Random Ephemera

Your Contactless Houston Halloween Fun Guide

Decide the outcome of a horror movie with the Dark Pictures Anthology.
Decide the outcome of a horror movie with the Dark Pictures Anthology. Screengrab from Little Hope
Because of COVID, this year I plan to spend Halloween trapped in my house, afraid to venture out lest unseen forces come out of the darkness to kill me. I’ve got to tell you; it’s really helping me connect with my Irish roots! There’s not much practical difference between a Dullahan and some maskhole infecting people at Ye Olde Pumpkin Patch.

Joking aside, though, I’m very bummed out. Halloween is my favorite time of year and 2020 is such an unending cat puke of a year I don’t even feel safe taking my kid trick ‘r treating in the apartment complex (although if you want a guide on safely doing that, Jeff "With Two Fs" Balke has you covered). This year has necessitated getting creative. So, here’s the skinny from Jef’s Sad Boy Spooky To-Do List For Terrified Shut-Ins A-Scared of the Plague.

Virtual Ghost Tours

The local haunted house industry was already in shambles this year between Scream World shutting down earlier this year and Nightmare on the Bayou closing before that. However, some of the world’s most famous haunted places are getting into the virtual tour game.

My personal favorite is the Winchester Mystery House video tour, which is well-worth the $5.99 rental fee. The House is the famously offbeat home of Sarah Winchester, who built it specifically to confuse and confound the ghosts of the people killed by her late husband’s famous rifles. Slightly less impressive from a technological perspective, you can visit the Paris Catacombs full of corpses online as well. It’s basically a haunted Google street view, but it is at least free.

Oh, and if you’re missing The Wilde Collection this season as much as I am (it is so hard to buy bird skulls while also supporting local businesses), then head over the online section of the Mütter Museum. They have an interactive exhibit of medical malformation models including syphilitic faces and giant eyeballs. It’s slightly janky to navigate, but wonderfully gruesome.

Haunted Car Wash

For the past few years, GFY Express Car Wash has run a haunted car wash service. The wash is flooded with smoke and popular horror characters like Jason Voorhees will emerge to terrify riders. It’s a fairly low budget affair, and not nearly a replacement for a proper professional haunt, but for $20 and not having to leave the safety of your car plus a wash it's not a bad price at all. The company suggests that you bring snacks as the lines get long.

The Island of Dolls

Hey, would you like to play hide and seek with creepy dolls that appear in every corner of your peripheral vision?! No?! Uh, then don’t open the package I sent you.

Out in the Settlers Village neighborhood in Katy, Brenda Haynes has covered her home in dozens of creepy dolls that hide in trees, dangle from balconies, and just all around slowly crawl toward you when you are not looking. Now you can drive by her house and see her collection. Now you can drive by her house and see her collection. She picks them up from thrift stores and locks them in the attic most of the year until it’s Halloween.

“That’s when I let them out to feed on the flesh of the unwary and innocent so that their eldritch power is contained until next harvest,” she absolutely did not tell KHOU.

Group Scary Movie Watch

One of the things I miss the most is going out to see a scary movie in the theater. Having people around you reacting to the action makes the whole thing more enjoyable, and I was really looking forward to doing that with Antlers.

Still, it’s actually never been easier to set up a group movie watch online. I prefer the Gaze service because it’s very Facebook-centric, but it’s really only one of the many ways that you can do a watch with friends. Whether you decide to check out a sleek new masterpiece, a schlocky so-bad-it’s-good cheese fest, or even try to recreate the wonderful madness of the Rocky Horror Picture Show over high-speed internet, you can at least do it together.

Dark Pictures Playthrough

Supermassive Games has really re-defined the possibilities of the horror video game genre, and they offer a hell of a way to spend the Halloween evening. The Dark Pictures Anthology has two games, Man of Medan (out now) and Little Hope (releasing October 30). The first lets you explore a haunted ship, and the second is about a mysterious town with a history of witch hunts. The thing that really sets the games apart is the co-op modes, although single player is available. Play can be done at home by passing the controller between chapters in order to determine the possibly gruesome fates of the characters, or you can be linked with an anonymous player online who will partially determine what happens in the story. It adds a lot of replay value to the game and makes play incredibly tense. They are, in my opinion, the best horror game experience around and both games together are on special right now.

None of these are going to replace the joy of going out to haunt the night ourselves, but it’s good to know that the spooky season can be kept going with just a little bit of planning.
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Jef Rouner (not cis, he/him) is a contributing writer who covers politics, pop culture, social justice, video games, and online behavior. He is often a professional annoyance to the ignorant and hurtful.
Contact: Jef Rouner