Like Halloween itself, Jack-o’-Lantern Park holds a magic and a mystery that brings out the child in all of us. Our curiosity draws us in, our fears heighten our experience, and of course, we’re all after a good dose of monster mayhem.
Pay a visit to Jack-o’-Lantern Park and you’ll see. But it takes work to be voted the No. 1 Place Most Resembling Halloween With Its Curiosity, Fear and Monster Mayhem Factors for 100 years in a row, and the folks responsible for receiving the annual honor take us behind the screams so we can see how they do it.
“I’ve done my scream runs every night for 100 years straight,” said the Headless Horseman, who resides in Jack-o’-Lantern Park. “I missed only one night of all 100 years, and there was no way I could go out. I had the worst flu anyone has ever had. My fever was 475 -- and that was without the scorching pumpkin head. I had muscle aches, a headache to end all headaches and fatigue that wouldn’t let up. I couldn’t hold my food down either. I was bent over the creek all night spitting up pumpkin seeds like you wouldn’t believe, so there was no way I was gonna jump on a horse and ride around Headless Horseman Pass, screaming and laughing, and I certainly wasn’t going to cross the bridge into the human world of Sleepy Hollow to find lone riders to chase. How could I throw my pumpkin head at folks if I couldn’t even hold the thing?”
When asked why his scream runs are so important, Headless said it’s not only key to the atmosphere of Jack-o’-Lantern Park, it’s also the main reason Jack-o’-Lantern Park is the top Halloween destination in all of Transyl-vein-ia.
“Even if you can’t hear my iconic laugh,” Headless said, “which took me decades to perfect, there’s a type of aftertaste in the air from that laugh that drifts throughout the land. It’s not heard. It’s felt. And I’m not gonna lie -- it’s true magic. It’s what everyone claims they feel when they come here during Halloween season. I do that to our visitors. You’re welcome.”
However, the candy corners in the Candy Corn Fields claim they’re the ones responsible for the big draw of creatures in October.
“It’s the magic of mellowcreme that most monsters merrily must put in their mouths to make them feel mischievous and marvelous on Halloween,” said longtime candy corner, Candee Corn. “Count Dracula comes out every couple days during the season to collect candy for his casket and his constant need for candy consumption. He loves the little lovely pumpkin shapes, and loves the flavor lots more. Frankenstein’s Monster eats so many of our candy snacks that he gets sick to his stomach and loses his stiches. He can’t get enough. And then there are the werewolves that come way out here from Werewolf Woods or wherever. They don’t even worry if the candy corn is pumpkin-shaped or the traditional candy corn cones. They just gobble it up.”
Ask the Monsters Ball DJ and he’ll tell you monsters want music and dance, not candy or the Headless Horseman’s laugh.
“Candy’s nice and I’m all for the crazy horse rider, but that’s not anything compared to what I do here at the Ball,” DJ said. “And monsters don’t wanna run around terrorizing, moaning and groaning all the time either. We monsters wanna get our funk on, and I provide the venue and the environment to give them the release they need after chasing babysitters and reckless teenagers all night.”
Asked if the “Monster Mash” is still a hot track these days, DJ told us it is, but only in October.
“You can get away with playing it in during Halloween season, and ghosts and ghoulies will totally dig it,” he said. “But you play that record any other time of the year, and you’ll get thrown to the bird people in Raven Patch.”
Raven Patch is an underrated spot in Jack-o’-Lantern Park. Even the bird people there don’t think it’s what brings visitors to the area. But they welcome anyone to come anyway.
“We raven-humanoids invite you to the Worm Fields for our famous jumbo worms,” said Big Bird Man in a recent interview. “And please, don’t use my full name for this article. I don’t need any of those stupid Sesame Street jokes. Just call me Jim. Anyway, the price for our box of jumbo worms and a soft drink has remained set at $1.50 since the mid-80s, and we sell more than four times the number of jumbo worms sold at all the combined death matches at the Coliseum in Monster Island’s Gorgon Gorge every single year.”
According to Jack-o’-Lantern Press’s fact-checking service, Big Bird Man’s numbers aren’t even close to accurate. The Coliseum’s sales numbers for jumbo worms is through the roof, whereas those in Raven Patch are still on the floor, which goes to show that you just can’t trust a raven-humanoid named after a big, yellow, fluffy puppet.
In all truth, Jack-o’-Lantern Park isn’t even that busy during the Halloween season. According to the Jack-o’-Lantern Park Chamber of Commerce, most monsters are in the human world for the Halloween season by October 1st. So the Park is dead, and not in a good way. About the only place hopping in Jack-o’-Lantern Park is the Pumpkin Caves Spirit Club underneath the Pumpkin Patch, and most of the haunters going there are all retired.
If you didn’t know already, we jack-o’-lanterns are not the pumpkins themselves. We’re ghosts. We’re confined to one pumpkin a year and most of us suffer our deaths every November (either smashed after Halloween night, made into pies for Thanksgiving or we die of natural causes), but we’re reincarnated into a new, growing pumpkin on the day after our demise. In the early stages of our lives, we use our roots to go deep into the ground and pull nutrients away from other gourdes so we grow into bigger and better terrors. Though there are a few of us who lay on our sides so we grow deformed. The thought is that those who are deformed won’t get picked for Halloween or Thanksgiving, which keeps us from having to go through the carving process, the pumpkin pie process or the reincarnation process. I’m not gonna lie -- the reincarnation process sucks.
At nighttime in the patch, we float around and scare those wandering through the rows of pumpkins, but we can’t stray far from our pumpkin vessels and we feel everything our pumpkin vessels go through, whether we’re in the shell or not.
But it’s during the day that we go deep into our roots, down into the ground and into the Pumpkin Caves for the best daylife activities you’ll find anywhere. The place is known for its lack of TVs and clocks, making it the ultimate place for happy hour drinks that turn into daycaps.
Last year, the Pumpkin Caves Spirit Club operated as a speakeasy during pumpkin prohibition, which was the result of those who were sick of everything being artificially pumpkinized. Transyl-vein-ia banned all pumpkinizing machines, forcing the Pumpkin Caves (which is already underground) to go underground and illegally offer pumpkin-flavored goodies to those who had to have them.
Over the summer, we were happy to announce that our elected officials brought artificial pumpkinization back, and this year there will be more pumpkin-flavored goods on the market than ever before, hopefully doing away with the unnecessary deaths of pumpkins that were used last year to recreate the artificial pumpkin flavoring that so many individuals needed.
This is one in a series of TRAVEL STORIES from the 13 districts of Transyl-vein-ia. These stories run weekdays between August and September. Jack-o’-Lantern Press’s regular news and entertainment coverage will continue in October.