This weekend and next, after the pint-size goblins have gorged themselves on candy and retired to dreamland, Madison's freakiest folks will come out to play. Here's a handpicked list of Dane County's scariest, strangest and raciest Halloween events for grownup boys and ghouls.
Monstrous concerts and costume parties
This party's all about living your rock 'n' roll fantasies. Starting Friday with Wall of Funk's homage to the mighty Deftones, the weekend will feature Second Soul doing songs from Rock of Ages, Lords of the Trident honoring metal saint Ronnie James Dio, Chaos Revolution Theory taking on the tunes of Neil Young, and Colorphase hoisting the Viking-rock hammer of Led Zeppelin. The event's free, which means plenty of leftover cash for fake blood and corpse face-paint.
How has no one in Wisconsin thought of naming a Boston tribute band Mauston before now? At this year's two-night Freakin' Halloweekend, Mauston (featuring Sean Michael Dargan, Centime and VO5) will dole out the hits along with fellow monsters of rock like the Violators (members of Null Device and Caustic as Depeche Mode) and Hung Americans (a David Bowie tribute composed of Nick Brown and members of the Shabelles and Something to Do). Watch for a costume contest both nights and a special treat at the end of the weekend: a reunion show by Violent Femmes cover band Gimmie the Car.
Madison and Milwaukee musicians will morph into spooky likenesses of their favorite bands at one of Willy Street's most popular watering holes. Friday night will feature Roboman as a one-man version of the Ramones, members of Dead Luke and the Lonesome Savages as Brian Jonestown Massacre, representatives of the Hussy and the Goodnight Loving as the Stooges, and a tribute to MC5 composed of rockers from Catholic Boys, Sugar Stems and more. On Saturday, Crackity Jones will trade their usual set of Pixies covers for a stash of Love & Rockets songs, and other local tunesmiths will perform their best renditions of songs by Pink Floyd and Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds.
Inferno, Friday, Oct. 26, 9 p.m.
The fetish-friendly club will transform into an evil forest for the first night of Halloween weekend. Folks will dress to impress, and with good reason: Prizes await for the scariest, funniest and most villainous looks. In case the costumes don't assault your senses enough, lasers will trace the space while skulls rattle to the sounds of DJs Bassex and DRC, both in from the West Coast. Local spinners N2weeks, Hypnoassassin and Kevin Soulgroove will summon shivers as well.
State Street, Saturday, Oct. 27, 7 p.m.
Brace yourself for large-scale controlled chaos if you head downtown Halloween weekend. State Street is the premier spot for flaunting ridiculous costumes, the best of which will be chosen by the crowd at the Ticketmaster Stage at 11 p.m. Between all the gawking, there's a ton of live music, including sets by headliners Big Gigantic, an electronic duo from Boulder, Colo., and Mac Miller, a baby-faced party MC who made a name for himself by repping Pittsburgh on his 2011 debut, Blue Slide Park. Fellow smart aleck MC Prof will also perform, along with local R&B dudes Kyle & Keem, Twin Cities jam band Roster McCabe and Amsterdam dance-music freaks Nobody Beats the Drum.
'80s vs. '90s Halloween Costume Ball
Majestic Theatre, Saturday, Oct. 27, 9 p.m.
If freezing on State Street doesn't top your Halloween to-do list, this bash inside the cozy, warm Majestic Theatre might do the trick. Here, DJs Nick Nice and Fusion will scare up funky ghosts of decades past to launch a raging dance party. We're talking videos on the big screen, costumed partiers cramming into the photo booth, and frightfully fun buzzes from "Ghoul-Aid"-and-vodka cocktails. The best '80s or '90s TV character, music icon and movie star in attendance will score prizes.
Natt Spil, Wednesday, Oct. 31, 10 p.m.
Steampunk culture is bound by no holiday, but Halloween's a great time to bust out some Victorian duds and cool, weird weapons. So dust off that top hat and monocle, lace up that corset and ready the muzzleloader for this benefit for Madison Ballet's 2013 production of Dracula: A Rock Ballet. DJ Jeremy Thomas will spin records as attendees show off their old-timey duds. There's no cover, but proceeds from raffle tickets and shots of Vampire Bite go toward the Ballet.
Night of the Dead
Barrymore Theatre, Friday, Nov. 2, 8 p.m.
For a post-Halloween fete, Night of the Dead should be a no-brainer. The Mustache will flex their funk muscles when they tackle the catalog of Parliament; the Grasshoppers will resurrect Jimi Hendrix; and the People Brothers Band will get into the Doors. Perhaps most compelling will be short interludes performed by the Material Boys, a seven-piece acoustic band that knocks out bluegrass versions of Madonna songs. Just imagine how cool "Ray of Light" would sound with more banjo.
Freaky theater and dance
StageWorks Projects' Drakula
Stoughton Opera House, Friday, Oct. 26, and Saturday, Oct. 27, 7:30 p.m.
Can you picture a vampire in a tutu? It's tough, but that hasn't stopped StageWorks Projects from staging a ballet about the infamous bloodsucker. Now in its third year, this PG-13 show features original choreography, contemporary music and a storyline fit for a gothic date night. Already seen it? No problem. This year's show features new costumes, sets and music.
Are We Delicious? Hallowe'en
Bartell Theatre, Tuesday, Oct. 30, and Wednesday, Oct. 31, 8 p.m.
Still scrambling to throw together last-minute plans for Halloween? Catch a play thrown together by the Are We Delicious? Ensemble. These eight Madison actors perform spooky scripts they've written and rehearsed in just one day. They're likely to tickle your funny bone and scare the crap out of you over the course of an hour. And if things don't go according to plan, they'll make you think twice about procrastinating.
Scream-worthy art and films
UW Cinematheque: Yotsuya Ghost Story
4070 UW Vilas Hall, Friday,Oct. 26, 7 p.m.
A murdered woman seeks revenge on her husband in Kenji Misumi's retelling of one of Japan's most famous ghost stories. Released in 1959, at the start of the Japanese New Wave movement, this black-and-white film is as stylish as it is bloody.
Brew & View: Ghostbusters
Majestic Theatre, Saturday, Oct. 27, 7 p.m.
Preserve the cult legacy of the original Ghostbusters by gathering with other proton-pack aficionados. Fans can laugh at intentionally funny lines and unintentionally funny special effects while doing shots with Peter Venkman and the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. Fingers crossed that Bill Murray crashes the party.
Westfield Comics and Capital City Comics, Wednesday, Oct. 31, 11 a.m.
Not just for kids, this event promotes literacy in one of the best ways possible: with complimentary mini-issues of classic comics featuring Batman, Adventure Time, Teenage Mutant Turtles and more. It's also a great place to show that Hellboy costume to people who will really appreciate it.
Cyberpunk Apocalypse: Declaring War on the M.F.A.
Rainbow Bookstore Cooperative, Wednesday, Oct. 31, 6 pm
Nate McDonough and Daniel McCloskey from Pittsburgh's notorious Cyberpunk Apocalypse collective will do a spooky reading of their newest works, which sully literary fiction with comics and other non-academic art forms in an effort to terrify the country's snobbiest M.F.A. programs. McDonough's Don't Come Back has earned some creepy, cerebral descriptors from reviewers, including "existential horror," "psychedelic crisis" and "Freudian free association."
Madison Horror Film Festival
Market Square Theatre, Saturday, Nov. 3, and Sunday, Nov. 4, 11 a.m.
For a Halloween encore, take in a weekend's worth of bone-chilling cinema at this locally organized fest, which doubles as a fundraiser for the Dane County Humane Society. This year's films come from as far away as Spain and Germany, while a cheese-curd-eating competition will highlight a signature Wisconsin snack and its squeaky shriek. Highlights include the premiere of Incest Death Squad Rising by Astro Zombies' Cory Udler and a screening of Dead Weight, an indie feature about a psychologically disturbed man and his trip through a post-apocalyptic Wisconsin wilderness. Stars of the horror genre, such as Maniac Cop's Robert D'Zar and "scream queen" Tiffany Shepis, will host question-and-answer sessions and other events.
Ghost hunting and other hauntings
Horror in the Dark at Olin Park
Olin Park, Thursday, Oct. 25, Friday, Oct. 26, Saturday, Oct. 27, and Wednesday, Oct. 31, 7-10 p.m.
Though it's run by big-hearted volunteers from the Madison Metro Jaycees, this haunted house is rumored to be one of the scariest in town. Shock yourself at your own pace during a 30-minute, self-guided tour rife with zombie soldiers and government experiments gone horribly awry. A portion of this year's proceeds will benefit the Road Home, an organization that helps local homeless families get back on their feet.
Visiting the Beyond
Black Earth Public Library, Saturday, Oct. 27, 7 p.m.
At this interactive lecture, Curt Strutz, a ghost hunter from the creepy cable-TV show Paranormal Generation, will share photos and stories from his adventures, which have taken him to spirit-ridden homes, prisons and hospitals throughout the country. A Milwaukee-area resident, he's also visited many of Wisconsin's haunted landmarks and researched their eerie histories.
Lost City Tour
UW Arboretum, Sunday, Oct. 28, 1 p.m.
Perhaps one of the scariest things on Earth is the dream of what might have been. Held once a year, this two-and-a-half-hour tour explores a section of the Arboretum where a subdivision appeared in the 1920s, then vanished when the Great Depression struck. The journey begins at the Visitor Center, where participants can view photos and maps of the abandoned Lake Forest housing development. Then the group heads into the woods to find remnants of its ghostly streets, which lie beneath blankets of autumn leaves.