MT. VERNON, Mo. — Expect some rather spooky and mysterious happenings taking place in Mt. Vernon tomorrow as the aptly named Mystery and Intrigue Fest launches inside, of all places, a former church.

That’s one of the reasons members of the Mt. Vernon Regional Arts Council decided to steer clear of using words such as “paranormal” and “supernatural” to describe their new, free festival.

“We didn’t want to bill this as a paranormal conference because it’s not,” said Schrylet Cameron, one of the festival’s organizers. 

While she admits there may be “dozens of discussions” taking place among people concerning things “they’ve seen or they’ve heard that cannot be explained,” there will be plenty of attractions that will have nothing to do with the supernatural.

For starters, there will be dozens of arts and crafts shows located at the front of the MARC, the city’s arts and recreation center located at 822 W. Mt. Vernon Road. There will also be plenty of local authors pushing their books, headlined by Janice Tremeear-Pestana, author of several fiction and nonfiction paranormal books, including “Haunted Ozarks.” 

Food will be available from local That Crazy Redhead’s Bakery and Cafe. 

The festival “will be a good mixture of everything,” Cameron said. “We’re very excited about it. I think our (festival) is kind of unique in the area.” 

Between noon and 1 p.m. as well as between 2 and 3 p.m., three sets of speakers will talk about things that go bump in the night. The first two are free to the public: Wesley Fox will speak from noon to 12:30 p.m. about real-life investigations into hauntings that have taken place in the nearby cities of Branson, Hollister and Aurora. After that, Chris and Roseann Cupit will speak about their own personal paranormal experiences, which will be the subject of an upcoming episode of “The Haunting,” which airs on the Destination America Channel.

The highlight of the festival takes place between 2 and 3 p.m., when Illusionist Sean-Paul takes the stage, showing off some of the mysterious tricks he’s made famous over the years in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. 

Cost is $12 online or $17 at the door. It’s a family-friendly show, Cameron said. 

“I’ve been to his show twice, and I can’t figure out how he does it,” she said. “I know it’s a trick. I just don’t know how he does it.” 

Cameron hopes between 2,000 and 5,000 attend Saturday. Should crowds approach that number, Cameron is confident there will be a bigger and better Mystery and Intrigue Fest next year.

“We want this to be something that will stand out from the crowd and make people say, ‘Hmmm, I want to check this out.’”

Saturday’s intriguing fest kicks off the Halloween spook season with a bang. Across the region, Halloween spook houses, trails, hayrides and barns are opening to paying customers. Here is a quick rundown of some of the more popular places to visit:

• Barns on Haunted Hill: Three terrified-filled barns (more than 90,000-square-feet in all) and two death defying trails comprise the hair-raising experience that is Barns on Haunted Hill, now in its 14th year of operation. Barns is located three miles north of the junction of Highway 96 and 43 Highway. Admission is $10. The attraction is open from 7:30 p.m. to midnight every Friday and Saturday of October (and Nov. 1) as well as from 7:30 to 10 p.m. on Oct. 16, 23, 26, 29-30. 

• The Dead of Night: The dead come alive at 1100 N. Prosperity Ave., where vehicles motor thrill-seekers armed with real paint guns shooting glowing paint at zombie hordes along a forested trail. Joining regular zombies this year are new “hillbilly” zombies. Hours of operation are 7 p.m. to 1 a.m. every Wednesday-Saturday throughout October. Admission is $15 per 100 paintballs, with extra ammunition available. 

• Dexter’s Haunted Funeral House of Horror: Formerly the Simpson funeral home, Dexter’s is now a spook house, located at 323 S. Kansas Ave., in Columbus, Kansas. There are three haunted levels to explore, each filled with scary twists and turns, including a trek down to the basement and inside the original embalming room. Tickets are $10 for adults, $8 for children ages 12 and under. The attraction is open from 7 p.m. to midnight on Fridays and Saturdays throughout October.

• The Fear Factory Haunted House: Located at 2455 S. County Lane 121 in Carthage, this haunted attraction is open each Friday and Saturday throughout October (and Nov. 1). Doors open at 7 p.m. Admission is $9, though group rates are available. 

• Fieker’s Dark Harvest Haunted Hayride: Located at 201 Pennington in Duenweg, this Halloween attraction is already open, one of the first to do so, with the first “run” taking place on Sept. 26. After folks enjoy the haunted hayride, they can also enjoy a new addition this year: the Maze of Madness. Admission is $10. The hayride will stay open “as long as people keep coming.” 

• Historic Ghost Tours: The Paranormal Science Lab blends history with the horrific during its paranormal investigative researches of three locations in Jasper County: the Kendrick House and the Burlingame & Chaffee Opera House in Carthage, as well as the Webb City Library. There will also be tours of the John Wise home, 504 S. Byers, in Joplin, from 6 p.m. to midnight on Halloween night. Visit www.paranormalsciencelab.com/events for times, dates and details.

• Joplin Manor Haunted House: This “high-shock, high-gore” attraction uses terrifying special effects and trained actors to create one of the most realistic nightmares possible. The Manor, located at 4706 Gateway Drive (four miles south of I-44), has been remodeled for the 2014 Halloween season. Ticket booths open at 6:30 p.m. The Manor is open from 7 p.m. to midnight each Friday and Saturday throughout October (and Nov. 1). 

• Macabre Haunted History Tour: The American Opera Studio will blend haunting music with settings that have in the past featured the Olivia Apartments, Masonic Scottish Rites Temple and Schifferdecker Mansion in Joplin as well as the Kendrick House and American Opera Studio in Carthage. Performances will be Friday, Oct. 24 and Saturday, Oct. 25. Check out their Facebook page for additional details. 

• The Rocky Horror Show (Live): A live performance of the classic at the Little Joplin Theatre, directed by Lisa Wood, will take place at 10 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 7 and Saturday, Nov. 8. Cast members will be provided by the Dream Troupe of Joplin. Tickets priced at $15 can be purchased online.

• Rocky Horror Picture Show RKO: The RKO Floor Show will perform live scenes of the famed ’70s classic on stage while the movie plays out overhead. The show begins at 10 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 18 inside the Webb City Movie Theater on Route 66. Admission is $6. Prop bags are $3. 

• The Twisted Forest: Open from dark until midnight, the Twisted Forest, located at 601 Reddings Road in Joplin, offers a diverse, 45-minute long trail of horror, stretching for more than a half-mile over uneven ground and includes peeks inside dilapidated structures, including a house and barn. There is also a 3,000-square-foot enclosed maze. Ticket prices are $10 for tonight and tomorrow night but will be raised to $15 each Friday and Saturday throughout October (and Nov. 1). A portion of proceeds will benefit the Rapha House, which offers aid to victims of human trafficking.

• Waco Spookhouse Haunt: Set inside a schoolhouse built in 1934, and located at 148 Rose St. in Waco, Missouri, this haunted attraction is open each Friday and Saturday throughout the month of October. Admission is $12. Doors open at 7 p.m. 

• Wolfman’s House of Screams: Now entering its ninth year of operation, Wolfman’s House of Screams is one of the area’s most popular haunts. Located at 26267 King Lane in Carl Junction, the spooky activity inside is sure to turn the darkest hair white. Be sure to grab a “Be Easy” ticket at the concession stand for a less frightening way through the house. Doors open at 7 p.m. The House of Screams is open until midnight (or later) each Friday and Saturday during October (and Nov. 1). It’s also open from 7 to 10 p.m. on Oct. 16, 22-23, 26 and 29. A portion of all proceeds will benefit the Shriner’s Children’s Hospital.

• The X Project 3: Dr. Xavier is back again inside the building at 13507 Briarwood Road, where thrill seekers will once again come face to face with the mad scientist’s DNA research subjects gone horribly wrong. Tickets are $12 for the “really scary experience” and $10 for the more congenial “sissy way.” It is open from 7 p.m. to midnight each Friday and Saturday throughout October (including Nov. 1).

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