The 2012 display. Photo courtesy of UT Gardens, Jackson.
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Halloween in West Tennessee: Corn Mazes, Pumpkin Patches & Bone-Chilling Nights

As I write, my daughter is creeping-out our home, affixing cob-webby decals wherever they’ll stick and hanging fiendish cut-outs from every protrusion.

I subscribe to the pumpkin-and-mum school, myself.

And so Halloween goes in West Tennessee – teetering between Martha Stewart and the macabre.

Last year, I rounded up all the usual suspects to keep you smiling (or screaming) all October long. I’ll remind you of those today, and throw in a few new treats for your sack:

1. The Mid-South Maze at Agricenter International (Memphis) Plan at least an hour to conquer nearly three miles of cornstalk-carved paths inside the Mid-South Maze, a 13-year tradition. What sort of challenge should you expect? This year’s labyrinth takes its design scheme from the human brain – because you’ll need your noggin to navigate. (If you’re really stumped, or just want to speed things up, ask a “corn cop” stationed throughout the maze for help.) October Wednesdays through Sundays; view hours and pricing here (and be sure to check out this dollar-off coupon). Bone-chilling bonus: Fridays and Saturdays from 7-10 p.m. (through Nov. 2, including Halloween night), the maze steps up the spook factor. Admission is $10 plus an extra $5 if you dare add a haunted hayride. Note that all Mid-South Maze admissions must be paid by cash or check.

An aerial view of this year's Mid-South Maze. Photo courtesy of Mid-South Maze.

An aerial view of this year’s Mid-South Maze. Photo courtesy of Mid-South Maze.

2. Pumpkin patch, mazes & Festival of Fear at Jones Orchard (Millington) Behold the prime example of quaint by day; quivery by night: Beneath a sun-kissed autumn sky, hoist the whole family atop a wagon at Jones Orchard (Singleton Parkway location). An antique tractor will rumble you through the verdant farmland, and you can visit the pumpkin patch or attempt one of two mazes: the mummy-themed, 10-acre corn maze or the smaller pallet maze. View hours and pricing here.

October Fridays and Saturdays from 7-11 p.m. (plus Halloween night), Festival of Fear casts its shadow over Jones Orchard. The festival features three attractions: Shadowlands, a haunted iteration of Jones’ corn maze; Hangman’s Hollow Haunted Hayride through the wilds behind the orchard; and Terror at 2596, your chance to wind through two acres of shrilling, foggy, strobe-lit madness. Each Shadowlands attraction requires about a half-hour’s time and separate admission, or you can purchase a ticket package. Find admission details here.

3. Evening Stroll & Costume Twilight Tour at Elmwood Cemetery (Memphis) The final resting place of more than 75,000 famous and infamous individuals, their graves presided over by a collection of gardens, a certified arboretum and a beguiling array of Victorian-era statuary, Elmwood Cemetery enchants year ’round. But the circa-1852 cemetery is never so enthralling as during October.

Photo by Andrea Zucker. Copyright © Memphis Convention & Visitors Bureau 2011 All Rights Reserved.

Memphis’ circa-1852 Elmwood Cemetery, by day. Photo by Andrea Zucker. Copyright © Memphis Convention & Visitors Bureau 2011 All Rights Reserved.

Reserve your spot on the Oct. 18 Evening Stroll Through Elmwood (6-7:30 p.m.; $20; comfortable walking shoes and a flashlight are essential). Or, turn out for Elmwood’s eighth annual Costume Twilight Tour (Oct. 26), when The Elmwood Players bring the deceased to life. This year, you’ll “meet” blues singer Lille Mae Glover and riverboat gambler Stacker Lee, among other colorful characters interred at Elmwood. Tours depart every 10 minutes, 4-5:30 p.m. $15 per person (ages 12 and under admitted free). Purchase tickets here or at the cemetery on Oct. 26. Rain or shine.

Keep in mind that some of these nighttime events thrive on intensity – use your best judgment when deciding to take the kids. For thoroughly family-friendly events, opt for any of these:

4. Zoo Boo at Memphis Zoo My six-year-old likes this one for its just-her-size straw maze, hands-on encounters with creepy-crawlies, trick-or-treat stations and free, unlimited kiddie rides. Oct. 18-20 and 25-27, 5:30-9:30 p.m.; $13 in advance for members ($10 non-members); $15 day-of for members ($12 non-members).

At last year’s Zoo Boo at Memphis Zoo, my daughter and brother made friends with this Rose Hair Tarantula.

At last year’s Zoo Boo at Memphis Zoo, my daughter and brother made friends with this Rose Hair Tarantula.

5. Pumpkins, playground & a picnic at Priddy Farms (Germantown) Now in its 15th year, 24-acre Priddy Farms welcomes families for old-fashioned fall fun: Pile up on pumpkins and gourds in the patch; bring old clothes to create your own scarecrow; pack a picnic basket and blanket and stay a while – swings, slides, a sandbox, a large play “ark,” a bouncer and train rides (for ages 12 and under) beckon…campfires and hayrides do, too (activities are priced moderately but separately). Owner William Priddy tells me that nightfall coaxes deer, foxes and owls onto his land – we’re planning an evening visit with a flashlight and high hopes for animal sightings. Check the farm’s Facebook page or call (901) 359-0800 with questions. October Wednesdays and Thursdays, 10 a.m.-7 p.m.; Fridays and Saturdays 10 a.m.-9 p.m.; Sundays noon-7 p.m.

6. Scarecrows at Lichterman Nature Center (Memphis) Fall is my favorite time to explore this respite of nature trails and two interpretive centers that’s barely off the beaten path in Memphis, particularly because the place is seasonally stacked with scarecrows designed by local families and groups vying for titles from “Most Creative” to “Greenest.” Through Nov. 22; included with admission to Lichterman Nature Center

7. Fall Festival at T.O. Fuller State Park (Memphis) At sunset on Oct. 25, bring your basket and flashlight to T.O. Fuller State Park for a twist on trick-or-treating: Glowing eggs filled with candy are hidden throughout the park’s day-use area. Kids can roast hot dogs and s’mores over a campfire following the hunt. All ages welcome.

8. Fall Festival at Fort Pillow State Historic Park (Henning) Costume and pumpkin-decorating contests kick off at Fort Pillow at 4 p.m. on Oct. 26; a hayride follows at 5:30. Children 10 and under may compete for prizes; hayride is open to all ages.

9. Monsters Cafe at Nathan Bedford Forrest State Park (Eva) Join a softly-spooky half-mile hike at 7 p.m. on Oct. 26 at this state park. Afterward, reward your bravery with food, games and treats under Shelter #1.

10. Spooktacular (Paris) Oct. 26 from noon to 4 p.m., downtown Paris will be open for trick-or-treating, a costume contest (with child, adult and pet categories), crafts and games. Participate in local tradition by guessing the weight of “Pumpkin Patch Pete” – there are prizes at stake!

And one to last past October: Pumpkin Harvest Display (Jackson)

The 2012 display. Photo courtesy of UT Gardens, Jackson.

Pumpkin, squash and gourd art: an image from the 2012 Pumpkin Harvest Display in Jackson, Tennessee. Photo courtesy of UT Gardens, Jackson.

With all the to-dos I just gave you, you’re going to be busy this month. Luckily, you have until Dec. 1, 2013 to see the annual Pumpkin Harvest Display at the University of Tennessee West Tennessee Research & Education Center (605 Airways Blvd., Jackson). Imagine more than 5,000 pumpkins, gourds and winter squash, representing more than 70 varieties. UT Research Horticulturalist Jason Reeves and his team grow them all at the center for research; then give the specimens new life as art.

How tame – or terrifying – are you planning to make your October in West Tennessee? Tell me what you have planned in the comments section below.

Hi! I’m Samantha Crespo, and I am Floridian by birth, Tennessean by heart. Growing up, I vacationed in East Tennessee, so I...Read on

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