Candy bars and childhood scars

Charles at Large: A fifth-generation Atlantan explains the city

Q: I live in Midtown. Where should I take my kids trick-or-treating for a really good time?

A good intown experience (without the masked hordes) can be had in Ansley Park. As a precocious young candy hoarder who took fetishistic pleasure in accumulating, organizing, and locking away his candy stash, I found the Midtown neighborhood aerobically and navigationally challenging—wide, labyrinthine streets with long, regal driveways—but rewarding. I still have my personalized Ansley candy maps, which employ a loot-based scale (homes with reliable confections are drawn much larger). Happy to send your kids a copy.

Q: I’m afraid of haunted houses. My girlfriend insists that I go this year. Am I doomed?

Quite possibly. There used to be a haunted house at Rhodes Hall, the creepy old Romanesque Revival–style castle on Peachtree Street built by furniture magnate Amos Giles Rhodes in 1904. I was ten years old when my father took me there. He still tells the story of how I jumped into his arms screaming when a statue I’d scoffed at just moments before moved. I also recall a monster with a very loud, realistic-looking chainsaw, then the feel of the fresh air outside, where I ran, never to return.

The frights at Netherworld, a two-story haunted house in Norcross ranked number one in the country in 2007 by Hauntworld Magazine, have also reportedly sent grown men screaming back through its front door. Barf bags are available upon entry, and monsters first besiege you in the parking lot. Co-owner Billy Messina, a former makeup-effects artist and prop-maker, is vague about how Netherworld is insured. But he admits that of the 100 actors in the haunted house, a small number are off-duty cops and firemen, some in costume, meant to protect your interests (staying alive) and his (staying in business). “We also have an extensive camera system both inside and outside that is full color or night vision,” he says. Messina won’t say how many injuries have been sustained at Netherworld in its thirteen years of existence, which isn’t comforting. Certainly, one presumes, many egos have been bruised.

Illustration by Edwin Fotheringham

Got an Atlanta question? E-mail Charles Bethea at