Candy apples, magic shows, costume parades—Clarke Park played host to the 17th Annual Children’s Haunted Playground. Sponsored by the Martin’s Pond Association, all proceeds from ghost tour tickets went towards new equipment for the playground, and provided a lively Halloween themed night for kids and families.

Though attendees had to purchase ghost tour tickets if they opted to, plenty of other amusements were free! Kids had full access to the swings and slides, a 3D black light tent with spider webs and fun murals, a bone excavation site in the sandbox, an area wide scavenger hunt, and a projection screen playing classic Casper and Felix the Cat shorts. On this clear and chilly night, the children got to show off their cool costumes in a parade at the basketball court. All received a nice little goodie bag filled with candy, and they could stick around following the parade for a hypnosis magic show.

For a dollar or two, visitors could enter the activities tent. There they played football toss, Bony Bowling, a guessing game called Witch Hand, or received a tarot reading from a fortune teller. Warm beverages were supplied by Dunkin’ Donuts, pulled pork came from local restaurant The Horseshoe Grille, and candy apples and other treats kept the snack bar filled. However, the crowd was antsy for the haunted tours, put on by teen volunteers and kids. It had three tents that the tour guide led groups through: the first with Indiana Jones searching for his ‘mummy,’ the second hosting Dancing with the Monstars by the Dancing School of North Reading, and the last a story of a bank robber foiled by a voodoo doll. The volunteers did an excellent job of keeping with the Halloween spirit while not being too scary for younger visitors.

The second half of the tour had a stop at a pumpkin patch, where the groups listened to a ghost story as they caught a glimpse of the cool carvings all lit up. The last area was a creepy Old West maze; parents could choose to exit with their younger children before this section because the maze featured some jump scares and darker material. It was a nice touch, housing giant spiders, vengeful prospectors, and killer jackrabbits.

A wonderful experience for families, the kids of North Reading will get to enjoy new playground equipment after a fun night in the week leading up to Halloween. Look forward to the Haunted Playground next year!