Tricks And Treats: Boo At The Zoo

This undated photo released by the Smithsonian's National Zoological Park shows people entering the Elephant House at a Boo at the Zoo event at the Smithsonian's National Zoological Park. (AP Photo/Jessie Cohen, Smithsonian's National Zoological Park)
AP Photo/Jessie Cohen
Ghosts and ghouls - friendly ones at that - are about to take over America's zoos.

Hay mazes, pumpkin paths and haunted train rides too. And there will be lots of candy, of course.

Zoos big and small are finding that Halloween events are among their most popular draws, because many parents see the parties as a safer alternative to knocking on the doors of strangers. And there aren't a lot of other Halloween activities for the stroller crowd.

"For some, our event has replaced the traditional trick-or-treating around the neighborhood," said Sarah Burnette, spokeswoman for the Audubon Zoo in New Orleans.

There's Spooky Seas on Halloween night at the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, Night of the Living Zoo at Sedgwick County Zoo in Wichita, Kan., and Creep in the Deep at Adventure Aquarium in Camden, N.J.

Most offer more fun and less fright.

There are hayrides at the Bronx Zoo in New York, a candy forest in Atlanta and magic shows in Cleveland.

"There's no blood and guts," said Cleveland MetroParks Zoo spokeswoman Sue Allen. "Nothing that's meant to be intentionally scary."

Just to be sure, the zoo brought in a child psychologist a few years ago to make certain its displays were kid-friendly.

Cleveland's Boo at the Zoo has become so popular that most of its eight nights sell out.

The National Zoo in Washington added two more nights this year for Boo at the Zoo, which will be Oct. 23-26. The event is one of the zoo's top three fundraisers, with the profits going to education programs.

Skeletons and spiders projected onto the buildings and dark, woodsy paths add to the atmosphere.

The Little Rock Zoo bills its Boo at the Zoo as Arkansas' largest Halloween festival, drawing about 30,000 people over eight days. It's also the zoo's biggest fundraiser.

Visitors can ride the haunted train and take part in a costume contest. Little girls can get their nails done at the Beauty Shop of Horrors. Volunteers hand out candy throughout the zoo.

"There's some added assurance there for the parents," zoo spokeswoman Susan Altrui.

Volunteers sculpt pumpkins into animals at Zoo Boo in Detroit. A foggy trail and scary sounds line a path that leads to the Reptile House. It's more merry than scary, said spokeswoman Patricia Janeway.