Perhaps it’s just all the history that permeates the air but artists and writers in residence at Howard Van Doren Shaw’s Ragdale estate report feeling something—a certain otherworldly energy that evokes the presence of spirits.
This whimsical notion of a haunted Ragdale came to life three years ago as a fall fundraising event, one that has become so popular it expands and grows every year. The aptly named “Rags to Witches” is a creative Halloween experience like none other—inspired, designed, and produced by a team of more than 40 regional artists and volunteers in the weeks leading up to the event. This year’s costumed, creative spookfest will take place on Saturday, October 20 beginning at 3 p.m.
Families and guests of all ages will be captivated (and haunted a bit) by live performances, hands-on art projects, games, and seasonal tastings throughout Lake Forest’s most storied estate. The activity-rich day features an original performance with the ghosts of Ragdale’s founding family, the Shaws, and their curious pets. Additional artist-led activities include a spellbinding scavenger hunt through the pet cemetery and beyond; spirited performances in the Witches Ring; a costume contest with prizes; creepy arts and crafts; ghostly storytelling and writing (by Ragdale author alumni); and a Sweet Shoppe with cider, snacks, and a cash bar.
New this year is the “After Dark” party for teens and adults from 6-8pm. “We received a lot of interest in something even scarier, so we decided to extend the event from 6 to 8 pm for older teens and adults,” says Cynthia Quick, director of external relations at Ragdale. “We will focus on the “dusk to dark period” where things can get spookier.”
As the light dims, both floors of the Ragdale House will be transformed into a haunted house inhabited by the spooky spirits of Ragdale’s past shaking the walls and walking the halls.
“A key aspect of this after dark event is that it allows us to highlight everything such as incredibly original costumes that change after dark,” says Ragdale Executive Director Jeffrey Meeuwsen. “We will feature lighting and glow-in-the-dark elements and brand new original performances that can only happen after dark.” Special performances, live music, and eerie visual effects will create the mood for the dead to dance and ghosts to fly.
Many of guest favorite activities and locations will also be returning this year, including the Pet Cemetery, Creepy Family Portraits, Frankentoy Mobile, and more. Musicians from Old Town School of Folk Music will lead families in music-making. Costumes are encouraged and prizes awarded in a grand finale ceremony.
The Ragdale Foundation is a nonprofit artists’ residency located on the historic 5-acre estate of architect Howard Van Doren Shaw in Lake Forest. Each year Ragdale hosts nearly 200 professionals in residence and presents more than 50 community programs for regional teachers, students, and the public. All proceeds benefit the artistic, educational, and community programs of the Ragdale Foundation.
Advance tickets to “Rags to Witches” daytime activities (3 to 6 p.m.) are $20 for adults, $15 for children, and $60 per household (limit 4). At the door: $25 for adults, $20 for children. Tickets for “After Dark” (6 to 8 p.m., suitable for teens and adults) are $40 (or guests can upgrade a daytime ticket for $25).
Ragdale is located at 1260 North Green Bay Road in Lake Forest. Free off-site parking and continuous shuttle service are available between Ragdale and the Lake Forest municipal lot on the west side of Oakwood Avenue, just north of Green Bay Road. For tickets and more information, call 847-234-1063 or visit ragdale.org.