A look at some of Delaware’s haunted, hidden gems, along with nearby places to eat, for a fun and easy fall getaway that’ll add sugar and spice to your season.
New Castle County ghost tours
The crooked sidewalks paved with original, centuries-old brick. Picturesque views of historic homes framed by leering trees and the murky Delaware River. Shaded alleyways and eerie cemeteries right out of an Edgar Allen Poe story. This is Old New Castle, and these are some of the elements on the “Hauntings in History Walking Tours,” which tell of creepy death and funeral customs and other macabre tales and boast a tour of the legendarily haunted Amstel House, where the “Woman in Blue” lurks. The tours take place at 7, 7:30 and 8:30 p.m. Oct. 12-13 and 26-27. And if you really want to delve into the town’s haunted history, check out Delmarva Historic Haunts’ Paranormal Investigations (7:45 and 10:45 p.m. Oct. 19-20), during which you’ll help out with a little ghost hunting at the Amstel House, The Dutch House and the Old Library ($25; reserve by calling 302-322-2794). Have a bite to eat or water down your frazzled nerves with a beer at the historic Jessop’s Tavern (114 Delaware St., New Castle; 302-322-6111).
Meanwhile, in Wilmington, the “Ghosts in the Graveyard” tour offers a trip through the fascinating cemetery at Old Swedes Church (606 Church St., Wilmington; 302-652-5629), the site of many recorded ghost sightings in the 19th century. The tour features live actors who tell the tales, including the mystery of the late-night bell ringing at the church. Tours run from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Oct. 20 and Oct. 27 ($10; $6 for students ages 12-17), with a special sneak preview fundraiser with food, drinks and a special tour of the graveyard, from 6:30-9:30 p.m. Oct. 19 ($40 per person, $75 per couple). Downtown Wilmington and the Riverfront offer a slew of sensational restaurants, but the spirits are guiding our Ouija board toward Harry’s Seafood Grill (101 South Market St.; 302-777-1500).
Enchanted Woods in the Brandywine Valley
Winterthur Museum (5105 Kennett Pike, Wilmington; 800-448-3883) is one of the Brandywine Valley’s best-known treasures – the former estate of renowned collector Henry Francis du Pont houses one of the nation’s most important collections of early American artifacts and decorative arts. But while the museum has been thoroughly mined, the Enchanted Garden offers plenty more to explore for young ones and parents alike, including the children’s garden, Faerie Cottage, stone labyrinth and more. Make more discoveries with lunch or dinner at Pizza By Elizabeths, 3801 Kennett Pike, Greenville; 302-654-4478), where traditional pizza offerings sit side-by-side on a menu of wild yet sophisticated choices.
A fright and a bite
Those who have traveled through Delaware using U.S. 13 or Del. 1 have probably seen the giant skull on the barn just over the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal near Port Penn. If you went by this sprawling farm during the Halloween season, you’d see Frightland and its cornucopia of haunted attractions alongside a carnival with rides, games and the typical grandstand food fair. Frightland features a haunted hayride and several walk-through attractions, including the Attic, the Haunted Barn and the amped up (so to speak) Reedy Point Prison. For your last meal (just kidding, kind of), check out the Cajun grub at one of the area’s best-kept secrets, Saint Georges Country Store (1 Delaware St., Saint Georges; 302-836-8202), or the Miami-style eats at Aqua Sol Restaurant (3006 Summit Harbour Place, Bear; 302-365-6490), which overlooks the canal and the Summit North Marina.
Screaming by the sea
Screams at the Beach is the newly named and minted haunted attraction at Sports at the Beach (22518 Lewes Georgetown Highway, Georgetown), the massive sports complex near Georgetown. Organizers have kicked it up a notch this year, adding new attractions, increasing their cast to 70 actors and boosting their special effects. Screams at the Beach boasts five horrifying attractions - walk-throughs House of the Hallow and Pandemonium and a haunted hayride, Escape the Crimson Woods - set to scare the older kids and adults at night. For the younger kids, there’s All Hallows Farm, which features a gem mine, a carnival with air cannons and a pig race. There’s also a jumping pillow and a moon bounce. For dinner, swing through charming Milton for some Celtic-flavored eats and brews at Irish Eyes Pub & Restaurant (105 Union St., Milton; 302-684-8889).
Frights at Fort Delaware
It’s one thing to say this house or that building is inhabited by apparitions. But in 2008, the folks from Sci-Fi Channel’s “Ghost Hunters” made it official: Fort Delaware is haunted. Now you can follow in their footsteps and join some local real-life ghost-busters as they lead ghost tours through the one-time Civil War prison, on Pea Patch Island, which is accessible by ferry from Delaware City. Paranormal Investigations ($40) with investigators from Delaware Ghost Hunters Inc. will take place at 6:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. Sept. 28-29, Oct. 12-13, Oct. 20 and Oct. 26-27. Family tours and an extended tour that includes dinner will also be held at the site during the Halloween season. Chow down at Delaware City mainstay Crabby Dick’s (30 Clinton St.; 302-832-5100), which is right on the Delaware River.