October is my favorite month, so I’m ready to enjoy some cooler weather, turning leaves, campfires, and ghost stories. If you’re looking for something to do in and near Decatur this fall, below are some special events and places to visit. I tried to include a wide variety from spooky places to more family-friendly events.
James Millikin Homestead
Sunday, October 30th | More Details
Besides visiting Greenwood Cemetery, which we’ll get to, visiting Millikin Homestead has become one of my favorite things to do every year in October. The house could easily be cast in a spooky movie, but it has a positive vibe to it. I’m not aware of any ghost stories attributed to the house, though it was a hospital during the 1918 Flu Pandemic.
The best thing about the Millikin Homestead, besides the gorgeous house, are the guided tours. You’ll learn about many of the most notable movers and shakers of early Decatur and their associations with James Millikin. James Millikin founded Millikin University in Decatur, and was also a banker, so he attracted businessman wanting to fund their various ventures. He didn’t always oblige.
It’s a great, family-friendly tour that will take you back to the late 1800s, when Decatur was very influential in state affairs. You can also enjoy West Main Street, which is lined by trees that show stunning colors in the fall.
The Culver House
Friday, October 28th & Saturday, October 29th Literary Night | More Details
Unlike the Millikin Homestead, the Culver House is definitely known for its ghost stories! Construction began in 1888, and the house changed hands a few times before the Culver family moved in and made several improvements. It remained in the Culver family for many years, until 1950, when it was split up into apartments. Disrepair and a fire eventually put the house on the demo list, but a group of volunteers stepped up and continues to raise funds for its restoration.
If you want to know the ghost stories of the house, check out Haunted Decatur, by Troy Taylor. There are also Haunted Decatur tours, but are sold out for the month of October this year. You’ll want to book early for next year, if you’d like to go.
On October 28th and 29th, the Culver House is hosting a Literary Night, with stories told by authors and local celebrities. I’ve never attended one of these events, but it sounds fun!
Harvest Festival, Macon County Fairgrounds
Friday, October 14th, Saturday, October 15th, Sunday, October 16th | More Details
I believe this is the first year the Macon County Fairgrounds has hosted a Harvest Festival. This is a family-friendly event with food, carnival rides, corn maze, a haunted hay ride, and more. It will be held at the fairgrounds, and you can buy tickets in advance.
Boo at the Zoo
Beginning October 14th | More Details
Scovill Zoo hosts Boo at the Zoo to provide a safe place for Trick-or-Treaters to wear their costumes, collect candy, go on a train ride, and enjoy zoo animals. This is a very popular kid-friendly event held every year in Decatur and helps support the zoo. Reservations are required in advance, and you can buy tickets here. The first Boo at the Zoo weekend is October 14th, 15th & 16th.
Fall Harvest Festival, Macon County Conservation District
Saturday, October 22nd | More Details
Held every year at Rock Springs Nature Center is the Harvest Festival. You can enjoy the outdoors and go hiking or canoeing. There are also wagon rides, crafts, archery, and other fall-themed activities for kids and adults to do. Many of these activities are free. The trees should be showing good color and the nearby bike path is the perfect spot to view them. Rock Springs is open year-round and is fun to explore in any season.
Almost every year, I visit Greenwood Cemetery in October, and every year it’s a different experience. Some years are pleasant and uplifting, others I don’t stay long. Every single year, I have tried to make a video to share on YouTube, but every single year something happens to my camera equipment. The batteries that were fully charged before reaching the cemetery drain to nothing when I get there, the sound doesn’t work right, or some other “technical difficulty” happens to squash my efforts.
I haven’t even been able to record a decent video on a smartphone. Last time, my phone, which always works flawlessly and reliably, froze, overheated, and the only image I captured was one of a bright, blurry streak of light across a headstone.
Now, I don’t necessarily believe in ghosts, but it is fun thinking about the unexplained. Mostly, I go there to pay homage to Decatur’s past. The Millikins are buried there, as well as most of Decatur’s most prominent figures of the late 1880s. There are several mausoleums, which makes the cemetery feel like a neighborhood for the dead. You’ll also find many unique headstones, especially in the older part of the cemetery.
I recommend going with a friend, because there will be a point, as you walk deeper into the cemetery, in which you will most likely begin freaking out. At least that’s what happens to me. There was the year I slipped on persimmons and nearly broke my leg, and I wondered how I would get to my car by myself. Another year, a groundhog jumped out from behind a headstone and nearly caused me to go into cardiac arrest. There area also big groundhog holes and tunnels, here and there. Falling into a hole in a cemetery would be kinda freaky!
Then there was the year, when I visited after some knuckleheads tried to break into a mausoleum the night before. It was dark and rainy, with thunder booming in the distance. Seeing the ornate metal doors of that mausoleum, held only with loose chains, open and close with the wind was enough for me to hightail it out of there.
Again, if you’re into spooky stories, check out Troy Taylor’s book. It has quite a few details about Greenwood Cemetery and some of the most notable ghost stories attributed to it. It even has a map that you can follow.
I haven’t found any details for any tours of Greenwood Cemetery in October, but you can visit the cemetery during daylight hours. I’d recommend brushing up on the history of the cemetery before going. Be respectful when you visit.