Aerin It OutNightlife

Morehead Tavern’s Haunted Cocktail Pop-up in Uptown Is No Drag

Me and my boo get dragged through a haunted cocktail pop-up

Back in time, gun violence, post pandemic social scene, Optimist Hall, Waffle House
Aerin Spruill

“Babe, wanna do me a huge favor?” I asked the boyfriend with a pleading lilt Tuesday night after getting a gentle tap from the head honcho, Ryan Pitkin, via text reminding me my deadline for the Halloween guide was fast approaching.

“What’s that?” bae replied with a sigh.

“Will you please go with me to this haunted house pop-up thing on Morehead?”

Anyone who knows me knows that my obsession with scary movies isn’t reserved just for October; it’s year-round. My lullaby is “Time of the Season” by Zombies because The Conjuring is my favorite scary movie to fall asleep to. And last year, I donned a personal record four costumes for Halloween.

But somehow, it’s taken over five years to get my boo to go with me to a haunted house. Two days later, my dream came true as we parked a block away from what used to be Morehead Tavern to attend what for 13 days in October will be Morehead’s Haunted Tavern.

While standing in the doorway, watching two animatronic witches chattering in the window behind a string of purple and orange lights, I realized I’d been there before. And believe it or not, it was to see pop R&B singer Sammie, my childhood chocolate drop of a heartthrob, because a bestie had been sliding into his DMs! That’s a ghost story for another day, but, “I like the way you look at me…” (YouTube it) was def playing in my head, stuck on repeat for the rest of the night.

Even outside, I could tell the music vibrating the windows would be an added stressor that I hadn’t factored into my math for boo’s “favor” tolerance. I glanced to discern a sense of hesitation, but he reached for the door handle. We checked in, signed waivers (wait, should I be concerned?!) and confirmed the wait (20-25 minutes). I felt confident one drink would curb our impatience.

Normally, I wouldn’t order a cocktail at an event like this because the options floating around that media night were giving “sweet” with no discernible flavor profile. The bartender already had a look that said “Ya best be ready” as I snapped a pic of the QR code to review cocktails before ordering. Her “look” conjured a reaction from me that was less “Um, rude” and more “I can only imagine the pains of working a pop-up.”

“There’s one with vodka, one with tequila, and one with gin.” Yep, that tracks. I chose “Vampire’s Kiss” (with vodka) because I figured it would have cranberry juice. Check. But I must say, the bubbly dry ice and gelatinous eyeball hidden beneath the cubes were a welcome “spooky” pizazz I needed to reconcile the wait time in the perceived quiet of the dimly lit “saloon” that overlooked another DJ event downstairs.

At minute 45, Khia belt out, “My neck, my back, lick my pussy, and my crack” in the background. While a certified bop in my book, I was getting antsy enough to “go check” that we didn’t miss our turn. But that’s when the bartender alerted us that we were up.

We downed the rest of our drinks to get with the other threesome joining our party outside. That’s when our line leader, “Drop Dead Gorgeous,” clad in a skeleton onesie, prepped to usher us up the stairs to the haunted attraction.

Noticing the other three in our group were cousins (read: other Black folk) leading the charge, my apprehension of being chased back down said stairs dissipated. I thought back to my rewatch of A Haunted House the week prior, a parody of Paranormal Activity produced by Marlon Wayans. “Black people don’t take nothin’ serious, I ain’t even scared no mo’,” I whispered to an unconvinced bae.

Ascending the stairs, the laughter I perceived as fearless slipped into uncertain chuckles as we entered what felt like an abyss of smoke. The claustrophobic fog clutched my throat, destabilizing my focus on the fear factor of “Unty” (aka Auntie). Clad in a ghostly hospital get-up and a wig/white-contact combo that rivaled Marvel’s Storm, Unty popped out of a rocking chair ready to clap-scare us with a folding fan and schizophrenic sass. Yep, she got me, but Bae was unphased.

As we continued to every room for the next 15-ish minutes, I held one hand over my eyes and one over my mouth worried that Unty wouldn’t be too far behind. That’s when “Steven” came bounding toward us out of the corner of the room in a childlike crouched crawl. *Insert genuine scream* And that’s when Unty reminded us she was still there with another aggressive clap just shy of my right ear.

By the end of the haunted tour, I avoided Jeffrey Dahmer, an Ouija board, a baby eating an adult foot, and the targeted jest of Unty and Steve when they realized I was the weakest link. That’s when we were allowed to take a picture with our “scaremates.”

Disarmed and unsuspecting, Unty kicked ther hairiest leg across boo and placed it into my hands as she said in a husky, scratchy voice, “You know I got cobwebs on my pwussy,” and proceeded to “clap fan” her undergarments to pose for the picture.

It may not compare to your run-of-the-mill haunted house at Scarowinds or Kersey Valley, nor is it meant to, but it’s worth $20 for a spooky night out in QC proper.

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