Castle Halloween Museum
Address: 1595 Boggs Run Rd. Benwood, WV
Hours: Open by appointment only
Price: $8 admission
Gift Shop/Antique Boutique on-site
Over this past weekend, a very small planned trip north morphed into an unexpected adventure beyond what we ever thought we'd be doing in a whole year, let alone the span of a half a day! In this first installment of a 3-part blog, join me on the first leg of our journey and how we came to get there in the first place!
Theresa Discovers The Castle Halloween Museum
At least, that's what happened several years ago when I picked up a newsletter being passed out by the West Virginia Association of Museums. Sitting at our info table, I started reading through the newsletter during a lull in the action and was pleasantly surprised to see an article about a unique museum in our Northern Panhandle devoted entirely to the social history of Halloween. I filed that information away, with an understanding that one day, I would take the time to make the trip. For me, Halloween isn't just a one-day event; it's a lifestyle.
As it is, life got in the way and the museum, while not forgotten, lost priority until my boyfriend came home one day and excitedly asked me if I had ever heard of a Halloween museum near Wheeling. He then proceeded to show me a video on Youtube he found featuring an in-depth overview of all the wonders the museum has to offer. We decided unanimously to up the priority level and make sure we crossed this one off our bucket list. It took almost a year, but finally, we called and set everything up! Early Saturday morning, the car was packed and we were off.
Planning The Trip
|Boggs Run School: Undated photo from Marshall Co. GenWeb|
The Castle Halloween Museum is open by appointment only and you'll need to call a few days in advance---even though the museum is a short drive off US 250, communications are spotty and it might be a day or so before the owners can return your call. You can reach them through an email form provided on the website, www.castlehalloween.com, or you can call. The phone number is 304-233-1031 and it totally went over my head until writing this down that last four digits of the phone number are 10/31, as in, October 31st---Halloween!
The museum itself is housed in the old Boggs Run School, located on Boggs Run Road in Benwood. A short drive directly off U.S. Route 250, the museum is just a few minutes away from both Wheeling, WV and Moundsville, WV...which, we'll discuss a little later on! Anyway, Boggs Run, which wasn't incorporated into the town of Benwood until 1944 (and named after James Boggs who settled in the area in the late 1700s) is prone to flooding, so keep that in mind if the rains have been especially heavy.
Our tour was scheduled for 9 am Saturday morning and we arrived a few minutes early after our nearly 3 hour drive from Charleston, WV. Pulling into the parking lot, we were delighted to see the old school building adorned with gargoyles. We entered through the "cemetery gates" and into the lower level of the building where immediately we were seized with hundreds of vintage boxed costumes, a collection of children's books, and other fun stuff. We met our tour guide and owner, Pamela Apkarian-Russell, and her delightful husband, Chris, and began the guided portion of the tour.
Pamela is know as the Halloween Queen, and for good reason. Not only has she amassed and curated a 35,000+ collection of Halloween and related memorabilia, she's also authored an impressive collection of books about Halloween-themed antiques and collectibles, as well as collections of ghost stories and history.
The guided part of the tour lasts around 90 minutes and Pamela is extremely knowledgeable about the history and the social and cultural significance of each piece in the massive collection. Vintage costumes including Dennison crepe paper examples dating all the way back to the early 20th century, Halloween-themed Fenton glass, mourning jewelry and other memento mori, board games, pottery, original paintings, folk art, voodoo memorabilia, decorations, advertising...this is just a minuscule example of what is available to see. Plenty of antiques from early times up through modern vintage definitely evoke a feeling of nostalgia...and exhibits featuring newer examples of pop culture, such as Harry Potter and The Nightmare Before Christmas will interest the younger visitors. If you're looking for a gory, horrifying house of terror, you're in the wrong place. However, if you're looking for an excellent slice of America's favorite holiday from a cultural and historical perspective, you'll be in heaven.
|Halloween Queen Pamela, and husband Chris. Courtesy of castlehalloween.com|
After the guided portion of the tour, you're free to roam about on your own to take a closer look. There is so much to see that it is quite overwhelming! You could spend a month in there and not see everything, which gives us plenty of reason to plan another trip! We did spend a few minutes taking in some of what we missed the first time around, but found ourselves enjoying plenty of off-topic conversation with our gracious hosts. We learned that they had moved the museum to WV about ten years ago, after living in New England. Shoddy construction crews had destroyed the roof, and as a result, a corner of the main exhibit showroom was heavily damaged by rainwater. We also learned that even though people have come from all over the world to this little corner of West Virginia to visit the Halloween museum, it is not well-received by the locals.
For that reason, I strongly encourage each and every one of you out there reading this to visit this museum as soon as possible and bring your friends and family along! This is a wonderful resource for anyone interested in history, or anything even remotely related to Halloween. It is truly a unique experience and you'll never seen anything quite like it anywhere else. We need to spread the word! Make a donation or buy one of Pamela's books, available online if you cannot make the trip. Certain instances have left a poor impression of West Virginia and her people on this couple, and I'd like to show them that this is NOT representative of all of us, or even the majority of us. So, please support this awesome destination and help make it an integral part of Northern Panhandle tourism.
Extra Stuff to Consider:
*Are you visiting Moundsville Penitentiary for a tour or ghost hunt? The Castle Halloween Museum is a very short and easy drive from the prison; it took us seriously only about 5-10 minutes to get there. If you're coming from out of town, plan out a few extra hours before or after your penitentiary experience to tour the Halloween Museum. You will NOT be disappointed!
*Bringing children? Children are welcome on the tour, which can be customized within reason to fit their age level and interests. However, in my opinion, this is a tour that will be most enjoyed by those ages 10 and up.
*Mobility issues? There are some very tight spaces, and a few stairs leading up to the front door and down to the main level of the museum. However, if you require a wheelchair, please give them a call and let them know the situation. I believe I read online somewhere that special accommodations can be made. The good thing is, there really isn't much walking involved. Still, wear a pair of comfy shoes, and dress seasonably. Fans were placed liberally throughout the museum, offering a chance to cool down and keep the air moving, but it was still quite hot inside during our visit.
*Photography is allowed and encouraged!
*Bring cash for your $8 admission fee!
I could spend hours just talking about all the cool things we saw and how much fun we had at West Virginia's best kept little secret. In fact, our original itinerary was just to visit the museum, maybe walk around downtown Wheeling for a bit, have lunch, and then head back home. Plans quickly changed after we realized how freaking close we were to Moundsville! Check back tomorrow for part two of this blog series...and find out what was going on at one of the most haunted locations in the world!