Creepy season in Cape May

October 17, 2018



I timed my visits to the dentist perfectly this year, because I was able to see his waiting room decked out for Halloween. As in past years, you are greeted by the deep voice of Hanibal Lecter who beckons visitors to “come closer…” and the waiting room itself is lit by glowing from the eyes of the unsavory creatures that fill the room, including two skeletons plucking the banjo duet made famous by “Deliverance”  and that nasty, nightmare-inducing clown from “It.” To say that Dr. Lozier and his staff are “into” Halloween would be the understatement of the year.


Not that we’ll be far behind here at the Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts & Humanities (MAC). Strange critters are populating the lawn around Scarecrow Alley and I have to say that our contributing designers have upped the ante this year with some amazing creations, including a trolley-load of (creepy) kids going to the Lighthouse.


Admittedly, Halloween has never been my favorite holiday. I still remember one trick or treat night as a youngster where my brother and I visited a really old guy who lived nearby. To our greeting of “trick or treat,” we got only a puzzled look, and then he invited us to come in, and sat us down to some stale cookies and tea. I don’t know how long it took us to gracefully (or not) get back on the trail, but it wasn’t the Milky Ways we were hoping for and probably scarred me for life.


Maybe it’s the haunted atmosphere of Cape May and around the grounds of the Physick Estate that has helped me to come around a little and get into the “spirit,” so to speak. Of course, taking on another Dept. 56 exhibit, this time for Halloween, kind of pushed me into it. The same generous folks, Betsy and Ernie Heegard, who donated the extensive Dept. 56 Dicken Village for our Christmas exhibit gave us a Halloween exhibit a few years ago. Not as extensive as Christmas, it still has a great assortment of creepy buildings and accessories in that Dept. 56 style with an attention to ghoulish detail.It's free to see, any day through Oct. 31, on the enclosed porch at the Physick Estate.


Although I admit that there’s “more of gravy than the grave” to what happens to the Physick House at Halloween, even the historical purists might admit that it’s interesting to see the house in a spectral light. After all, it became a local “haunted house” for lots of youngsters growing up in Cape May in the mid-20th century. This once stately mansion had fallen into disrepair, waiting for the visionaries who started MAC back in 1970 and brought the house back to life. Hey, even that’s in keeping with spooky Halloween lore, isn’t it?


This year, the popular Phantoms of the Physick Estate Tour will once again take visitors through the house, in two versions, including an afternoon tour with a focus on Victorian spiritualism and an evening version with some zombie-ish creatures passing through the rooms. Every room bears witness to Halloween. It’s hard to call these decorations, which is sort of synonymous with something pretty; these fall into the gross, disgusting and downright icky categories, at times, and that includes the staff in their make-up and Halloween garb. But for Halloween and in the Physick House, it all works.


There’s plenty more, including ghost trolley tours to get you into the spirit and maybe arouse the otherworldly residents of Cape May, so, ask yourself: Do you dare come to Cape May? Bwahahaha….!


-- Jean Barraclough is manager of publications and website  at MAC