This weekend, Houston's haunted houses are going to be jumping ... and screaming ... and super-busy, so take a few minutes to plan out your visit . We suggest you get a head-start on the fun and try Friday night for slightly less overwhelming crowds.
Houston does haunted houses exceptionally well. There are lots to choose from with Nightmare on the Bayou, Phobia and Screamworld topping our list of favorites.
Looking for super spooky? Get ready for your heart to skip a beat and the creeps to crawl under your skin at Nightmare on the Bayou, located right next to Houston’s oldest graveyard along the bayou. The 15,000-square-foot maze of high-intensity attractions claims to be the only haunted house in Houston that’s really haunted. Find out for yourself as you make your way through the twists and turns, filled with serious freaky actors and potential spirits drifting throughout. The haunt takes about 60 to 90 minutes to get through, depending on the lines. Children under ten must be accompanied by an adult.
Phobia has an all-new location. The horror factory features two houses and a total of five killer attractions. Hold onto whichever poor soul is next to you as you make your way through the Dawn of the Machine, the Genetic Nightmare and the Exile — a three-part journey through a deadly packing plant, contaminated savage ground and a dark lab dubbed “Contagion.”
And over at Screamworld, the blood-tingling attractions range from an old-school slaughterhouse to a seriously creepy “clown asylum maze,” where strobe lights disorient you as a pack of prowling evil clowns hunt you down. If that doesn’t get a scream out of you, we don’t know what will.
Nightmare on the Bayou, 1515 Studemont, 7 to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. For information, visit nightmareonthebayou.com. $22 to $45. Phobia, 5250 South Sam Houston Parkway East. Friday and Saturday. For information, visit darke.com. $15 to $30. Screamworld, 2225 North Sam Houston Parkway West. 7 p.m. to 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday. For information, visit screamworld.com. $25 to $29.
Want to spook yourself with a proper ghost tour this season? Okay, you'll have to drive over to Galveston, but wow, is it worth it. The nationally recognized paranormal expert Dash Beardsley’s Original Ghost Tour on the Strand delves into the haunting past of Galveston’s historic downtown district. Beardsley himself leads the tours on Friday and Saturday.
Along with the Original Ghost Tour on the Strand, other options include the Restless Spirits Tour, which homes in on the island’s stories and reports of paranormal activity; the Secret Society Cemetery Tour, in which you’ll take a haunting and historic journey through one of the area’s oldest cemeteries; and the Jack The Ripper Mystery Island Tour, where you’ll hear compelling evidence that the legendary Jack the Ripper may have actually killed on this very island. (Yep, that Jack the Ripper.)
Beardsley doesn't promise you'll see any ghosts, spirits or other otherworldly beings on the tour but even if you have a spook-free visit, you'll have plenty of fun.
Go ghost hunting with Dash Beardsley at 7:30 Friday and Saturday. ghosttoursofgalvestonisland.com. $20
Also on Saturday is the popular Montrose Pub Crawl. The historic, shady streets of Montrose are practically made for Halloween, so it’s only natural to celebrate with the freaktastic annual event, dubbed “Vampire Mardi Gras” and “Satan’s Fourth of July.” Now in its ninth year, Montrose’s very own Halloween party has become a cult classic. The night combines a traditional pub crawl with the spirit of trick or treating, as costumed partygoers make their way through 12 restaurants and bars between Dunlavy and Montrose on Westheimer — starting at Pistolero’s, Poison Girl and the Free Press Graveyard and heading to Boondocks, Stone’s Throw, Etro Lounge, Catbirds, Royal Oak, Doc’s Motorworks, Slick Willie’s, Hay Merchant and El Real Tex-Mex. The idea is to keep crawling to Slick Willie’s for the costume contest finals at midnight, but everyone is free to get there at his or her own pace. As always, there’ll be no covers and no tickets, with drink specials running all night long.
The Montrose Pub Crawl starts at 7 p.m. Saturday. 1505 Westheimer. For information, visit montrosecrawl.com. Free.
Okay, we figure that by Sunday, everyone will be ready for a little non-Halloween fun. Maybe even a little high art. We've got you covered.
Perfect for a Sunday visit is the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston's “Pleasure and Piety: The Art of Joachim Wtewael (1566–1638).” It's the first exhibit ever devoted solely to the works of this master of the Dutch Golden Age. The scenes Wtewael depicts aren't necessarily happy or cheerful, but there's no doubt, it's high art.
“We found out some interesting aspects about some of the objects,” says James Clifton, director of the Sarah Campbell Blaffer Foundation and curator in renaissance and baroque painting at MFAH. Two paintings, both titled The Annunciation to the Shepherds, are nearly identical and will be displayed side by side so that viewers can note the subtle differences. “The Houston painting and the painting from the Rijksmuseum are almost identical. We’re going to have monitors set up, so the monitors will show things like X-rays and infrared photographs.
“Like a number of other artists, he was comfortable painting religious, mythological and erotic subjects. Some of the biblical subjects are somewhat erotic as well. It might seem odd to modern viewers — even disturbing to modern viewers — that he was adept at both, but it wasn’t unusual.
“He was a fabulous miniaturist,” says Clifton. “They’re meant for personal delectation. It’s an intimate viewing experience; people would hold them in their hand. They could be erotic, not necessarily so, but often are. He must have been using single-hair brushes. But he’s also able to translate his style into a much larger format.
“There are about 35 paintings and about seven drawings,” says Clifton. “The first gallery has the portraits, the second gallery the religious pictures and the third gallery will be the mythological. Even though he painted these strange sort of contorted, mannered pictures, he also was a wonderful observer of reality.”
See “Pleasure and Piety: The Art of Joachim Wtewael (1566–1638)” 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays; 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursdays; 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; 12:15 to 7 p.m. Sundays. Through January 31. Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 1001 Bissonnet. For information, call 713-639-7300 or visit mfah.org. $15.
Another suggestion we have for Sunday is the tragic opera Eugene Onegin, which Houston Grand Opera is presenting for its second opera of this season. In it, a young Tatyana sees Eugene Onegin for the first time and falls in love. She declares her feelings in a letter to him and he rejects her. Onegin is visiting with his best friend, Lensky, who is engaged to Tatyana’s sister Olga. A birthday party follows where a jealous Lensky gets into a fight with Onegin, who’s dancing with Olga. It escalates into a deadly duel that neither man can see his way out of despite second thoughts all round. And so it goes in the thwarted-love, dramatic opera.
American Norman Reinhardt sings the Lensky role and describes his character as: “Fun. He’s not the smartest; he’s not the cleverest, which is pretty normal for a tenor. They usually aren’t.” The plot itself doesn’t make a lot of sense from time to time, he says, but the music by Tchaikovsky makes it wonderful.“I think it’s a great piece and I think the story is at least somewhat accessible,” Reinhardt says. “Again, it doesn’t always make sense because Lensky’s jealousy is not in any way logical. Because Onegin hasn’t really done anything. Neither of them has really done anything so terrible in reality to produce a duel.”
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Reinhardt, who grew up in North Carolina and spent five years using Germany as a home base, has just settled in Houston. As Lensky, Reinhardt doesn’t get to make it to the final part of the opera (but he does especially like the music in his death scene), by which time Tatyana has transformed herself and is married to Prince Gremin, who is very happy with her. But then Onegin pops up again, realizes he does love Tatyana and she still loves him. But being honorable, she rejects him.
Bring out the hankies. If the story doesn’t get you, the music will.
Eugene Onegin is sung in Russian with English projections at 7:30 p.m. October 30, November 7, 10 and 13; and 2 p.m. November 1. Wortham Theater Center, 501 Texas. For information, call 800-626-7372 or visit houstongrandopera.org. $15 to $357.50.
Brooke Viggiano, Bill Simpson , Susie Tommaney and Margaret Downing, contributed to this post .