Traipsing through a burial ground under the cover of darkness is fuel for the imagination, so why don’t you take a Oakwood Cemetery walk.
The Lantern Walk at Historic Oakwood Cemetery began 20 years ago, a project of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, who maintain the graves. All proceeds are funneled back into the upkeep of the Confederate section of Oakwood Cemetery.
One evening each October—this year Saturday, Oct. 24—lantern-carrying guides in period dress wind through the neighborhood of the Confederate dead, pausing to reflect on the events of the past. Amidst the graves, history comes alive with a series of skits put on by Civil War re-enactors and members of the local Sons of Confederate Veterans camps.
Oakwood was originally conceived as a resting place for the Confederate dead after concern about the condition of the graves that were sprinkled among Union soldiers at nearby Rock Quarry Cemetery. In 1867, hundreds of bodies were disinterred and reburied in Oakwood. The sprawling cemetery later expanded to be the final address of many notable Raleigh residents.
“It’s a huge tradition here,” says Robin Simonton, Oakwood’s executive director, who is quick to note that it’s not a ghost tour. “This is an active cemetery, and we are respectful of that.”
Marc Cheek, who heads up the walk, insists there’s not much about it that’s frightening and says it’s family friendly and suitable for all
ages. Skits are often based on the soldiers or veterans buried in Oakwood and are meant to educate visitors on the War Between the States and why the South went to war.
“I think people just enjoy the war and learning about Southern history,” he says. “The actors certainly aren’t professional, but we put a lot of effort into the skits.”
Simonton says any cemetery after dark tends to feel a bit spooky, especially in October. Even without ghosts, the Lantern Walk plays into that.
“It’s probably the creepiest thing the cemetery does.”
OAKWOOD LANTERN WALK
Where: Historic Oakwood Cemetery, 701 Oakwood Ave., Raleigh
When: Saturday, Oct. 24, 6 p.m.-10 p.m. Cost: $7; $4 for ages 6-11; under 6 are free The tour takes about an hour to complete with tour groups leaving every 15 minutes
Other Halloween happenings
HAUNTED FOREST AT PANIC POINT
Two haunted trails, a haunted hayride, corn maze and roaming haunters to keep you screaming all night. Must sign waiver before entering. Open Friday and Saturday nights in October, 7 p.m,. $16-$29 raleighhauntedhouse.com
HALLOWEEN AT HOGWARTS
North Carolina Symphony Music of Harry Potter, Meymandi Concert Hall, 1 p.m. & 4 p.m., $25
QDR HOWL-O-WEEN HARVEST BALL
City Limit Saloon, Live music from Hunter Hayes, Chase Bryant, Chris Lane & Mo Pitney $1000 Costume Contest, 7 p.m., $15