This Halloween weekend, Houston's chock-full of spots aiming to scare the hell out of you, or at least make you burn some serious calories running from Dracula, demons or, most terrifying, candy-chasing schoolkids. We suggest treating the young ones to festivities early on, then slipping into something a little bit more scandalous for some late-night romps. Six Flags AstroWorld (9001 Kirby, 713-799-1234) gets frightful this weekend with "Fright Fest," which features rides, spider-filled castles and the cruelest of kiddie fears: evil clowns. Or, head to the coast for Ghostly Gardens at the Moody Gardens complex (One Hope Boulevard, Galveston, 409-744-4673). As your little terrors scamper off to the pyramids, they'll be met by folks handing them bags of goodies. When the sugar high wears off, pacify them with an IMAX flick -- Haunted Castle and Dracula's Castle are playing.
The older crowd can hit blood-n-guts spots like the Carnage Haunted House in the Marq*E Entertainment Center (7620 Katy Freeway, 713-212-8666), where you'll run for 15 minutes and come out "screaming, sweating and hyperventilating," as the Carnage site boasts. Or, indulge your nightmares at Phobia, the Darke Institute (2720 Southwest Freeway, 713-460-0271). Look for "3-D Clown Phobia" (what is it with these clowns?), featuring a two-story set complete with lasers, special-effect lighting and animatronics. Keep screaming at ScreamWorld (2225 North Sam Houston Parkway, 713-914-1313), where you'll come face to face with your favorite movie monsters and villains at the "Edge of Darkness." Or, look for some real ghosts at Nightmare on the Bayou (1515 Studemont, 713-861-9080), where four ghosts are purported to haunt (rather conveniently) the four haunted houses there.
Still not shaking? Throw on some black lipstick and goth it up at Numbers Night Club (300 Westheimer, 713-526-6551) at 9 p.m. for the 13th annual Industrial Underground Vampire Ball. You'll encounter a concert with Bozo Porno Circus, a costume contest, haunted house and, most chilling of all: goths in their early forties. -- Steven Devadanam
Ghost groupies swear that Galveston is home to one of the country's biggest gatherings of otherworldly apparitions. And several tour companies have taken advantage of the ghostly glut, including Ghost Tours of Galveston, which offers a 90-minute walking tour of downtown's spirit-world secrets. Watch for Confederate soldiers who still wander the Strand, or get the creeps outside the Sealy Building, used as a temporary morgue after the Great Storm of 1900, where the moans of grieving family members can still be heard. No charge for goosebumps. Thursday, October 28, through Sunday, October 31, at the Galveston Railroad Museum, 25th and Strand. For tour schedule and information, call 409-949-2027 or visit www.ghosttoursofgalveston.com. $10. -- Greg Barr
Bob and Estella? Oops! Andrew and Jen? Our bad! ABC's The Bachelor is 0-for-5 in producing successful marriages, but in an almost William Shatner-esque way, it just keeps coming back. Hence the upcoming Houston-area casting call: Casting directors are looking for the next in-demand stud and his 25 bachelorettes. Show up at the audition with your fake tan, freakishly toned upper arms, an application and two recent photographs, and then stay from 5 p.m. on for an after-party with your potential rivals. Ready to be TV's next "Sweetheart," "Heartbreaker" or "Huge Bitch"? Of course you are. Otherwise, you'd be downright un-American. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, October 30. Hyatt Regency Downtown, 1200 Louisiana. For information, visit www.thebachelor.tv. Free. -- Julia Ramey
Peace of Pumpkin
The gentle, rotund pumpkin will take center stage at the first annual Pumpkin Peace Festival from the Community Artists' Collective. "Pumpkins symbolize this time of year, and peace and goodwill is the message," says the collective's Terry St. John. The festival will feature games, pumpkin carvings, arts and crafts booths, music, and food and drink. Several local artists will also have works on display -- but will they involve pumpkin innards? Find out at 11:30 a.m. Saturday, October 30. 1501 Elgin. For information, call 713-523-1616 or visit www.thecollective.org. Free. -- Bob Ruggiero