Activities

Visit KOA’s Most Haunted House

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Editor’s Note: Author Tamela Rich has crisscrossed North America several times by motorcycle, usually traveling solo. Her blog posts and podcasts endorse traveling the highways and byways as the best way to explore historical and natural attractions and roadside kitsch. And remember, the Hagerstown/Antietam KOA is just one of many KOAs with special events this fall. Check out this post for the Ultimate Guide to Fall Camping.

When John and Judy Durham bought a house beside their 26-acre campground in Williamsport, Maryland, they never imagined that ghosts were already in residence. They intended to renovate and live in it, but during the renovations, they kept seeing and hearing apparitions.

Since actor Bill Murray hasn’t been a Ghostbuster since the 1980s, the Durhams instead turned to the National Ghost Hunters Society for a report. The findings? “The most haunted house” they’d ever investigated.

There was no way they could live in the house after that shocking news, so they decided to go where the proverbial spirits led them. They named the house Creekside Manor and now have the pleasure of spooking some 3,500 visitors each October.

In my childhood, the Jaycees ran the hometown haunted house. Visitors waited in line for a solid hour anticipating the thrill of walking through room after room of auto mechanics, accountants and insurance salesmen dressed as vampires, werewolves and chainsaw-wielding zombies. Pretty tame stuff compared to what Creekside Manor offers visitors at the Hagerstown/Antietam KOA, I assure you.

Whereas my hometown Jaycees’ haunted house promised lots of scares, they were random acts without a theme. Creekside Manor, on the other hand, is built on a clever backstory. Written by John Durham himself, the legend of Creekside Manor begins with Mable Mockenburry, who lived in the house in the 1800s. Mable began her life (and afterlife) of misdeeds by butchering her parents and serving them to the townsfolk as BBQ. Each year, the Mable Mockenburry legend further unfolds like a supernatural soap opera; you can read it on Creekside’s website.

I got a behind-the-scenes tour of Creekside Manor last year (in daylight, thankfully).

John and the twenty-plus actors and makeup artists he hires each Halloween season take the business of fright very seriously. Although he has lost count of the gallons of blood-red paint he’s used over the years, John is always on the prowl for props, including the 1977 Cadillac hearse that’s parked in the cemetery amidst donated gravestones.

Several of the spooky automatons that writhe, threaten and moan came from Hollywood movie distributors and are powered by industrial-sized generators of compressed air. When it came time to see one of them, “hell dog,” John gave me ample warning of what was to come but I was truly spooked when it lunged at me ferociously from behind its door.

I should note that Creekside Manor itself is off limits to anyone under twelve. The campground offers visitors lots of tame and creative activities for those who don’t want to be thrilled and chilled. For example, the inflated jump house, called “Mable’s Fun House,” is for those twelve and under.

Lee Oliver, the campground activities director, offers guests arts and crafts including pumpkin carving. She hires a magician, shows movies, and can tell you about the campground’s 14 breeds of chicken (numbering 54 hens and one rooster) and 3 goats.

The Durhams warn potential guests who want to stay at the campground during Creekside Manor season to book reservations NOW. People come from a 200-mile radius of the property and campsites fill up fast! Reserve your spot here.


Tamela-Rich-KOA Contributor

“American Road Trip Expert” Tamela Rich is an award-winning author, storyteller and adventurer. She began her love affair with the open road as a child, traveling with her family in the Vista Cruiser station wagon from Ohio to California every other summer. During her monthly TV appearances, Tamela shares family-oriented travel tips and itineraries for local, regional and national road trips. Visit her website: www.TamelaRich.com