Published in The Coaster, Asbury Park NJ, October 25 2018

Let other towns lay claim to being the area’s capital of Christmas cheer; home to the longest running St. Patrick’s Day celebration; scene of the most star-spangled July Fourth display. With dozens of venues in which to dance the witching hour away — and plenty of world renowned boardwalk and boulevards on which to strut one’s carefully costumed stuff — Asbury Park has a lock on the days and nights leading up to the Eve of All Hallows, making the seaside city that so famously “came back from the dead” the undisputed headquarters of Halloween festivity.

It’s an interlude that sounds an early-October keynote with the Asbury Park Zombie Walk, the annual lurch previewed in these pages a few weeks back. And in between there are events like this past Saturday’s Haunted Carousel Dance Party, the gala-ghoul benefit for local charities from which images can be seen at ahauntedcarousel.com. But from the moment the sun goes down tonight, October 25 — and on through the moment the clock strikes midnight on November 1, the Day of the Dead — both the legendary haunted landmarks and the shiny new haunts of the greater Asbury area are where the sights, the sounds, and the seriously fun cosplay can be found.


On the Asbury boards, the major concert event in the season of the witch is Convention Hell — and in this year’s edition of the Hall-rocking happening, the venerable venue welcomes the jam-circuit juggernaut Pink Talking Fish, a band that — as the name implies — triangulates a tribute to the collected works of Pink Floyd, Talking Heads, and Phish. On Saturday night, the four-piece group and friends will be saluting Floyd’s epic album Dark Side of the Moon in sound and light — and joining in the spirit of dress-up fun are three local favorites portraying acts who appeared at Convention Hall in summers past: Wild Adriatic (as Led Zeppelin), Waiting For Mongo (as James Brown and his Famous Flames), and The Burns (as Jim Morrison and The Doors). Doors open at 7 pm, with tickets ($20 advance; $25 d.o.s.)  at the box office or via apboardwalk.com.

While the Convention Hell show is open only to concertgoers age 21 and up, fans of all ages can take it over to the headquarters of the Asbury Park Music Foundation (in the Lakehouse complex on Lake Avenue) on Saturday night, where from 7 to 11 pm the annual Diamond Concerts Halloween Show presents a bill headlined by the up-and-coming Brick Township-based band The Ones You Forgot.


A costume of any kind gets you admitted free of charge to The Headliner on Route 35 in Neptune, where on Friday night The Smokin’ Jackets preside over a Halloween Blast that gets going at 7 pm. Over at Asbury’s downtown boxcar berthplace of rock The Saint, Friday also finds a Halloween Bash and Costume Contest that features Black Magic Flower Power and the trick-or-treat-appropriate Candy Cavity (admission’s $10 in advance, or $15 at the 7:30 pm door). Or take it up Main Street and just over the Sunset Lake bridge to McGillicuddy’s in Loch Arbour, where a Friday night Halloween Party features music by So Watt and some cool prizes for costumed contestants.

Friday further finds the spirits in season at Johnny Mac’s House of Spirits, where the annual Halloween party offers cash prizes for costumes, Hallo-themed games and tunes by DJ Rob Busch from 9 pm. Mr. Mac’s is also the scene of a HalloWednesday Industry Party on the 31st, with still more cash prizes and music by DJ Johnny Katch.

Saturday sees the Stone Pony getting into the act with a Rocking Halloween Costume Party that features music by Asbury’s own Well Wisher (pictured) and more, with doors at 6 pm and admission $12 in advance ($15 d.o.s.). Costumes are a must over at the historic Berkeley Oceanfront Hotel, where a Halloween Costume Bash runs from 7:30 pm to 12:30 am, with live music by several local bands (including Xol Azul), and a $30 ticket including a buffet dinner.

Presenting its 20th annual event here in 2018, Hell in Paradise brings the area’s longest established Halloween Ball and Costume Pageant to the premier LGBTQ nightspot Paradise at the Empress Hotel, for a Saturday night session that begins at 10 pm and offers a choice of two dance floors with guest DJs. Admission’s $15, with the centerpiece costume pageant scheduled for midnight.

Come dressed as “your favorite feminist icon” on Sunday from 5 pm, when the Asbury Hotel is host to a “Power to the Polls” Feminist Halloween Costume Party that’s a co-presentation of the Asbury Park Women’s Convention and Asbury Park Women’s March. A $15 cover includes refreshments and costume contest entry, with proceeds dedicated to future editions of the Women’s Convention and GOTV efforts in advance of Election Day.


He’s not usually mentioned in the same breath as Halloween (although he does famously have a Big Scary Friend in Bruce Springsteen), but veteran Iron City rocker Joe Grushecky is the monster of ceremonies for a special Friday night Halloween show upside Tim McLoone’s Supper Club, with going-fast tickets to the 8:15 pm set ($25) at timmcloonessupperclub.com. Over at The Saint, host to many a showcase for the city’s fast-emerging hip hop scene, a special Black Suburbia Halloween Bash brings a multi-act bill to the Saturday night stage, headlined by Baron Praxis and featuring Miles NxBxDy among many more. Doors open at 7:30, with tix ($10 advance, $13 d.o.s.) at thesaintnj.com. Elsewhere on Saturday, the Soundbooth Lounge at the Asbury Hotel plays host to Cat + Rich’s Monster Mash from 9 pm, while one of Asbury Park’s most popular DJs, Tyler Valentine takes it to another (lower) level in a Halloween Party that happens at the Bond Street complex’s Basement Bar, scene of a special Halloween Horror Bizarre bazaar on Sunday afternoon, October 28.

Picking up the g-string from the Jenn Hampton-era Asbury Lanes — and resuming a successful collaboration from earlier in the year — NJ Burlesque reteams with the Asbury Hotel for a Saturday night Halloween Burlesque show that promises such latter-day keepers of the bump-‘n-grind art as Lydia Vengeance (pictured), Cameron Catastrophe, and Viktor Devonne. Melodie Morceau hosts the 18-and-up show inside the hotel’s Asbury Hall, with doors at 7 pm and tickets $25 in advance through Eventbrite.com, or $30 at the door. There’s also an after-party featuring costume contest, horror film clips, and music by DJ Atom Worth beginning at 10 pm — while across the way at the Lanes, a Hip Hop Horror Show  DJ night proceeds from 10 pm to 2 am.

Back Saint-side on Halloween Wednesday night, a special “Den Fest” bill features the great psychedulic pop combo The Cold Seas (pictured) in the guise of “The Smashing Bumpkins,” with Back Hose, Ghoulmaster, and Actually I’m a Ghost in support (doors at 7 pm, with admission $10). Williams Honor, the acclaimed country-pop act (and recent arena-size opener for Bon Jovi) spearheaded by Gordon Brown and Regan Richards, presents its third annual Hometown Halloween Spooktacular up at Tim McLoone’s that selfsame spooky evening, with full band onstage and available tickets to the 8 pm show priced between $30 and $40.


Sometimes a Not-Too-Spooky Halloween is just what the situation calls for — and on Sunday morning, October 28, the recently revamped Asbury Lanes opens its doors at 10 am to young music fans and their caregivers, for an all-ages day of dress-up fun, games and tunes by the popular “kindie rockers” known as The Little Rockers Band. Tickets ($15) at asburylanes.com.


Help Fido finish his costume and get on over to Main Avenue in Ocean Grove on Saturday, October 27, when the Grover’s Rovers Costume Dog Walk proceeds from the OG branch of Kearny Bank in a colorful neighborhood walk that starts at 1 pm — and from which donations and proceeds ($15 early registration at the bank; $20 day of event) benefit the nonprofit Rescue Ridge (there’s adoption info, as well as refreshments, raffles, prizes, and a rain date of Saturday, November 3). The Asbury circuit landmark Wonder Bar — home of the famous Yappy Hour promotion and its dedicated deck area — is the setting for a special Halloween Yappy Hour celebration that runs between noon and 4 pm on Saturday, with a scheduled pets/people parade on the boardwalk at 2 pm, and a costume party on the Yappy deck at 3 pm. Proceeds benefit the nonprofit Wag On Inn Rescue, and more info can be found at wonderbarasburypark.com.


Asbury Hall at the Asbury Hotel is the space for a special Dinner and a Movie presentation that takes place tonight, October 25, with catering by the downtown Asbury vegan eatery The Cardinal, and caterwauling courtesy of Wes Craven’s original entry in the meta-horror franchise Scream. A $75 ticket includes 6 pm dinner, 7 pm film, a “complimentary themed cocktail” and access to cash bar (details at asburyhotel.com).

The Asbury is also the scene for a FREE movie night on Hallo-evening Wednesday, a 7 pm double feature that ranges from the wacky witchery of the Bette Midler comedy Hocus Pocus, to the creepy-doll goosebumps of Annabelle Creation. Then at 10 pm, downtown screening space The Showroom closes out the night in classic fashion, with Jamie Lee Curtis in director John Carpenter’s original entry in the seemingly unkillable Halloween franchise.


Continuing a very productive residency at Ocean Grove’s Jersey Shore Arts Center, the La Strada Ensemble Theater collective presents another in a series of mini-festivals spotlighting original playlets by the troupe’s members. For the duration of the Halloweekend, artistic director A.J. Ciccotelli and company commandeer the third-floor café space at the JSAC (the old Neptune High School building at Main Street and Main Ave) for CHILL, a set of weird and eerie one-acts that offers two complete programs, with Program A going up at 8 pm Friday plus 4 pm Saturday, and Program B running at 8 pm Saturday and 2 pm Sunday. Tickets ($25) and full details at lastradaensemble,org or 732-455-2748.

Lastly — maybe even firstly — celebrants can unwind, or maybe even rewind, with a Past Life Regression session conducted by Frank St. John, and hosted at Kathy Kelly’s downtown Paranormal Books and Curiosities, where the spirit of the season extends throughout an entire calendar year of ghost investigations, local lore tours, Jersey Devil and Krampus festivals, about which more to come in these pages. The session begins at 7 pm on Mischief Night Tuesday, October 30, with admission $50 and details at paranormalbooksnj.com.