As the moon rose, so did the dead. They shuffled and roared. They leered and lurked and frightened. Mostly they bided their time for the rope to lift and the paying customers to come through.
It was preview night at Anakeesta and the dead – mostly actors from a troupe in Maryville – were ready to do a little scaring in advance of the debut of The Legend of Hallow Mountain, Anakeesta’s brand new Halloween event which begins tonight, appropriately Friday the 13th.
“Fall is my favorite season, and we want to celebrate with a family-friendly ‘haunt’ to welcome in the autumn festivities in the Smokies,” Anakeesta co-founder and owner Karen Bentz explained. “My vision for the Hallow Mountain at Anakeesta is to add to our relaxing and scenic mountaintop village by creating a truly fun Halloween-themed destination for families to experience together. There are numerous kid-friendly activities, and one of the scare zones is just for adults – to make their spines tingle.”
Bentz and her team have been working on the story since April and pulling out all the stops to make Hallow Mountain the scariest event in Gatlinburg.
The story is built around the settlers of Hallow Mountain, who were cursed, and in try to come back as zombies searching for souls to join them. The fireflies which light the kid-friendly and zombie free Firefly Forest (by day the Treetop Skywalk) are the souls of light, serving a protective barrier and keeping the dead where they belong.
It’s an elaborate production and Anakeesta has gone to great lengths in bringing it to (ahem) life.
“We’ve hired a professional make-up artist to help us with getting all of actors looking as undead as they can,” said Erica Moore, marketing manager. “She’s actually worked with other productions, such as Disney. Her makeup has been on the Captain Marvel movie as well as Guardians of the Galaxy Volume II. So she knows what she’s doing and we’re really happy to have her.
“We also brought in Brainchild Creative. They’re a local company that helped build a lot of the scary props that you will see throughout the walk and then a lot of our actors are hired out of an agency from Knoxville and they’ve been here to help train our actors to be as spooky and scary as they can possibly be … we’ve put in a lot of time and work to bring in the right people to make this the best haunt in Gatlinburg.”
The graveyard, which is only open to guests 12 and up, sits on the highest point at Anakeesta and as the sun sets and the moon rises, it makes for an effective location for a haunt. The actors – who are not allowed to make contact – are convincing in their roles.
The graveyard path isn’t the only Halloween fun at Anakeesta.
In fact, fans of shows like The Walking Dead will also appreciate Anakeesta’s version of Zombie Ziplining. Zip through the black of night then rappel into the depths of darkness.
A single beacon will guide guests through almost 3,000 feet of ziplining with 70-foot drops and zombies lurking in the unknown.
As the nightlife awakens, Anakeesta’s Treetop Skywalk with 16 skybridges transforms into the new Firefly Forest. Experience the enchantment of thousands of “fireflies” pulsating in the forest below while walking 40-60 feet in the air, suspended in darkness. Then strike it rich with new Glow in the Dark Gem Mining.
Movie lovers of all ages can grab a seat at the Overlook Beer Garden to enjoy the stars and the silver screen during Anakeesta’s new 25 Nights of Outdoor Movies with cult favorites such as “Frankenstein,” “Ghostbusters” and “Casper,” just to name a few.
Of course, Halloween isn’t the only thing going on this fall at Anakeesta. The park’s location – behind Arrowmont School at the entrance to the main strip on the Parkway in Gatlinburg provides spectacular views of the mountains as well as a panorama of Gatlinburg itself.
The Cliff Top Bar and Grill offers tasty dining and spectacular views. There are shops and plenty of spots to stop, relax and take in the surroundings. Near the scenic overlook there’s a number of food truck offering coffee, barbecue, sweets and craft beer.
Autumn at Anakeesta and Hallow Mountain are included in the cost of Anakeesta general admission. Zombie Ziplining requires an additional ticket purchase as does the Rail Runner Coaster. General admission tickets may be purchased in advance and give you unlimited Chondola or Ridge Rambler access to the mountaintop all day and night, with the last ride up departing at 11 p.m.
The Legend of Hallow Mountain begins at sunset and lasts until midnight and is available weekends and select nights through Nov. 2. Go online to www.anakeesta.com for more information.