text by Michael Horne

Above: Howl-O-Ween, a two-day event at Phoenix Zoo, will fall into two categories: scary and merry.


Whether you prefer scary movies, ghost stories and haunted houses or, if you’re just into celebrating the season with pumpkins, costumes and candy, there’s plenty happening this time of year. We’ve done our research and arrived at the ten Halloween-themed festivities in the Valley, so take your pick. 

A Vampire Tale 
October 4 -13

Dubbed “The Nutcracker of Halloween,” Scorpius Dance Theatre will once again stage this provocative work. Penned and produced by Lisa Starry, this sensual, yet scary, production portrays an innocent ingenue who’s led astray into the seductive underworld of vampires. The talented company will combine modern dance elements and aerial maneuvers. www.scorpiusdance.com

October 5-31

Now in its 10th year, the wicked words of the legendary Edgar Allan Poe will be celebrated in frightening fashion at spooky locales in downtown Phoenix. Trained performers will portray inmates in Poe’s fictional insane asylum while acting out scenes from such infamous Poe tales as The Cask of Amontillado, The Premature Burial, The Tell-Tale Heart and The Masque of the Red Death.

Performances of the stories will take place on Fridays and Saturdays from inside the Ghost Lounge at the Hotel San Carlos. Seances will be conducted on October 20 and October 27 at 10 p.m. And on Halloween night, The Raven will be recited every 20 minutes from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. at the Rosson House. www.poefest.com

Storyline Slam: Haunted
October 12

Based on the theme Haunted, local storytellers will serve up true tales of a twisted and terrifying nature during this slam-style event. Organized by The Storyline Collective and held at the Changing Hands Bookstore location in Phoenix, yarns will last six minutes. Sign up on www.TheStoryline.org  to tell a story. Eight names will be drawn from the Electronic Hat and posted the weekend before. Two additional names will be drawn live at the beginning of the show. The audience will award points for each participant and a cash prize will be awarded to the best storyteller. The tales begin at 7 p.m. www.changinghands.com

The Rocky Horror Picture Show 
October 13 & 19

Dripping with fishnets and leather, the late-night B-movie spoof The Rocky Horror Picture Show inducts attendees into a beloved, rowdy tradition. Expect all the usual zany activities of a Rocky Horror screening as aficionados of Frankie’s Fishnets, Arizona’s Rocky Horror Picture Show shadow cast, bring extra flair to the evening, with costume contests and prop kits to heighten the experience. Those who arrive scantily clad for the costume contest are encouraged to bring extra demure clothing to cover up, in case they run into their grandparents or a temperance league in the lobby. On both dates, the film starts at 11 p.m. www.thefilmbar.com

Haunted Phoenix Bus Tour
October 20

Join the unofficial Arizona Hip Historian, a.k.a. Marshall Shore, for a guided bus tour of historic graveyards, ruins and ghostly haunts in downtown Phoenix. The tour begins at the Clarendon, a boutique hotel with a wildly checkered past. Once the scene of the infamous Don Bolles murder, the hotel is home to various ghosts, including some recent and some longtime residents.

Riding shot will be Debe Branning. She is the director of AZ’s MVD Ghostchasers, author of several ghost books on haunted Arizona, and has appeared on the Travel Channel on an episode of Ghost Stories.

The tour will include a drive by of the historic Orpheum Theater, a visit to the Pioneer and Military Memorial Park, a peek inside the ruin of the historic First Baptist Church and a stop at the San Carlos Hotel. While the first tour of the day is sold out, there are two more scheduled to take place in the late afternoon and early evening.  https://us.eventbu.com

October 26 & 27 

For two days, the zoo will transform itself into a Halloween wonderland, filled with activities and distractions that will appeal to both the young and the young-at-heart.

Events at Howl-O-Ween will fall into two categories: “scary” and “merry.” The former, suggested for ages 8 and up, includes haunts at various locations at the zoo such as Zombie Rave – a gruesome dance party, House of Hazards  a construction zone that’s gone terribly wrong and Dr. Killgoode’s Lab of Screams where the deranged doctor specializes in evil experiments. 

“Merry” activities will include psychic and tarot readings, an extinct animal graveyard, the Monster Bash Dance Party, a Scare-ousel ride on a spider web-covered carousel, Crazy Crawlers Animal Encounters and lots of games.The festivities run from 6 to 10 p.m. on both nights.  www.phoenixzoo.org

Salt River Fields Balloon Spooktacular
October 26 & 27

A flotilla of 20+ hot air balloons will light up the night during this annual family-friendly Halloween event. There will be tethered balloon rides, fireworks, costume contests and, for those brave enough, a haunted trail to conquer. More than 4,000 pounds of candy will be handed out to trick-or-treaters on both days. Live music, food and  beverage vendors and a kids’ zone will add to the fun. www.azspooktacular.com 

Cave Creek Wicked
October 27 

The activities at this all day, all night Halloween extravaganza depend entirely on what time you attend. From 10 a.m. until 4 p.m., the focus will be on family-friendly activities like a pet costume contest, arts and craft demos and a costumed bike ride. From 2:30 p.m. – 6 p.m. ride along with other cyclists on the bike pub crawl. 

After sunset, things become more adult-oriented with a bar crawl starting at 7 p.m. through 2 a.m. that will include stops and costume contests at six Cave Creek bars and haunts including; Mountain View Pub, Big Earl’s Greasy Eats, The Hideaway, Buffalo Chip Saloon, Harold’s Corral, and Roadhouse. A free party bus will be operating to   transport those attending the bar crawl. www.cavecreekwicked.com

Nightmare on Princess Drive
October 27

Enter at your own risk…King Tut’s Tomb has been opened, and Egyptians reign the night! Join in the festivities at Scottsdale Princess Resort’s 9th annual Nightmare on Princess Drive, a spooktacular Halloween soirée. Arriving guests will make their way through murky fog to the stylish Plaza Bar, decked in dramatic fabrics and decorated with glowing candelabras and black roses. From 9 p.m. until the wee-hour of 2 a.m., dance to tunes spun by a live DJ and relax by the patio fire pits while enjoying specialty cocktails. Enter the midnight costume contest to win prizes including resort vacations and dinners at Bourbon Steak and La Hacienda. If you’re inclined  to stay over, the resort will offer party-goers a special room rate of $149. www.scottsdaleprincess.com

Phantom of the Opera
October 28

Travel back in time and experience movie going as it was in the golden age of silent movies in Phoenix’s only remaining movie palace, the beautiful Orpheum Theatre.  Each Silent Sundays program features a family enjoyable silent film classic with live accompaniment provided by world famous organist, Brett Valliant, on the Orpheum’s Mighty Wurlitzer Theatre Organ. The Silent Sundays 2018-2019 begins season opens October 28 with the classic silent horror film, Phantom of the Opera starring Lon Chaney. The screening begins at 2:30 p.m. www.SilentSundays.vots-atos.org