You’ll find haunting happenings in the island chain from the northernmost outpost of Key Largo to the continental United States’ southernmost city of Key West. And they start (speaking of strange) underwater.
Yes, divers can earn prizes and praise for creating the most unique jack-o’-lanterns beneath the sea — during the 18th annual Underwater Pumpkin Carving Contest that’s set for Saturday, Oct. 17.
During the offbeat event, two-person teams submerge about 30 feet beneath the surface in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, where they’re tasked with carving pumpkins into imaginative jack-o’-lanterns. FYI, entrants’ challenges include keeping the hollowed-out pumpkins from floating away while they carve their works of art!
Wayne Cline won the 2014 contest, wowing the judges by crafting an intricately designed seahorse. But underwater artistry, he discovered, isn’t always easy.
“What’s challenging about carving a pumpkin underwater is not only the buoyancy of your body, but the buoyancy of the pumpkin itself,” Wayne advised.
Contestant Patricia Coe also encountered some unexpected obstacles.
“It’s a lot harder than it sounds,” she admitted. “You’re 30 feet under water and things float away — including your tools and your ideas.”
The fee is just $85 per diver for the two-tank, two-location dive. Clever carvers are encouraged to sign up early, since space is limited.
Ghostly goings-on are also scheduled on land in the Keys. For example, brave kids can venture into Crane Point Hammock’s Creepy Carnival starting at 6 p.m. Friday, Oct. 30. The eerie event, taking place in Marathon at MM 50, is to feature spooky special guests like the Bearded Lady, Crazy Clowns and Wolfman.
Geared toward youngsters age 12 and under, the fright-filled fun is free to the public.
One of Key West’s scariest spectacles involves land, sea — and outer space. The historic U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Ingham, docked at the Truman Waterfront and operating as a maritime museum, will host an interactive experience titled “King Neptune’s Curse: Aliens vs. Coast Guard.”
The Coast Guard and adventurous attendees will battle “aliens” trying to take over the USCGC Ingham. Each compartment will have various challenges for attendees to complete to “protect” the ship.
Skirmishes are scheduled each evening from Oct. 22-30 (except Oct. 26 and 29). Tickets will be on sale beginning at 7:30 p.m. and gates open at 8 p.m. Closed-toed shoes are required.
And let’s not forget a pre-Halloween happening designed especially for the walking dead (or actually the bicycling dead) dubbed the Zombie Bike Ride.
Several thousand kids and grownups, costumed and painted as the fearsome creatures, are expected to participate in Oct. 25th’s raucous ride — pedaling beside Key West’s Atlantic Ocean shoreline and palm-lined streets.
The zany family-friendly event begins at 2 p.m. when “Zombieland” opens at Fort East Martello Museum, a reputedly haunted historic site beside the Atlantic. Attractions include music, food and beverage vendors and on-site face and body painters to help attendees transform into zombies.
At 6 p.m., the spooky cyclists depart. The bike route takes them along the Atlantic down South Roosevelt Boulevard and into a section of Key West’s picturesque Old Town — culminating in the ZombieFest Street Party in the 100, 200 and 300 blocks of famed Duval Street.