Decked out in old-time Halloween decor, Greenfield Village at the Henry Ford takes on an eerie feel. Colorful characters and spooky decorations greet visitors at every turn. The goodie bags and treat stations add a festive touch.
Four-foot-tall monsters, vampires and princesses chatter excitedly as families congregate at the entrance to Greenfield Village. Tonight’s Hallowe’en festivities are sold out, which means 7,000 goblins, gremlins and their parents will follow a path lined by 800 glowing hand-carved jack-o’-lanterns.
As the gates to this living history museum open, witches and warlocks’ eyes open wide in anticipation. The energy rubs off on me as I snap pictures of pirates, ghosts and fairies.
The children dash along the path along cobblestone streets and past storied houses and redbrick buildings. Gas lamps cast an eerie glow over the scene. Laboratories are lit with colorful gelled lights. Beakers and test tubes bubble and overflow with fluorescent liquid. There is smoke, fog and lasers. Cannon shots boom from a pirate ship. Talking ghoulish faces project onto brick walls.
The grim reaper looms over a split rail fence. He seems to glide on ball bearings toward me while sharpening his scythe on a metal file. The sound is long and unnerving. No time to mess with death, I move on.
Not everything here is dead. We interact with costumed greeters—wizards, witches, gypsies and mad scientists—standing in the center of the street working the passing crowd. Colorful and elaborately tailored, there is a theatrical exaggeration to these characters.
A one-eyed pirate offers to help a mourning widowed ghost find her lost husband. Others join the search for the beast when a vengeful constable calls for help from a nearby porch. Tinker Bell serves up Ichabod Crane to the headless horseman in an interactive faux pas. I am hungry and my muscles begin to ache from the cold, but all the kids are happy, not a single one seems phased by the chilly air or their grumbling tummies.
I move on to a gathering of children eagerly anticipating the dramatic telling of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. The speaker arrives in a Paul Revere-inspired costume. He paces. He turns. He starts the tale in a baritone. The children move forward in their seats. I stay low so as to not distract. His voice rises and descends with the tale. I sit behind the children capturing shots with their heads framing the speaker. They don’t even know I am there. Haunting descriptions bellow from the speaker. These words will inspire a few nightmares tonight.
Todd Zawistowski, Michigan Travel Ideas contributor, is originally from Grand Rapids, Michigan but currently resides in Rapid City, Michigan. He has been a staff photographer for Traverse, Northern Michigans’ Magazine and Northern Home and Cottage for ten years. He has also contributed to Outdoor Life. Todd’s favorite part about Hallowe’en at Greenfield Village was the detail in the costumes and sets.