There will be no rolling pumpkins this season, however, the game is afoot in downtown Saratoga Springs, thanks in part to artist Cathi Anne M. Cameron.
She’s painted intricate scenes of well-known local haunts around Spa City on 20 pumpkins for the Great Saratoga Pumpkin Hunt.
“I basically painted flat out for over a week. I was doing two a day, non-stop,” Cameron said.
The Hunt kicked off earlier this week, with pumpkins placed at locations around the city. The scavenger hunt, which is a part of the Saratoga Springs Downtown Business Association’s Fall Festivities, replaces the traditional pumpkin roll.
Usually, kids and families would gather together, dressed in heroes, villains and characters in between, to roll pumpkins down Caroline Street. With the coronavirus pandemic, that won’t be possible.
Instead, the DBA is hosting a weekend of fall festivities that include virtual ghost stories, shopping deals and the pumpkin scavenger hunt.
“We’ve had a lot of disappointment from vendors … but being downtown yesterday, it was amazing that people were already out and about looking for the pumpkins,” said Caelen Brott, of the Saratoga Springs DBA in an interview with The Gazette.
There’s plenty to look for too. Cameron’s paintings include scenes from historic Congress Park as well as buildings from around the downtown area. Each one is intricately designed, and realistic, which is no easy feat when considering the unusually shaped surfaces she had to work with.
“It’s not just the scene itself but it’s the shape of the pumpkin,” Cameron said. “They don’t grow absolutely perfectly shaped. Some of them have lumps and bumps and things . . . Buildings are square, pumpkins are round so you have to adjust the visual field to make it still look square. Making a square item on a tapered convex object is not the easiest thing in the world to do.”
Each pumpkin is hidden in a window or location that can be seen from the street and scavenger hunters will have a list of hints to go off of. The list is available on the DBA’s website and those who find them all can turn in their sheets by 5 p.m. Sunday at Impressions of Saratoga, Caroline + Main or Northshire Bookstore. They’ll be entered to win one of three gift baskets valued at $200. The winners will be notified on Halloween.
The event is family-friendly, though Joe Haedrich, author of “Haunted Saratoga,” will supply plenty of strange stories. The author has been giving ghost tours in the Spa City for more than five years and has gathered many ghost stories from attendees over the years.
“When you have so many stories [and] so many people who tell you about their experiences, you start to really understand how fertile Saratoga is for the spirits that we have here,” Haedrich said.
He’ll tell three different stories in three locations around Saratoga Springs, starting at 6:30 p.m. on Friday at the Adelphi Hotel, which was built in 1877 and has a haunted history according to Haedrich.
“An investment group bought it and was going to fix it up a little bit . . . and so many things went wrong. It took five years to do the project and cost them $25 million to refurbish a 32-room hotel. I’ve talked with people that have worked on the construction, I’ve talked with people that worked at the hotel . . . a lot of people will say there were spirits that did not like being disturbed and created problems for the construction crews,” Haedrich said.
Then, on Saturday, he’ll be at the Arcade building, where several people once died in a fire, according to Haedrich.
“Two people died in each other’s arms and their cat died alongside them. Over the years, a number of people have reported seeing the cat. There was a massage therapist who had a practice there who kept feeling something rubbing against her leg; finally, she had to move. Then a chiropractor moved in and . . . the doors in her office would move a little bit this way and a little bit that way and she’s sure that it was that cat that was still around,” Haedrich said.
The storytelling will wrap up at the Olde Bryan Inn on Sunday, with a story about Beatrice, the ghost who supposedly haunts the historic establishment. While the stories will be live-streamed at 6:30 p.m. on Facebook each evening via @downtownsaratogasprings, people are also welcome to come and listen in person, according to Haedreich.
For more information about this weekend’s Fall Festivities visit saratogaspringsdowntown.com.
If you’re looking for a few other ways to celebrate the spooky season, here are a few other suggestions from around the Capital Region.
— Double M. Haunted Hayrides in Ballston Spa is a contactless haunted experience. Attendees stay in their vehicles as they journey through the haunted path, filled with the thrills and chills of the season.
It’s open Thursday through Sunday nights through Halloween. Tickets must be purchased in advance and start at $30. It’s located at 678 Route 67 Ballston Spa. For more information visit doublemhauntedhayrides.com.
— The Saratoga Springs History Museum is hosting ghost tours of Canfield Casino throughout October. The historic establishment was featured on the SYFY Network’s “Ghost Hunters” in 2010 and was named number four in the top 10 list of America’s Most Terrifying Places to Travel on the Travel Channel in 2019.
Tours are around an hour and time slots are available every 20 minutes between 6 p.m. and 7:40 p.m. on Oct. 22-24 and Oct. 29-31. Reservations are required and each tour is limited to six people. Tickets are $20. The Casino is located at 1 E Congress Street, Saratoga Springs. For more information visit saratogahistory.org.
— Proctors and Capital Repertory Theatre are hosting haunted walking tours in Schenectady and Albany.
In Schenectady, Proctors will host “F.F. Proctor & the Case of the Missing Deed” on Friday and Saturday. The two-day event is part escape room, part tour and will have guests on a mission to save the theater from destruction by a greedy bank due to a missing deed that Mr. Proctor hid. They will scour the passageways of the venue in search of ciphers and clues left behind more than 90 years ago.
Tours run in 90-minute segments, at 6 and 8 p.m. on Friday and 4, 6 and 8 p.m. on Saturday. Ten people are allowed on each tour and guests are required to wear masks. Tickets are $25.
In Albany, The Original Albany Ghost Tour’s Maeve McEneny-Johnson will lead a “City Seance” ghost tour. Attendees will walk the streets of Albany after dark and delve into the city’s storied past.
The tour will be held at 7 p.m. on Friday, with a rain date on Oct. 28. Ten people will be allowed on each tour and tickets are $25. For tickets and more information visit proctors.org.
— The Ellms Family Farm Pumpkin Glow and Light Show Drive-Thru continues in Ballston Spa. Featuring intricately carved pumpkins, the path takes viewers through a path on the farm after dark. The Glow runs Thursdays-Sundays through Nov. 7, with the first ticket time starting at 7 p.m. and the last at 9:40 p.m. Tickets start at $29.99. Visit ellmsfarms.com.
— The Hallowed Harvest, a jack-o-lantern festival featuring 7,000 pumpkins, continues at the Altamont Fairgrounds tonight. Attendees can walk the path through the fairgrounds, exploring the towering creations of pumpkin artists. The Harvest runs Thursdays-Sundays through Nov. 1. Tickets are $16-20. To purchase tickets or for more information visit altamontfair.org/hallowed-harvest.