ahead, WordxWord will lead a blunt, open conversation about Fear in America. On Oct. 29 at the Berkshire Museum, poets will talk about what truly scares then. Spoken word performances can pull no punches, as people confront what haunts them.