“The lights look cool,” says Paul Bennett, Director of our Coach and Livestock Department, holding up one of the LEDs that will brighten the four nights of Haunting on DoG Street. He’s excited about the prospect of outdoing last year’s Halloween bash.
We’re talking about the horses that will be coming in costume for Haunting of Dog Street. Why should humans have all the fun, right?
Last year we painted six horses as skeletons and they were a huge hit. The horses will be painted similarly to last year. Plans to use fluorescent paint for an even eerier look were scratched because the effect simply didn’t last long enough. By the time the horses made their way from the stable into the Historic Area, there just wasn’t much neon left.
That’s ok, because we’re doubling the fun, with four masked riders and four decked-out carriages. The Cleveland Bays will make their Halloween debut during Curse of the Sea Witch. Pumpkinhead will be returning, joined by several other mounted ne’er-do-wells (hey, why does that zombie dude look so much like Martha Washington?). Fortunately, these ghouls mean no harm, and they love to have their pictures taken. Just remember to watch your step.
If you couldn’t score a ticket for Curse of the Sea Witch, you can still enjoy a spine-tingling carriage ride. Our drivers will be wearing masks and capes, and their horses will be painted as skeletons, too (if only on the sides visible to passersby).
One carriage will have, for the first time, period lanterns helping to light the way, albeit with bright LED lights. Our tin men visited Mount Vernon recently to take a close look at original 18th-century carriage lanterns. Fred Blystone caught them hard at work in the shop this week making reproductions in that style.
Once they’re all done, we’re planning to make lanterns a permanent feature of the carriage rides. And on quieter days (read: not Halloween weekend) we hope to use some real candles in the lanterns.
The paint is a combination of a pet-safe aerosol, with detail added using a kid-safe tempera paint. Both wash off with just a bit of soap and water. We’ll see just how much washes off from night to night, but the Coach and Livestock crew will be standing by with their cans and brushes for any necessary touch-ups.
Speaking of the crew, Paul said they recently test-painted Commodore, one of our horses, in a record-shattering fifteen minutes. He did not say how well they colored in the lines. It’s been an entertaining diversion from the usual workday.
Paul calls it his team’s “license to have fun,” and part of the merriment will come in the form of bling for the horses. With the days growing shorter, some LED lights had already been added to carriages to improve visibility, including red lights on the back and an amber-colored light illuminating the steps into the vehicle.
For Halloween the horses are getting into the act with a variety of colored lights shining from their harnesses and affixed by Velcro straps near their ankles. We caught a quick camera phone picture when they tried out some lights on the horses.
We’re building a fun annual event here. Next week we’ll get back to whatever passes for normal in a place that interprets a bygone time. But this weekend, in the spirit of Halloween, we can all pretend to be someone else for a spell—even the horses.
Don’t have your Halloween tickets yet? There are still some available Sunday and Monday night for Curse of the Sea Witch (PG 13, spooky experience) from 8-10 p.m. Click here to get your tickets!