October 22, 2012 – I’m not sure what my criteria would be for an ultimate Halloween wonderland, but, man, we at least got close to it the other evening at Van Cortlandt Manor’s Great Jack O’ Lantern Blaze.
The Blaze is located in the Hudson River Valley village of Croton-on-Hudson, just ten miles north of Sleepy Hollow, New York. For this annual event, they populate the 17th Century estate of Van Cortlandt Manor with some 5,000 lighted Jack-Os and then let you wander through them all with your mouth open and your index finger constantly pointing.
And we’re not just talking faces, although there are plenty of those leering at you throughout the estate. We’re talking scores of carved pumpkins attached together into large, multi-pumpkin creations and scenes. Skeleton dinosaurs, snakes thirty feet long slithering across the grounds. Oversized Jack-o-lantern Jack-in-the-boxes with working Jacks. Graveyards of carved tombstones and escaping skeletons. Giant webs with massive pumpkin spider skeletons. And monsters. Lots of monsters.
It’s actually a little hard to describe, especially when I have to use phrases like “pumpkin spider skeletons.” But one thing’s for sure. This is why the Old Testament God didn’t use pumpkins for one of his ten plagues. Because the Egyptians would’ve had a blast.
Some of the pumpkins were real. Others were artificial, most often in the more complex pumpkin constructions. All of them were lit and all of them, real or not, were carved on the Van Cortlandt premises, with the crew constantly carving new pumpkins to replace the rotting organic ones.
It’s also extremely crowded since it’s only open on a limited schedule, basically weekend evenings throughout the season and the full last week of October, along with a little bleed-over into November. You also have to buy tickets for specific time slots and buy them weeks in advance since this event sells out quicker than me the first time someone offers to advertise on OTIS.
But even with the crowds (and possibly somewhat because of it), the event is close to magical, with the perfect Halloween atmosphere that makes you want to break into This is Halloween or crack your voice like Leonard Nemoy’s Moundshroud, especially when you walk by groves of Halloween trees.
Despite the last 400 words, it’s also less the type of thing you write about and more the type of thing you look at pictures of. So here are too many of them: