Last December, Leon Seymour, the executive director of the Friends of Fort Knox, lost half of his index figure in an accident. Most of us would find such a loss downright depressing. Seymour sees it as an opportunity. “I think I’m going to be getting a fake finger and making it work for me, you know what I mean?” he chortled.
Seymour is the mastermind—albeit a twisted one—behind Fright at the Fort, a variation on a haunted house tour, which takes place at Fort Knox in Prospect Oct. 21 and 22 and 28 and 29. The annual event serves as Seymour’s homage to his favorite holiday—Halloween—and as a fundraiser for the Friends of Fort Knox, an organization with the mission of preserving and restoring the nineteenth century fort situated at the Penobscot Narrows on the Penobscot River.
Last year, 9,000 people attended Fright at the Fort over the course of four dates, Seymour said. “The town of Prospect’s population is 550 people. Bucksport across the river is only 4,500.” Channeling Gene Wilder in “Young Frankenstein,” Seymour added, “So if we could turn them all into zombies we could take over this entire region!”
Over the course of more than a decade, Fright at the Fort has raised about $300,000 for the Friends of Fort Knox, said Seymour. The money has been used for various projects at the Fort. Last year’s Fright raised funds for the restoration of an original powder magazine. The project benefitting from this year’s Fright has yet to be settled on.
Fright at the Fort is in its 12th year this year and it will be the last visitors will have a $5 admission. The cost to be scared out of your wits will go up next year Seymour said because the event will be ramped up.
Each year, Fright has taken on new dimensions to keep things interesting. Three years ago, Fright first associated itself with Ghostport, a one-day event that takes place in neighboring Bucksport—a town known for its supernatural history, most notably the retribution of a witch on one of its founding fathers, Jonathan Buck.
Ghostport, taking place on October 22, has events for Halloween enthusiasts of all ages said Leslie Wombacher, Ghostport organizer. There’s a little goblin parade, brunch with witches, a screening of “The Night of the Living Dead” at the Alamo Theatre, “spirited” vendors, a carved pumpkin contest, a chili cook-off, a zombie apocalypse and dance, fireworks and Jonathan Buck’s Race to the Grave coffin race in which teams compete for a prized t-shirt by racing a coffin they’ve built.
Besides a fun way to bring people together, Ghostport is a way for the community to take pride in itself and help local businesses, said Wombacher. “Bucksport—no one takes that left at the light. They all go right because they’re all heading to Bar Harbor,” she pointed out. “The more events we have the more likely things will be better for us here on Main Street.”
Seymour said that associating Ghostport with Fright at the Fort gives visitors a chance to have more things to do in the area, and it helps out local businesses, which he said, is always a positive thing.
Ghostport and Fright depend on as many volunteers as they can get. It takes a lot of work to put together an event like Fright at the Fort, said Seymour. He and volunteers begin setting up the fort weeks in advance. The volunteer spooks take their jobs very seriously, he noted. “They pride themselves on trying to illicit screams. When you stand outside the fort you know it’s a good night when from a quarter of a mile away you can hear screams drifting up and out of the fortification. You know you’re doing well.”
Fright at the Fort tours run from 5:30 to 9 p.m. It is not recommended for those who are easily scared. Go to fortknox.maineguide.com/fright for more information or to volunteer.
Ghostport runs from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Rain date is Oct. 29. Most events are free or have small fees. Wearing costumes is encouraged—you could win a prize. Go to Ghostport’s Facebook page for a schedule of activities.