Campout at Frontier Fort Highlights Halloween Happenings

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SHEFFIELD, Texas — Why wait for a Halloween, which falls on a Wednesday this year, when you can get a jump on Hallow’s Eve by sending your little ghouls and goblins to a sleepover on the grounds of an abandoned frontier fort or taking them to a state park to listen to campfire ghost tales or learn about bats?

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is teaming up with the Texas Pecos Region, Friends of Fort Lancaster, Ozona Chamber of Commerce and Iraan-Sheffield Chamber of Commerce to sponsor "A Fort Lancaster Ghostly Campout" on Saturday, Oct. 27. The first-ever sleepover to be held at the state historic site will feature a host of events, including guided trail hikes through the ruins, campfire ghost stories, a wildlife scavenger hunt and weenie roast.

"Fort Lancaster has stood guard over the Pecos River Valley, protecting the region for more than 150 years," said historic site superintendent Chris Elliott. "This is a chance for the people of the Pecos Trails Region to help do their part to protect and preserve the fort."

While the number of overnight campers is limited to 26, all visitors are welcome to visit the 1855 fort built by the U.S. military to guard those traveling the San Antonio to El Paso Road from "Indian hostilities." The event is the first of many planned fun and education fundraisers for the historic site located west of Ozona and just 10 minutes south of Interstate 10 in Crockett County.

Fort Lancaster State Historic Site covers 81 acres of the beautiful and rugged Pecos Valley. The fort’s interpretive center features exhibits on military history, natural history and archeology.

Campers are asked to bring their own tents, bedrolls, lanterns, personal snacks, cameras, binoculars and, of course, their favorite ghost stories. To get more details or to make a camping reservation, visit the Texas Pecos Trail Web site or call the fort at (432) 836-4391. The cost is $25 or $35 for two.

A number of other state parks and historic sites are hosting Halloween events, including Magoffin Home State Historic Site in El Paso. The "Stories of Spirits" tour on Oct. 13 lasts two hours and costs $5 per person. Tour participants will hear stories of spirits that are said to haunt the home and grounds, and odd events that occur in the old adobe residence. Call (915) 533-5147 to make reservations.

On Oct. 20, Varner-Hogg Plantation State Historic Site will hold a "Halloween Haunted Hayride." Hop aboard a haunted hayride for a night of ghouls, goblins and goodies. A spooky storyteller and ghostly games will be part of the night’s entertainment. Call (979) 345-4656 for more information.

Visitors to Lake Texana State Park near Edna can have some spooky fun hiking a haunted trail on Oct. 27. Carnival games, pumpkin carving and costume contests for children 12 and younger will be part of the festivities. The "Haunted Trail" will be held from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. For more information, call (361) 782-5718.

On Oct. 27, Estero Llano Grande State Park in Weslaco hosts the 2nd annual Halloween Fest features a presentation on snakes, bats and owls. Learn why these "scary" creatures are not so spooky after all. The park, part of the World Birding Center, will offer a kid’s costume contest, crafts, night hikes, spooky stories, candy, popcorn and more for the whole family. Call (956)565-3919.

"Bat Mania" at Palo Duro Canyon State Park on Oct. 27 shines the spotlight on these misunderstood mammals that have become associated with Halloween vampires. Head for the Lone Star Interpretive Theater in the park to enjoy an enlightening presentation on the bats that live in the Panhandle canyon. The program starts at 7 p.m. For more information, call the par at (806) 488-2227.

The focus is on the outdoors at Sheldon Lake State Park’s "Natural Halloween" being held from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Oct. 27. Join the Halloween fun at the Houston area park that will include a "Fear Factor" table, "Skins and Skulls" exhibit, "Creatures of the Night Nature Walk," campfire tales and more. Call (281) 456-2800 for more information.

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