“I think I peed a little.”

A scared little girl after going on the haunted hayride at Boone Hall

Too early for creeps: Vickery’s hosts spooky, ooky exhibition

It was the right setting for creepiness, artful creepiness at that. Phillip Hyman and his cohorts had decked the walls of Vickery’s Bar and Grill with all manner of Halloween-themed artwork, from Chuck Keppler’s homage to Mexico’s Day of the Dead to Hashenda Baxter’s severed head — a doll’s head, that is — creating the perfect backdrop for the bar’s legendary costume party. Hyman rounded out the trio with tributes to the Wicked Witch of the West and the Creature from the Black Lagoon. The subject matter for the Creeps Come Out at Night exhibition was as campy and kitschy as the materials used to create them were impromptu and thrifty: Some of Hyman’s paintings were made of found bits of wood and leftover car paint. Though there were a few costumed viewers present to enjoy the art, I was assured they’d be there. Then again, at seven o’clock it was too early for the creeps to come out of their dark lairs. —John Stoehr

The Gig of Eden

“I can’t think of a better place,” says my buddy Dave as we pull out of the Lake Eden Arts Festival on Sunday night, near Black Mountain, N.C. We steal one last glimpse of the valley lake, set amongst crimson and yellow hills, glowing in the day’s waning light. Maybe it’s the natural beauty of the aptly-named setting or the brisk, star-filled nights that led him to say that. Maybe it was the constant echo of drums all weekend, or Doc Watson’s Sunday afternoon set, or the impromptu jam sessions that spring up across the grounds, pairing everything from dulcimers to didgeridoos.

Art, visual and sonic, is ubiquitous at LEAF, from the vendors and performers to the wildly adorned festival-goers themselves. Surprises are constant, like the five guys from the Boulder Acoustic Society playing an impromptu busk after a fire dancer show lit up the lake. Their clever sing-along for an ex-girlfriend, “If You See Kay,” (say it aloud) had us naughtily singing along all night.

The only tough decision at LEAF is when to sleep. After finally arriving at 11 p.m. on Friday, reuniting with old friends, and waltzing the night away to the Louisiana-bred Pine Leaf Boys, it was nearly sunrise when the excitement settled enough to lie down. At dawn, after an hour of rest, we awoke. Had I napped that afternoon, I’d have missed reggae-funksters Spiritual Rez working their crowd into a frenzy, yelling “Set your mind free!” in full volume unison. I might not have soared over the crowd on the zip line into the lake. If I’d retired after contra dancing and Spearhead’s Michael Franti on Saturday night, I’d have missed the drum circle and bonfire up on the mountain.

Groggy as I was, with only a few hours of sleep to prop my head up, I found a place in the front row for Doc Watson’s festival-closing set, overwhelmingly happy and impressed to hear the 84-year-old flatpicking master not skip a beat through “Shady Grove,” “House of the Rising Sun,” and “Summertime.” I was reminded of Seldom Scene guitarist Dudley Connell, who told me at Chazzfest that Doc once identified the year and model of their tour bus by feeling the window vents. Blind all his life, Doc sees more than most of us.

At a rest area along the interstate, grinning at the unresponsive trucker washing his hands next to me, I realized that I was back in the harsh, real world. There’s a contented feeling LEAF provides that inspires the constant exchange of smiles as you walk from place to place and pleasantly realize that no one is a stranger.

If life was always like LEAF, we’d all love a lot more. But maybe it takes life to appreciate LEAF. —Stratton Lawrence

Creepy McPhotog Visits Hokus Pokus: Conversations with a paranoid banana

You’d think that local costume shop Hokus Pokus would have been packed with people posing in costumes before their friends and family in an effort to figure out just exactly what they were going to wear on Halloween night. Apparently all of that happens behind closed doors in the dressing rooms. Who knew? I waited for someone to come out and test-drive a potential costume, but I ended up being that creepy guy hanging around the dressing rooms with a camera.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the store, I found these two guys searching for that perfect costume; one was dressed as a banana, another as a beer bottle. (Insert penis joke here … or not.) The conversation went like this:

Me: Hey guys, can I get your names for the paper?

Banana: Mine name’s Rob (blank).

Beer Bottle: Um … my name’s Dan, no Bobby. No last name.

Banana: Yeah, scratch my last name off.

Me: Why? It’s just a Halloween picture. I’m not the FBI.

Banana: Um … my dad’s a lawyer, so I don’t want my last name in there.

Me: Huh? Um, whatever.

So, here is Rob the banana. —Joshua Curry

Back to Black: Scary times at Boone Hall

Let’s say you want to put on a haunted house, the kind of faux-real life horror show that will cause adults to wet their knickers and kids to have nightmares for the rest of their lives. What’s the one thing that you need to make that happen? Fake blood? Strobe lights? Antibiotic resistant staph-covered cotton-ball cobwebs? Sure, all of those things are good, but none of them are more essential than black curtains. Think about it: the sound effects, the Styrofoam tombstones, the attention-whore teens posing as Jason, Freddy, Amy Winehouse — none of that is actually scary. But black curtains? Man oh man, that’s scary stuff. It goes like this: You see the black curtains. You know somebody is behind them. And you know that somebody is going to jump out at you with a rubber machete in hand. But here’s the kicker: You don’t know when. Before you get to where the curtains are? After you walk past them? Or right exactly when you’re walking through the next set of black curtains to get to the next room? Fortunately, the folks at the Boone Hall Plantation’s Towers of Terror Haunted House know this, which is why they continue to put on one of the truly chicken skin-inducing fright fests around. Think running-into-a-mayoral candidate-at-a-convenience-store-counter-with-two-Twinkies-in-his-hand scary. —Chris Haire

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