Ahh...fall in Rhode Island: crisp, refreshing air, vividly colored leaves overhead and underfoot, pumpkins, cornstalks and mums, Halloween – or at least, some version of that last one. The coronavirus has recast how we celebrate holidays like the Fourth of July, Memorial and Labor days, and now Halloween. Heads turned to the West Coast when in mid-September Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti prohibited door-to-door trick-or-treating, as well as parties, haunted houses, and festivals because it was impossible to guarantee social distancing or mask-wearing. The uproar was such that a day later, the administration stepped back, saying that trick-or-treating would be allowed but was not recommended, and that the police likely would not be enforcing the rule. And thank goodness because the optics of eight-year-olds being taken away in handcuffs for soliciting candy bars aren’t good for anyone.
Here in Rhode Island, at press time, the Department of Health had not yet developed any recommendations for the public for Halloween, according to Public Information Officer Joseph Wendelken, and many organizers are deciding for themselves. Several of the activities and celebrations we’ve come to love over the years are simply not being held. From the luxe adult Halloween party at Barnaby Castle on Providence’s West Side to the family-oriented open house at the Cranston Fire Department’s Station 2 – a tradition for more than 40 years – the pandemic is making Halloween feel more like a trick than a treat.
Still, the pressure on parents to not disappoint their kids is leading to some creative thinking. Rebecca Bromberg of Providence told her boys there would be no trick-or-treating this year. “I told my kids I’ll hook up Halloween in different ways,” she says. “They get to dress up in costume and ring our own doorbell each day in October for a full-size candy bar. I’ll also be catapulting candy out the second floor windows at them. Trick-or-treating is not worth the risk,” Bromberg says.
David Graziano of Cranston is taking a casual approach with his two boys this year. Whether or not door-to-door trick-or-treating is a good idea, he says, is “debatable.” So instead, to be on the safer side, his family is considering what he creatively calls a “Pod-O-Ween.” Graziano explains, “You know, a smaller group, but we still get dressed up and have fun.”
In Rhode Island, many of our favorite events are still taking place, but with new policies and protocols to keep both attendees and staff as safe as possible. Here are some of the ways you can still get your fright fix this month.
Head to Frosty Drew for a night under spooky skies. The Observatory and Sky Theatre will open at 6:30pm and be in “full-out Halloween mode with frightful sights, spooky sounds, and candy available for all who visit.” Take peeks of the near Full Moon, Saturn, Jupiter, and more via telescopes. Costumes encouraged, masks mandatory, and a $5 donation per person 5 and up is suggested. 6:30-10pm. Charlestown.
This celebration of intricately carved pumpkins known as the Jack-o-Lantern Spectacular at Roger Williams Park Zoo has undoubtedly been one of the Ocean State’s favorite spooky celebrations for many years. Usually set along the leafy Wetlands Trail inside the zoo, this year the display will be a “drive through” experience. Guests will remain in their cars and be guided through a private trail where thousands of pumpkins, carved with every imaginable image, from famous people and flowers to scary and funny jack-o-lantern faces, will be on display. October 1-November 1, 6:30-10:30pm.
HORROR FILM FEST & LOVECRAFT TOUR
An offshoot of the Rhode Island International Film Festival, Flickers’ Vortex Sci-Fi, Fantasy, and Horror Film Festival will celebrate its 21st year scaring the pants off of willing festival-goers. This year, a socially distanced festival will use drive-in theaters and virtual screenings to showcase 75 films, including some world and North American premieres. While some horror films may not be for the faint of heart, there will also be a wide array of sci-fi and fantasy films. Highlights also include the return of the popular H.P. Lovecraft Walking Tour presented in collaboration with the Rhode Island Historical Society. October 17-25, various venues throughout Rhode Island or virtual.
GHOST TOUR BY BOAT
Allow Captain Peter to introduce you to some of Providence's longest-lingering residents while quietly floating along waterways. Peter will take you to the haunts of some of the most notorious spirits, from local literary giants to humble servants; en route you’ll learn about their lives and why they might be holding a grudge against some in this historic city. Providence River Boat also offers a Haunted Booozy Boat Ride on October 31 and November 1. All cruises will limit capacity to allow for proper social distancing. We can’t promise the ghosts will social distance, but maybe that’s part of the fun? October 4-28.
GHOST TOUR BY FOOT
Providence provides such a perfect backdrop for ghost tours, what with its cobblestone streets, murky waters, and historic homes. This hour-and-a-half walking tour will uncover the history of the city’s not-so-dearly-departed residents and visitors. You’ll get goosebumps hearing the stories of the spirits to those who wreaked murder and mayhem in the city, and learn about the ways they continue to do so in modern day. Saturdays throughout October, or call 401-484-8687 to book a private tour.
This perennially popular family fun-filled Haunted Hayride at Seven Cedars Farm in Smithfield is more spooktacular than ever, even with social distancing, mask wearing, and hand sanitizing. As you’re slowly driven through 21 acres of dark, wooded farmland, who knows what horrors lurk around the next bend? Anyone who’s taken this hayride in the past should know that the owners change it up a bit every year, just to keep guests on their toes! Weekends October 2-November 1, 7-10pm. (9pm on Sundays).