By Firelight

Evansville celebrates Halloween

Even with the greater Evansville area preparing for its ballyhooed West Side Nut Club Fall Festival Oct. 3-8, there’s time to get excited about Halloween, too.

According to past West Side Nut Club president Richard Barchet, the festival moved from its original date of Halloween to Oct. 24 in 1941 and then to Oct. 21 in 1946, mainly to avoid cold weather. As it has grown and diversified, the fall festival seems to have abandoned its roots in the pumpkin patch. Barchet says these days, the festival’s only connection to Halloween is that “the Nut Club participates in the West Side Trick or Treat Day, which was initiated a few years ago. Nut Clubbers hand out candy along with other West Side merchants on Franklin Street.”

A local love of Halloween is still evident, however, and has existed since long before even the first festival.

Vanderburgh County Historical Society Secretary Stan Schmitt notes Halloween in Evansville originated as widespread pranks, parties, and masking and decorating. As the popularity of Halloween has grown, its commercial possibilities have exploded, but the (ghostly) spirit of the occasion is still observed in traditional activities.

For the past 20 Halloween seasons, Mary Jo Huff and the RiverTown StoryTellers have kept the jack-o’-lantern lit, telling scary stories around the campfire at (the ironically named) Santa Claus, Indiana’s Lake Rudolph Campground, for seven Friday nights.

Huff often wears a costume to suit the occasion — “it is important to look different, folks expect the unusual,” she says. Flickering firelight on a dark night offers atmospherics equal to high-tech modern effects.

“Because the event at Camp Rudolph is an outdoor setting, it’s not practical to use visuals as the audience is sitting around a campfire in the evening,” says Barbara Klamer who joined the group after retiring. Klamer has found simple sound effects for stimulating listeners’ imaginations still work well.

“Most of my stories are for children,” she says, “but I’ve observed adults enjoying them as well.”   

“Kids come, but so do adults,” Huff echoes.  “Adults seem to have a need for this type of story also.”

Another of the group’s tale-tellers, Jeff Jones has held onto his own childhood love of Halloween.

“I remember getting homemade candy, like chocolate-dipped pretzels or a popcorn ball,” he says. “When we reached about 13 or 14, entering high school, we stopped going trick or treating because we were considered too old.

Area Haunts

Old Courthouse Catacombs
Weekends starting Sept. 23

201 N.W. Fourth St., Evansville

Tickets: $20 per person per venue

House of Lecter Haunted House

Weekends starting Sept. 23

325 Main St., Evansville

Tickets: $20 per person per venue

Lake Rudolph Halloween

Weekends starting Sept. 16

Sun Outdoors Lake Rudolph

78 N. Holiday Blvd., Santa Claus, IN

Happy Halloween Weekends

Weekends Sept. 24-Oct. 30

Holiday World, 452 E. Christmas Blvd.,
Santa Claus, IN

Tickets: $64.99 per person per day

Paranormal Investigation,
presented by Haunted New Harmony

8-11 p.m. Oct. 1

Murphy Auditorium, 419 Tavern St.,

New Harmony, IN

Tickets: $40 per person

Haunted New Harmony Ghost Walks

7-8:30 p.m. weekends starting Sept. 9

Historic New Harmony, Indiana

Tickets: $20

Know Your History

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Maggie Valenti
Maggie Valenti
Maggie Valenti joined Tucker Publishing Group in September 2022 as a staff writer. She graduated from Gettysburg College in 2020 with a bachelors degree in English. A Connecticut native, Maggie has ridden horses for 15 years and has hunt seat competition experience on the East Coast.

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