HALLOWEEN HAUNTS ... There's lots of places to go in and around NKU for a good scare

'People love the paranormal because it presents that element of the unknown'

By Ryan Clark
NKU Marketing & Communications

MASON, Ohio – As the sun sets, just before the gates open, the macabre group of Scareactors huddle up, holding hands, to say their nightly “prayer.” It’s an odd sight – ghouls and animals and goblins bowing together. One repeats, and the others follow.

“I am one,” they say, “but not the only one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something.”

They get louder.

“And what we are gonna do here tonight,” they yell, “is scare! Scare! Scare! SCAAAARE!!”

Together, the fully made-up actors rush out to the park at Kings Island, where they interact with the population for the annual Halloween Haunt.

“It’s really powerful to watch,” says Burlington resident Bethany Ellen, a 20-year-old public relations major at NKU. As one of the so-called Scareactors, Bethany plays a blend of cat and girl. It takes up to 30 minutes to do her makeup and two other actors have to help do her hair. “The feeling of giving a good scare is literally the best. It validates all the time you spend prepping for the role in rehearsal, makeup, and all the time you spend in the rain and cold.”

And you never know what you’re going to get from Ellen.

“It's really fun because I get to play with all kinds of personalities and levels,” she says. “Occasionally I'm playful, occasionally I'm a downright beast. It all depends on what mood I'm in. I also get to do a lot of crawling and playing with levels for the role. That impacts my scares a lot. You always expect monsters at your face, but the ones at your feet will make you lose your mind.”

But Kings Island is just one place in the area where NKU students can go – or work – for Halloween scares. With no less than 10 haunted houses in the area, there are also other “haunted” places of note, including one called the “Gateway to Hell,” located just down the street.

‘Is this place haunted? Yes.’

At Bobby Mackey’s Music World – located at 44 Licking Pike in Wilder – patrons can take two-hour tours of what is supposedly one of the most haunted places in the world. A somewhat rundown, dank, honky-tonk bar owned by country music singer Bobby Mackey, the place has a history of violent legends and tall tales.

Kim Short, a tour guide at the bar, can show you around – if you don’t mind a few bumps in the night along the way.

“The hauntings date back to the 1700s,” she says. “Everybody associates this place with being where a slaughterhouse was, but the fact is, we really don’t know where the slaughterhouse really stood. It was probably more of a butcher shop.”

Still, yuck.

She says the site was definitely owned by gangsters in the early 1900s, and bikers after that, and some pretty gruesome stuff happened along the way, including – you guessed it – murder.

“Everybody always asks me – is this place haunted?” she says. “Are there angry ghosts here? Yes. There are.”

Chelsea Jones, a student at NKU since 2010, is a bartender at Bobby Mackey’s, and while she’s a believer, she stays out of the ghostly drama as much as possible.

“I've seen things upstairs and heard voices, but I've never been harmed. I love the people and I love the bar,” she says. “I stay out of all of it; I've never been in the basement. I don't know the story and I don't want to know it.”

Whether you’re off campus or on, there’s plenty of other ghostly stuff to see and do.

Ask former NKU student Michael Palmer.

Palmer, who attended NKU from 1995-2000, started his own paranormal research group, PINK (Paranormal Investigators of Northern Kentucky) in 2005. Together, he and his 10 investigators travel the region searching for spirits.

And yes, they have investigated Northern Kentucky University.

‘We all like a little scare.’

Every college has legends about hauntings and ghosts, and NKU is no different. In fact, some of these very places will be celebrating Halloween with parties in and around Oct. 31.

Those living in Callahan Hall say the basement is haunted by the elderly former tenants of the nursing home that used to occupy the building. The Corbett Theatre has its own legends about dead actors who’re still hanging around. For years, the elevators in the Lucas Administrative Building have continued to make mysterious, unrequested stops on the fourth floor. And the Fine Arts building, especially the band practice rooms, are believed to have ghostly activity, too.

But Palmer offers a unique perspective. He can actually say he has proof of activity.

“The one that stands out is that we recorded a single note being played on one of the marimbas in one of the practice rooms while no one was in there,” says the 39-year-old Walton, Ky., resident. “I have been privy to some pretty strange things.”

Bethany Ellen. (photo provided)

Get your scare on!

Local and NKU events include, but are not limited to:

- Haunted Houses:

  • USS nightmare in Newport, Ky.
  • Dent Schoolhouse in Cincinnati
  • Kings Island Halloween Haunt - Mason, Ohio
  • The Chambers of Horror - Middletown, Ohio
  • Land of Illusion – Middletown, Ohio
  • Sandyland Acres Haunted Hayride – Petersburg, Ky.
  • Mayhem Mansion – Morning View, Ky.

- Tours:

  • Queen City Underground Tour - Cincinnati
  • Newport Haunted Gangster ghost tour - Newport, Ky.
  • Bobby Mackeys Music World tour - Wilder, Ky.

- At NKU:

  • Oct. 22 – Callahan Honors Wing Party, 8 p.m.
  • Oct. 28 – Callahan Norse-a-Ween 5-7 p.m. (for the community)
  • Oct. 29 – Callahan Haunted House in the basement 7 – 11 p.m.
  • Oct. 31 -- Horror Movie Trivia, Norse Commons, 1-3 p.m.
  • Oct. 31 -- Halloween Movie Night, Family Worship Center, 97 Three Mile Road, Wilder, Ky., 6-10 p.m.
Michael Palmer. (photo provided)

But why do we want the scare? Why is it something some people look forward to all year?

“People love the paranormal because it presents that element of the unknown that gets your adrenaline pumping,” Palmer says. “We go to scary movies and ride roller coasters because of the thrill. I think that is part of human nature.”

He smiled.

“Whether we admit it or not,” he says, “we all like a little scare.”

The ghost of a young girl is said to haunt the basement of Bobby Mackey's. Investigators try to communicate using toys. (photo by Timothy Sofranko/NKU)