The Confederate Cemetery in Fayetteville / Staff photo
Whether it’s taking advantage of the milder weather that comes with fall, taking in the scenic beauty of the Ozark autumn, or creeping yourself out by visiting some spooky sites in Northwest Arkansas, there are so many things to do in this, the greatest of months.
October is here and this is the ultimate list of things to do now that fall is upon us.
Howl at the Harvest Moon
The autumnal equinox that happened the fourth week of September brings on one of the most noteworthy full moons of the year on Oct. 5, the Harvest Moon. This one will rise shortly after sunset and is named for the time of year farmers brought in their crops and looked for the full moon to know when the seasons were changing. We won’t see another one before Halloween, so enjoy this opportunity to go full Lon Chaney, Jr.
Horror movie pairing: The Wolf Man (1941)
Go Back in Time to NWA’s First College
Before there was a U of A, there was Cane Hill College, founded in 1834 about 20 miles southwest of Fayetteville. The school was the site of numerous fires and historical events, including a burning by Union troops in 1864. Rebuilt after its most recent probably arson in 1885, the school building has been marvelously restored by historic preservationists and is one of the oldest examples of pre-state architecture in the region. A grisly set of murders nearby created a mysterious vibe around the building and it’s a neat place to explore one of Arkansas’ oldest hauntings.
Horror movie pairing: The Faculty
Check In Where Many Never Checked Out
Two of the most historic hotels in Arkansas are a quick trip from Fayetteville in Eureka Springs. The Crescent Hotel and Basin Park Hotel each boasts its own set of unique otherworldly visitors. The Crescent in particular dates to 1886 and has a wild history that involves a pathological snake oil salesman and a number of guests who may have never left. Go, stay the night, do the tour and enjoy some of the best hospitality in the region.
Horror movie pairing: The Shining
Explore the Haunted Hangar
One of the most continuously haunted places in Northwest Arkansas is found at Fayetteville’s executive airport, Drake Field. The Arkansas Air & Military Museum is reported to have at least one male spirit – likely an aviator – who makes regular appearances. The site may have other ghosts associated with the historic aircraft, including military planes, that are housed in the building. This is a don’t miss site for Arkansas history and giving yourself the chills.
Halloween movie pairing: The Twilight Zone (1983), “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet”
Visit an Old Cemetery
Northwest Arkansas is old. Fayetteville itself is almost 200 years old and features a number of cemeteries that date back to its founding and the sometimes tumultuous history that surrounded it. Of special note are the Fayetteville National Cemetery and Confederate Cemetery, both in town. The small Walker family plot next to the Confederate cemetery is particularly creepy, and the woods just to the east have been referred to as “Ghost Hollow” for generations, with one apocryphal story about a bride whose dress caught aflame and was tragically killed. Her cries of pain still haunt the hollow, according to many.
A word of advice: cemeteries aren’t just places to go creep, however strong the temptation is. They’re solemn and historic locations, and if you visit the very old graves of a battlefield or national cemetery, use good manners and be respectful. Besides, you wouldn’t want to attract undue attention from lingering spirits anyway.
Horror movie pairing: Night of the Living Dead
Dance the Night Away
One of the best parties in Northwest Arkansas is the annual Halloween in the Hollow thrown at Crystal Bridges each year. This year’s event is on October 28 and features a number of spooky add-ons. The best part is being surrounded by a ton of great American art. The galleries are open, there’s live music and costume contests, and it’s one of the best spots to enjoy art, music, and spooky fun.
Horror movie pairing: The Relic
From Phantom Killer to Food Trucks?
Back in 1948, University of Arkansas freshman Henry Booker “H.B.” Doodie killed himself with mercury cyanide poison. Discontent to leave peacefully, he left a note directing investigators to a secret fountain pen, which contained the combination to a lockbox which itself contained a note confessing to the 1946 “Moonlight Murders” in Texarkana. Five people were killed during that spree, and another three were maimed – and the perp (who was never caught) was nicknamed “The Phantom Killer”. Doodie was never conclusively linked to the murders, though he left plenty of evidence to conclude he was very disturbed. The site of his self-inflicted death was 617 North College – the same location where the Fayetteville Yacht Club food trucks reside today. And hey, even if you don’t spot anything, you can grab a tasty bite of local fare.
Horror movie pairing: The Town That Dreaded Sundown, a 1976 film about the murders
Follow the Somber Path of Civil War Soldiers
Northwest Arkansas is home to two different sites where major engagements took place during the American Civil War. Both Prairie Grove Battlefield State Park and Pea Ridge National Military Park each saw more than 2,000 killed and wounded soldiers, and the combination of autumn’s falling leaves and the light fading quicker in the late afternoon can definitely lend itself to some eerie experiences at either battlefield. Again, respect is key at these sites, but if you want to put yourself in a place with documented tragedy and earth stained with sorrow, these battlefields are both historic and paranormal must-sees.
Halloween movie pairing: Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter
Northwest Arkansas and Missouri offer a few options to channel the Stanley Hotel’s hedgerow labyrinth by setting out to conquer a corn maze. One of the most popular is at Farmland Adventures on Parsons Road in east Springdale. This year’s maze is castle-themed, and you’ll have to work to navigate the path to victory. They also offer “flashlight nights” which should add an element of spookiness to your quest.
Halloween movie pairing: Children of the Corn
Give Yourself the Campus Creeps
Now one of the nicest hotel and restaurant options in Fayetteville, Carnall Hall and Ella’s Restaurant were once a women’s dormitory on the University of Arkansas campus. Its founder, Ella Carnall, was an English professor who died suddenly of typhoid fever, and might still be hanging around, floating the halls in a ball gown. Come for a visit, check out the campus history and the historic buildings nearby, and watch out for Miss Ella, still keeping an eye on things in the halls.
Halloween movie pairing: 1408
Escape Into the Stars
October has two different meteor showers with varying degrees of visibility and intensity. The Draconids peak on October 8th and the Orionids come a little later on the night of October 21st (after midnight). Use one of the online resources to find a great spot east of all the light pollution to escape into the foothills and gaze out into the great unknown. The truth is out there.
Halloween movie pairing: Alien
What Goes ‘Boo’ in Benton County?
Two places of note purport hauntings in Benton County. First, the historic Peel Mansion in Bentonville may be haunted by original owner Samuel Peel – but he might not be alone. His daughter, Minnie Belle, is said to still practice piano in the 1875 building, and the ghostly stirring of ivory keys can be heard in the night. Just down the road in Rogers, there is said to be a Civil War cavalry officer with unfinished business in the area. The Rader Road haunt has been spotted on horseback numerous times and is probably connected to the Pea Ridge battle mentioned above. Another site is just east of Rogers at War Eagle Mill, which dates back to 1832, but has been destroyed and rebuilt multiple times. The current building was constructed in the 1970s. Many visitors report sightings of spirits and Civil War soldiers.
Halloween movie pairing: Sleepy Hollow
Go Picking for the Perfect Punkin’
The season of the decorative gourd/pumpkin is upon us. Either perched on hay bale or carved up into a snaggletooth grin, picking the perfect pumpkin is one of the best traditions of fall. My favorite is the pumpkin “patch” at Sequoyah United Methodist Church on Old Wire Road in Fayetteville. Go find yourself a non-latte pumpkin and enjoy a flickering mischievous grin.
Halloween movie pairing: It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown
Will Watson is a nonprofit development officer, recovering political operative, and semi-pro Halloween enthusiast. He was appointed to two terms on the Fayetteville Historic District Commission, where he developed an interest in Fayetteville’s haunted history. You can follow him at @will_watson on Twitter.