Say it carefully now: Phantasmagoria.
After a few tries, it does roll off the tongue. It’s a concept that goes back centuries, a word used for early ghost shows and seances, when troupes used projectors to create phantasmic images on a screen to thrill audiences.
Now, in true St. Louis form, Phantasmagoria comes to the Mississippi River.
On Friday, the Riverboats at the Gateway Arch debut a new Ghost Cruise featuring the Phantasmagoria theater troupe. Performances run through Nov. 3 aboard the Becky Thatcher paddlewheeler.
The troupe's five actresses will perform spooky classics such as "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" and Edgar Allan Poe’s "The Tell-Tale Heart," as well as stories about the Lemp Mansion, mysterious ghost ships on the Mississippi and an original tale about the ghost of the Becky Thatcher.
Why is Phantasmagoria here? Because of a yearslong friendship between Robert Hopkins, who became the riverboats' director of operations a little more than a year ago, and John DiDonna, the director of Phantasmagoria, which he started 10 years ago in Orlando, Fla.
Hopkins’ family ran a dinner cruise operation out of Sanford, Fla. DiDonna had created an original comedy wedding show that ended up running for four years on the cruises there.
When Hopkins moved to St. Louis, he proposed bringing along the wedding show, and they did. Meanwhile, DiDonna, who had grown up loving horror, created Phantasmagoria, a traveling company that incorporates stage combat, puppetry, fire dancing and sword-swallowing. About 70 actors perform in troupes between Orlando, Atlanta and now St. Louis.
“It’s not done in a hokey way," Hopkins says. "It’s very classily done. There’s a slight bit of humor. It’s kind of haunting and spooky in that you are kind of thinking about the stories that build and build, and get you on the edge of your seat and get you to the climax.”
The shows are suitable for ages 13 and up.
The performers in the St. Louis show — Carol Ann Miller, Elizabeth Dunn, Emily Rice, Melissa Harlow and Suzanne Bettonville — are local. All but Rice performed in the wedding show.
None of the actors knew what Phantasmagoria was when they started, DiDonna says, but they took to it beautifully. “They’re phenomenal,” he says. “They’re family.”
DiDonna lives in Sanford but has traveled here for the shows. He had never been to St. Louis before that.
“I love being here,” he says. “When I saw it, I thought, ‘Oh my God, it really is an arch.' It’s huge. It’s all new for me.”
Riverboats at the Gateway Arch plan to include Phantasmagoria in programming year-round, adding it to other shows that Hopkins started this year: PJs and Pancakes, Docktails happy hour, Dock of Love and Decked Out Divas. Hopkins hopes this makes the Becky Thatcher and Tom Sawyer boats more of a destination than just a simple river outing.
DiDonna already is researching for next year’s show, eager to uncover the secrets St. Louis is willing to share.
What Phantasmagoria Ghost Cruise • When 8:30-10 p.m. Oct. 4, Oct. 18 and Nov. 1; 6:30-8 p.m. Oct. 6, Oct. 13, Oct. 20 and Oct. 27 • Where Riverboats at the Gateway Arch, 50 South Leonor K. Sullivan Boulevard • How much $28, reservations required • More info 1-877-982-1410; gatewayarch.com
Get in the spirit with dozens of other Halloween attractions
🕷️ HAUNTED HOUSES 🕷️
Six Flags Fright Fest
Six Flags St. Louis has creaked open its coffin lids for Fright Fest, which continues on weekends through Nov. 3. Little ones should be able to handle the spooky decor during the day, but the real zombies come out at night. New this year: Oddball’s Funhouse, the Vampire’s Lair, Skeleton Street and new locations for the Blood Bank Lounge and Camp Killamore.
When Fridays-Sundays, through Nov. 3; various times • Where Six Flags St. Louis, 4900 Six Flags Road, Eureka • How much $45 and up • More info sixflags.com
This “screampark” features 13 different themed areas and a haunted hayride for one entry price. This year the attraction adds Brigantine Asylum and the Monster Midway with Zombie Axe Throwing, Zombie Paintball and a Tomb Escape.
When Through Nov. 2 • Where Creepyworld, 1400 South Old Highway 141, Fenton • How much $25 and up More info • scarefest.fearticket.com
Lemp Brewery Haunted House
Go deep underground, through limestone caves and mazes to come face to face with demons in the House of Occult. The attraction this year is twice as long. The defunct Lemp Brewery was owned by the Lemp family, whose mansion is next door.
When Through Nov. 2 • Where Lemp Brewery Haunted House, 3500 Lemp Avenue • How much $25 and up • More info lemphauntedhouse.com
Eureka Fear Farm
Take a ride on Farmer Bob’s Haunted Hayride, and get lost inside Red’s Corn Maze Massacre — there’s more than 100 acres of terror to explore. For an extra $15, shoot zombies and other creatures at Haunted Paintball.
When 7 p.m.-midnight Fridays-Saturdays, through Oct. 26 • Where Brookdale Farms, 8004 Twin Rivers Road, Eureka • How much $20 and up; cash only • More info brookdalefarmsinc.com
Now in its 26th year, the Darkness opens with a renovation that includes a Skull Kingdom, where the Army of the Dead likes to hang out, as well as a soul-stealing nun. Two floors of scares include a live zombie experience, an area filled with insane clowns and a party room with pinball, an escape room and a replica electric chair. Guests can also visit the St. Louis Escape Rooms next door.
When Through Nov. 2 • Where The Darkness, 1525 South Eighth Street • How much $25 and up • More info thedarkness.com
👻 HAUNTED HISTORY 👻
Spirits of the Past
Walk the paths of historic Lindenwood Park by lantern-light, and listen to "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" and murder ballads at the chapel. The Historic Daniel Boone Home, where the frontiersman died in 1820, is the centerpiece of the village.
When 6-10:30 p.m. Oct. 19 • Where Historic Daniel Boone Home, 1868 Highway F, Defiance • How much $6-$10 • More info 636-798-2005; sccmo.org
The most notorious mansion in St. Louis (three members of the Lemp family committed suicide there) is now a restaurant and inn, and its owners cultivate stories of the home's hauntings. The mansion throws a big Halloween bash Oct. 26, and visitors can attend tours, where a guide attempts to communicate with the dead.
When Tours Oct. 16, Oct. 23, Oct. 30; party Oct. 26 • Where Lemp Mansion, 3322 DeMenil Place • How much $35 for tours; $70 for party • More info lempmansion.com
Campbell House Museum
Combine spinning candles and apples, a Victorian-era mansion and beer history, and you’ve got the Campbell House Museum’s Snap Apple night. Explore the historic home after dark, learn about Scotch-Irish customs and folklore, and learn about beer and spirits. At Campbell House by Candlelight, learn with the Mourning Society of St. Louis, sample funeral biscuits and see how the mansion was decorated for Robert Campbell’s 1879 funeral.
When Snap Apple night is 5-8 p.m. Oct. 18; Campbell House by Candlelight is 6-8 p.m. Oct. 25 • Where Campbell House Museum, 1508 Locust Street • How much Snap Apple night is free; Campbell House by Candlelight is $15 • More info campbellhousemuseum.org
The denizens of Sappington House come alive for a series of house tours, where visitors can experience the Father Dickson Cemetery, and hear an 18th-century surgeon describe what he does with leeches and rusty hacksaws. Enjoy bonfires, cider and s’mores, too.
When 6:30-8:30 p.m. Oct. 18-19 • Where Sappington House, 1015 South Sappington Road, Crestwood • How much $7, $1 for children under 12 • More info 314-822-8171; historicsappingtonhouse.org
Frederick Bates, Missouri’s second governor, is waiting to meet visitors at An Evening in the Cemetery. Tour Bates’ home and the family cemetery, where he was buried 193 years ago. Docents in historic costumes will talk about mourning practices and superstitions. The home, Thornhill, is part of a village of 18 historic structures from around St. Louis County.
When 6:30-9 p.m. Oct. 18-19 • Where Thornhill at Faust Park, 15185 Olive Boulevard, Chesterfield • How much $5, free for children under 4 • More info 314-615-8332, 314-615-4386; stlouisco.com
Haunted Belleville Walking Tour
The St. Clair Historical Society appreciates a spooky story. For the third year, it's arranged haunted walking tours around town, this year with more in-depth tales and more chances to go inside historic buildings — if you dare.
When 6-9 p.m. Oct. 16-17, 6-10 p.m. Oct. 18-19 • Where Meet at Victorian Home Museum, 701 East Washington Street, Belleville • How much $20 (includes T-shirt) • More info 618-234-0600; hauntedbellevilletour.eventbrite.com
Alton is known as one of the most haunted small towns in America, and there’s no lack of books, ghost hunts and stately mansions to try and convince you. Troy Taylor has written more than 125 books about ghosts, crime and the unexplained in America, and several of them are about Alton. He owns American Hauntings, a company that offers hunts, tours and excursions across the country, including in Alton. There are plenty of walking and bus tours to choose from.
When Fridays and Saturdays, through Nov. 2; some tours are available year-round • Where Depart from various locations in Alton • How much $27-$52 • More info altonhauntings.com
🍬 FUN FOR THE KIDS 🍬
Grant’s Farm pulls out the pumpkins and cornstalks on the weekends. During the day, little ones can celebrate at the Fall Fest, with a kid fun zone that includes a corn play box, a sand box, farm equipment for climbing, and a corn maze and pumpkin patch. For Halloween Nights, ride through the decorated deer park, and let the spooky glow of jack-o'-lanterns guide you.
When Various times Thursdays-Sundays, through Oct. 27 • Where Grant’s Farm, 10501 Gravois Road • How much free admission, $6 for kid fun zone, $15 parking • More info grantsfarm.com
The Magic House knows kids, and it knows most may not like a true haunted house. The museum's Not-So-Haunted House, during regular hours, includes favorite storybook characters but no candy.
When Oct. 20-22, Oct. 27-19 • Where Magic House, 516 South Kirkwood Road, Kirkwood • How much Free with $12 admission • More info magichouse.org
Dogs are welcome at Purina Farms' Howl-o-ween Fest and Trunk or Treat for Kids. (And a costume won’t hurt!) Visit farm animals and watch Frisbee-catching canines while enjoying Halloween decor and activities. No reservations are necessary (except for large groups) for Howl-o-ween Fest; dogs and humans must be registered for Trunk or Treat.
When Fest is Oct. 18-20 and Oct. 25-27; Trunk or Treat is Oct. 19 and Oct. 26 • Where Purina Farms, 500 William Danforth Way, Gray Summit • How much $15 per car, includes fest activities; $10 per child for Trunk or Treat • More info purina.com/about-purina/purina-farms
St. Louis Science Center
Learn about everyday monsters, make a spooky craft and get chills while watching demonstrations on the Energy Stage at Science Spooktacular. This is a candy-free event with enough for the whole family.
When 5-8 p.m. Oct. 24-27 • Where St. Louis Science Center, 5050 Oakland Avenue • How much Free • More info slsc.org
During October, the Butterfly House metamorphoses into Booterfly House, with live predator feedings in the Creepy Crawly cave, carnivorous plant feedings by Professer Von Trap and storytime with the Muffet family. The Butterfly House also hosts a ticketed Wicked Wings and Wine event Oct. 11 and a Bug Ball for kids Oct. 26 and Oct. 27 (sensory-friendly night).
When Regular hours in October • Where Butterfly House, 15193 Olive Boulevard, Chesterfield • How much Free with $5-8 admission; fees for other special events • More info mobot.org
St. Louis Zoo
The St. Louis Zoo knows how to party for Halloween: The orange lights are twinkling, the spooky graveyard is set up and the lemurs are feasting on juicy pumpkins. But that's not all. Visit Boo at the Zoo events at night, or have daytime fun for free at the Halloweekend celebrations Oct. 19-20 and Oct. 26-27.
When 5:30-8:30 p.m. Oct. 15-30 • Where St. Louis Zoo, 1 Government Drive, Forest Park • How much Boo at the Zoo is $8 for nonmembers, $7 for members • More info stlzoo.org/boo, stlzoo.org/halloweekends
Main Street in St. Charles
Main Street in St. Charles welcomes all kinds of ghostly guests this time of year (Edgar Allan Poe, Medusa and the Gingerbread Witch, to name just a few), and they’re happy to tell you their stories and stamp your Legends & Lanterns passport. While you’re there, take a hayride, visit Scarecrow Glen and buy some of the shops' boo-tiful wares.
When Oct. 12-13, Oct. 19-20, Oct. 25-27 • Where Main Street, St. Charles • How much Free • More info discoverstcharles.com
World Bird Sanctuary
Wizards and muggles, fly out to the World Bird Sanctuary for the Harry Potter-themed OWLoween. Check out the owls, basilisk and other beasts. Sip some butterbeer, select a magic wand, play games and have your fortune read. Adults, check out the Owl-O-Wine event Oct. 18 ($35).
When 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Oct. 20 • Where World Bird Sanctuary, 125 Bald Eagle Ridge Road, Valley Park • How much $5 suggested donation, free for children 5 and under • More info worldbirdsanctuary.org
Endangered Wolf Center
Put on your best costume, then decorate and fill a pumpkin to feed to the resident wolves at the Endangered Wolf Center's Howl-o-Ween. Enjoy s'mores and stories around the campfire, then howl with the wolves.
When 5:30 p.m. Oct. 26 • Where Endangered Wolf Center, 6750 Tyson Valley Road, Eureka • How much $20-$30, free for children under 3 free • More info endangeredwolfcenter.org
Missouri History Museum
Go trick-or-treating in the museum's galleries, make crafts, dance in the disco party room and learn healthy habits from the Healthworks! Kids Museum at the Healthy History-Lovin’ Halloween Party. No candy here, but there will be plenty of non-edible treats.
When 4:30-7 p.m. Oct. 29 • Where Missouri History Museum, 5700 Lindell Boulevard, Forest Park • How much free • More info mohistory.org
St. Charles County Heritage Museum
At the Jack-O-Glow Walk, bask in the eerie glow of 100 carved pumpkins outside the St. Charles County Heritage Museum and the adjoining Centennial Trail. Stay to watch a kid-friendly Halloween movie on the big screen outside, and compete for a pumpkin-carving prize. (Registration is only required for carving.)
When 5:30-9:30 p.m. Oct. 18 • Where St. Charles County Heritage Museum, 1650 Heritage Landing, St. Peters • How much Free • More info 314-615-8840; sccmo.org
North County Recreation Complex
The Halloween Boo-nanza is a free night of family fun that includes hayrides, a marshmallow roast around a bonfire, crafts, a costume contest, haunted caverns and a scavenger hunt.
When 6-8 p.m. Oct. 31 • Where North County Recreation Complex, 2577 Redman Road • How much Free • More info 314-615-8840; stlouisco.com
National Museum of Transportation
For Trick or Track, show up in costume to collect treats around the museum, then join a costume parade at 1 p.m.
When 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Oct. 19 • Where National Museum of Transportation, 2933 Barrett Station Road, Kirkwood • How much Free with $5-$12 admission • More info tnmot.org
🎃 PARADES AND PARTIES 🎃
The Great Go! St. Louis Halloween Race
Want to run with (or away from) zombies and Ghostbusters? The Go! Halloween Race offers a 5K, 10K, one-mile fun run and half-marathon to choose from. Elite runners may not opt for that bulky Minion costume.
When First race starts at 7 a.m. Oct. 20 • Where Downtown St. Louis • How much $10-$80 • More info gostlouis.org
Storm Area 314 Halloween Party
Ballpark Village teams with Johnnie Brock’s Dungeon to throw a huge Area 51-themed party that they promise will be — what else? — out of this world. Breakdown Shakedown and DJ Nune will provide the tunes, and you can compete in a costume contest with $7,000 in cash and prizes.
When 7 p.m. Oct. 26 • Where Ballpark Village, 601 Clark Avenue • How much $5-$30 • More info stlballparkvillage.com
It’s time to strut in the streets of the Central West End for this all-day Halloween bash. The fun kicks off at 11 a.m. with family-friendly activities like face painters and a costume parade. Trick-or-treat at neighborhood businesses at noon, then bring your pet for a parade and party at 1 p.m. The after-hours adult fun begins at 6 p.m. with a street party and costume contest.
When 11 a.m.-midnight Oct. 26 • Where Maryland and Euclid avenues • How much Free • More info cwescene.com
Frights and Heights
Decorate pumpkins, get your face painted, collect candy, and take a spooky ride to the top of the Gateway Arch as the tram ride gets a Halloween makeover. Family-friendly costumes are encouraged — no real or pretend weapons, please. This is a brand-new Halloween celebration at America’s tallest national monument.
When 6:30-10 p.m. Oct. 26 • Where Gateway Arch Visitor Center • How much $17 ages 3 and up • More info 1-877-982-1410; gatewayarch.com
Spirits in the Garden
Come to the Missouri Botanical Garden in costume for spirited fun among the flora: Dance to a DJ, solve a scavenger hunt, meet paranormal investigators and sample drinks from area distilleries, breweries and wineries. Adults only.
When 6-9 p.m. Oct. 25 • Where Missouri Botanical Garden, 4344 Shaw Boulevard • How much $20 for members, $30 for nonmembers • More info missouribotanicalgarden.org
Halloween Party Cruise
All aboard the Riverboats at the Gateway Arch, where an adults-only cruise along the Mississippi River includes light appetizers, a cash bar, dancing and a costume contest.
When 8-11 p.m. Oct. 26 • Where Riverboats at the Gateway Arch, 50 Leonor K. Sullivan Boulevard • How much $26 • More info gatewayarch.com/riverboats
Alton Halloween Parade
Since 1916, ghosts, ghouls and witches of Alton have paraded through downtown on Halloween night. More ghosts, ghouls and witches watch and catch candy from the sidewalks. More than 40 floats, bands and other groups keep up this holiday tradition.
When 7 p.m. Oct. 31 • Where Starts at Washington Avenue and Broadway, downtown Alton • How much Free • More info 618-614-3632; visitalton.com
Edwardsville/Glen Carbon Halloween Parade
An Edwardsville and Glen Carbon tradition for nearly 100 years, this Halloween parade brings about 25,000 spectators to watch marching bands, school groups and more than 100 floats. This year’s theme is “The Wonderful World of Music.”
When 6:30 p.m. Oct. 31 • Where Starts at Lincoln Middle School at Schwarz and West streets, Edwardsville • How much Free • More info edglenchamber.com
Visit the Delmar Loop with your costumed, furry friend for a pet costume contest, a scavenger hunt, activities for the kids and special surprises. Due to construction, there is no pet parade this year, but there's a costume contest at the Moonrise Hotel at 3 p.m., followed by Yappy Hour.
When Noon-5 p.m. Oct. 27 • Where Delmar Loop • How much Free, $5 for scavenger hunt, $5 for pet costume contest • More info visittheloop.com
🌽 CORN MAZES 🌽
Wander through a 17-acre corn maze as part of your general admission to Brookdale Farms, which includes hayrides, a petting zoo, a kids’ zip line and other fall fun.
When 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Wednesdays-Sundays, through Nov. 3 • Where Brookdale Farms, 8004 Twin Rivers Road, Eureka • How much $9, $6 for ages 4-11; cash only • More info brookdalefarmsinc.com
Great Godfrey Maze
The Robert E. Glazebook Park in Godfrey is a fall destination, complete with a corn maze, a mini corn maze made of hay bales and a corn crib for playing. For additional fees, check out the jumping pillow, hay wagon, cow train and vortex tunnels. This year’s maze looks like a golden ticket from Willy Wonka. The maze is haunted after dark, so bring a flashlight.
When 6-10 p.m. Fridays, 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturdays, noon-6 p.m. Sundays, through Nov. 3 • Where Robert E. Glazebrook Park, 1401 Stamper Lane, Godfrey • How much $7, $5 for ages 6-11 • More info godfreyil.org
Dickherber Farms, founded in 1890, has a corn maze that features the logos of Captain America, Captain Marvel, the Blues and the Stanley Cup. There’s also a petting farm with mini-donkeys, cattle, chickens and, according to the farm, “one cute piggie.”
When Through November • Where Dickherber Farms, 7063 Highway N, Dardenne Prairie • How much $8, 3 and under free • More info 636-474-1147
Eckert’s Millstadt Fun Farm
This year, the folks at Eckert's have cut logos of the Stanley Cup and the Blues into their 12-acre corn maze. Admission to the farm includes the maze as well as other attractions such as rides, mini-golf, pig races and a giant tube slide. Pick apples and pumpkins while you’re there.
When Fridays-Sundays, through Oct. 27 • Where Eckert's, 2719 Eckert Orchard Lane, Millstadt • How much $13 • More info eckerts.com
Eagle Fork Farms
Wind through a hot air balloon-themed maze at Eagle Fork Farms, which was established in 1871. The farm also offers tractor and pony rides, gemstone mining, apple cannons and play areas for children. There's no entry fee, but some activities are individually priced.
When Through Oct. 31 • Where Eagle Fork Farms, 65 Eagle Fork Lane, Moscow Mills • How much $6, $4 for ages 12 and under for corn maze • More info 636-366-9825; eagleforkfarms.com
Relleke Pumpkin Patch
Get lost in a 5-acre jungle maze, or take on a less-challenging version. While you’re there, enjoy rides, climb on a giant spider web, paint a pumpkin or pick your own. Admission is free, but some activities are individually priced.
When 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturdays-Sundays, through Oct. 27 • Where Relleke Pumpkin Patch, 519 Sand Prairie Road, Pontoon Beach • How much $3 for jungle maze, $1 for smaller maze • More info 618-797-6858; rellekepumpkinpatch.com