By Guest Blogger Stacey Sheetz

Ah, fall. Loudoun’s scenic countryside is slowly turning to shades of gold and crimson. The days grow shorter and darkness begins to cover the land. There’s a chill in the air and blankets of fog settle into the valleys. Bonfires, pumpkins, and the undead begin to dot the landscape (insert demonic laugh here!) No, my friends, this isn’t a tribute to the beauty of autumn, but the spookier (and in my opinion, the most fun part of the season) – Halloween!

Loudoun celebrates the Halloween season in so many ways. From fall festivals featuring thousands of pumpkins both au natural to jack-o-lanterns carved into every imaginable expression – scared to scary; to evening walking tours recounting tales of ghostly sightings; to the extremely dramatic and heart-pounding haunted attractions set in some of the eeriest environments. Today we focus on those Halloween events designed to get your adrenaline flowing and your heart pounding. Some of these events are PG-13 but may offer family friendly nights featuring a toned-down production for a younger audience. We’ll focus on more family friendly events in an upcoming blog but for now, dim the lights and gather closer for a peak into the darker side of Loudoun!

Explore Loudoun’s rich and well preserved history with ghostly tours you can only experience this time of year. The mansion at Oatlands plantation has housed many residents during its 200 year history, some of whom may have never truly left. Reports of strange occurrences and even voices in the home prompted an investigation by a team of paranormal experts. Hear their recordings of ghostly voices as well as the curator and docents’ accounts of their own other-worldly experiences during their annual Paranormal Tours – a rare opportunity to visit Oatlands after dark and learn a history not included in their normal tours.

Continue your exploration of Loudoun’s haunted homes during the 20th Annual Hauntings Tour in Historic Downtown Leesburg. Hosted for two days only over Halloween weekend, this tour takes visitors into private homes and businesses to hear the stories of these haunted sites – like the Civil War general who watches over the staff of a local business. Or the widow who fought to keep her house and still resides there to this day, even helping with the daily housework.

Looking for something a bit more exhilarating? Then head over to Paxton Manor for Shocktoberfest. Built in the 1800s, this foreboding Victorian mansion is filled with large rooms and dark hallways – a naturally eerie setting that becomes terrifying every October as it is transformed each weekend with a new horrific theme. Attractions include The Fun House, Haunted Well of the Soul, and The Last Ride.

Does the idea of wandering through the woods in the dark send chills up your spine? Then brace yourself for the Haunted Forest at Algonkian Park! According to legend, these woods were once home to a remote boarding school, run by a caretaker who was once a clown and secretly harbored a hatred of children. Dismissed from his job the disgruntled caretaker continues to roam the woods, seeking to punish anyone who dares to visit after dark!

Every good ghost story ends with a thrilling scare and your Halloween journey of Loudoun should do the same. Enter Darkscream Productions’ Terror After Dark (really - doesn’t the name say enough??) Hosted in the parking lot of Dulles Town Center, Terror After Dark features three attractions focusing on the story of Dr. Emil Bloodstone, a renowned surgeon and archeologist who displayed his collection of artifacts at Bloodstone Manor. Little did visitors to his home know that they may become part of the permanent collection! When the local townspeople realized the terrors that were taking place in Bloodstone Manor, they seized the property and transformed it into Cell Block 13, imprisoning the doctor on his own land as well as a number of the country’s criminally insane. Complete your journey into darkness with – well a journey into complete darkness as you enter the third attraction – Darkmare, where nothing is visible, except your own fears!

Does all of this talk of ghostly sightings and haunted attractions make you want to take action? Well, Hogback Mountain Paintball is going to give you that opportunity to fight the living dead during their Big Game Zombie Invasion! Head up the mountain and help fight off the zombie attack before they take over! This day-long event features prizes and trophies for Last One Standing, Best Zombie (should you be unfortunate enough to join the undead), a brain eating competition (ewww…!), and more!