It's that time of year when people are going out of their way to scare us. No, we're not talking about the presidential debates. It's Halloween time.
And that means that all over Western civilization, people are building attractions and organizing events designed to give us extra thrills and chills, plus the usual dose of cuteness from trick-or-treating kids dressed as ninjas.
Here's a look at some of the most promising Halloween events in Manatee County, plus a few that may be worth a drive to Orlando or elsewhere. They range from non-scary kids events that don't even allow costumes to full-out gore fests, with some a couple of relatively cerebral events included in the mix. If you don't see your event here, email it to email@example.com. We will be listing scary events each week.
Spirit Voices From Old Manatee: Costumed actors portray early settlers interred in the 1850 Manatee Burying Grounds. They share graveside stories taken from archives, descendants, diaries, military logs, books and legend. Manatee Village Historical Park, 1404 Manatee Ave. E., Bradenton. When: 7 p.m. Oct. 1-4, 8-11 and 15-18. (The last performance will take place in the historic Old Meeting House Church for those who prefer a seated performance.) Cost: $20. Not recommended for children under age 10. Information: 941-741-4076 or manateevillage.org.
Goblin Gathering: Manatee County Parks and Natural Resources Department is celebrating its 13th annual Goblin at G.T. Bray park. Bring the family out and join in the costume contest, face-painting, hayrides, trick-or-treating, bounce houses and an 18-foot inflatable slide. When: 6:30-9:30 p.m. Oct. 16, G.T. Bray Park, 5502 33rd Ave. Drive W., Bradenton. Information: 941-742-5923.
Ghost Spirit and Orb Walks: The people at Bunker Hill Vineyards and Winery in Duette say their place is haunted. Apparently they mean really haunted. It's not just something they do for Halloween. So they're inviting all of us on a tour of the spooky stuff that happens on their property. You're encouraged to bring cameras with a night flash, EVP and EMF recorders (if you're into ghost-hunting you'll apparently know what those are), digital temperature recorders and extra batteries. You have to be at least 18. When: 8 p.m. Oct. 17, 8905 Bunker Hill Road, Duette. Cost: $10. Information: 941-776-0418.
Candlelight Halloween Tour: A family-friendly event Gamble Mansion Historic State Park. Kids get treat bags after the tour. Costumes are encouraged for kids and grown-ups, but gore is not allowed. When: 7-9 p.m. Oct. 17. Gamble Mansion Historic State Park 3708 Patten Ave., Ellenton. Tickets for this event are $6 per person (cash or check only) and are available at the Gamble Plantation office. Children 5 years and younger are free. Space is limited to 500 people so get your tickets early. Information: (941) 723-4536.
York Drive Project: An annual haunted house that aficionados say in the best in the area. A man named Brad Myers builds the attraction in his yard every year and the event raises money for the Save Our Children Coalition. When: 7-10 p.m. Oct. 17, 18, 24, 25 and 30 and Nov. 1, 3512 York Drive W., Bradenton. Cost: $5 donation. Information: Facebook.com/ TheYorkDriveProject.
Boo Fest Halloween Festival at Lakewood Ranch: The 10th annual edition of the popular family fright fest moves from Main Street to the Premier Sports Campus. Kids can go trick-or-treating, visit a pumpkin patch and take a trek through a haunted house. There's also face-painting, music, a maze and more. When: 6-9 p.m. Oct. 30, Premier Sports Campus, 5895 Post Blvd., Lakewood Ranch. Cost: It's free, but parking is $5 (cash only). Information: lwrcac.com/boo-fest.
Howl-O-Scream: If you're looking for family-friendly Halloween fun, this is not it. Howl-O-Scream at Busch Gardens comes with this caveat: "Howl-O-Scream is intended for a mature audience. This year's event contains intense adult content such as violence, gore and blood. There's food too. When: 7:30 p.m.-1 a.m. Thursday-Sundays through Oct. 31. Busch Gardens, 10165 N McKinley Drive, Tampa. Admission: $45 and up. Information: 888-899-5447, howloscream.com.
ZooBoo Kids: A new Halloween experience at Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo is aimed at kids up to age 11. It's a fright-free daytime event with trick-or-treating, a maze, animal encounters, a fun house and lots more. It's all mean to be non-scary fun -- no haunted houses, no masks, wigs, cos
tumes or face paint. It's all included in the regular zoo admission -- $27.95 adults, $25.95 seniors. $20.95 kids 23-11, free for kids up to age 2. When: 1-7 p.m. Oct. 10-11, 17-18, 23-26 and 30-31 and Nov. 1. Lowry Park Zoo, 1101 W. Sligh Ave., Tampa. 813-935-8552, lowryparkzoo.org.
Halloween Horror Nights: With seven haunted houses, with themes including "The Walking Dead" "Insidious," "Freddy vs. Jason" and "American Werewolf in London," five "scare zones," including the All Nite Die-In Double Feature and such cult shows as "Bill & Ted's Excellent Halloween Adventure." Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios is aspires to offer the finest gore, chills and make-believe mayhem in Florida. Florida resident tickets start at $50. When: 6:30 p.m.-clo sing select nights through Nov. 1, Universal Studios, 1000 Universal Studios Plaza, Orlando. Informatoin: halloweenhorrornights.com.
Halloween Spooktacular: SeaWorld offers a family-friendly (but mostly for younger kids) Halloween event that includes trick-or-treating, "whimsical pumpkin fish," sea-themed arts and crafts, and up-close animal encounters. There's a party zone, Sesame Street's Countdown to Halloween, a dance party and a "Dine with Shamu Halloween Spooktacular Brunch." It's included in the regular admission price that stars at $87. Weekends Oct. 3-31, Sea World, 7007 Sea Harbor Drive. Orlando. seaworldorlando.com.
Scream-a-Geddon: This is a new event and it sounds as though it might be pretty cool. It takes place around 60 acres of old Florida Forest in Pasco County. The features within the forest have such names as "Dead Woods," "Infected" and "Monster Midway." The people behind it say that because they're independent they can be more extreme than the corporate Halloween attractions at theme parks. When: 7:30 p.m. until midnight or 1 a.m. through Nov. 1. (Closed Mondays, Tuesdays, Sept. 30, Oct. 1 and Oct. 7.) 27839 St. Joe Road, Dade City. Cost: $35 and up. Info: 813-452-5412, screamageddon.com.
Marty Clear, features writer/columnist, can be reached at 941-708-7919.