Adults, families to get their own dose of scary fun at Cranbrook

By: Tiffany Esshaki | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published October 13, 2015

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BLOOMFIELD HILLS — If there’s one thing that Cranbrook Institute of Science wants visitors to know, it’s that even learned scientists know how to have fun.

Make that spooky fun, because the institute is putting the final touches on its Halloween events, which will be sure to entertain and even educate crowds of all ages.

The first of the festivities will be held the evening of Oct. 15, when the institute hosts its monthly adult-only event, CIS After Dark. Each month the festivities take on a different theme, and so it’s only fitting that fright will take over the next installment.

“This will have the same setup as our other CIS After Dark events, with a featured speaker, who this time will be Dr. Christine Rabinak. She’ll discuss the science of fear and how humans react to fear as a useful coping mechanism for survival,” said James Kurleto, coordinator of adult and special programs at the institute.

Guests ages 21 and older are encouraged to come in costume and tour the museum after hours while enjoying unique snacks, grown-up libations and a host of specially curated activities with a spooky theme.

Cranbrook Museum Educator Sarah Schleicher couldn’t help but boast about a few of her favorite stations planned for this CIS After Dark. She said each attraction finds “that place between fear and fascination, with a scientific twist.”

“The MSU Department of Entomology came to us with what they’re calling ‘Tales from the Living Dead: Maggot Art!’” said Schleicher. “We all picture maggots crawling around, and that’s a normal part of their life cycle. So they use larvae as paint brushes, and they’re (painted) and set on canvas to crawl around, creating a one-of-a-kind piece of custom artwork.”

John Zawiskie, Cranbrook curator of earth and life sciences, will be there to discuss scary dinosaurs, and Cranbrook anthropology curator Cameron Wood will talk about cultural monsters — all those historical superstitions we’ve long held in the United States, dating back to Native American traditions related to fear.

It’s sure to be a great night for the of-age crowd, but what about the younger set? Well, fear not: The annual Halloween Science celebration at the institute begins the very next night, so the whole family can get in on the fun.

Vampire bats, screaming ghosts, haunted hunts, skulls and pelts, slime and so much more will be on the agenda for this year’s event — and that’s just inside the museum. Outside the walls of the institute, guests will be able to see the creepy-crawly organisms swimming around the pond and, of course, watch the pumpkins fly as they’re launched from Cranbrook’s 3-ton trebuchet.

“We’ll be highlighting some of the campus’ resources, even outside. We’ll be doing some pond identification to see some of our tiniest neighbors. We’ll bust out microscopes and magnifying glasses to see the macroinvertebrates that live in the pond system,” said Schleicher.

If tiny creatures and flying pumpkins aren’t enough to spook you, then maybe the oozing, exploding or self-carving pumpkins will do the trick.

Or maybe you’re anxiously awaiting the return of Zawiskie as the infamous Dr. Kelp. The silly character will be at Halloween Science to warn visitors young and old about the asteroid he’s predicted to hit Cranbrook — despite evidence that says otherwise.

“We try to take a balanced approach to Halloween Science. It’s such a popular event — one of the biggest of the year — and we start planning for the next one the day after this year’s is done,” said Kurleto. “All the activities in some way tie in a scientific principle, and it’s meant to be enjoyed by a wide range of visitors, toddlers all the way through grandparents. There’s a lot of things families can do together.”

The best part? Both CIS After Dark: Fright and Halloween Science include access to the institute’s newest exhibition, “Bats: Superheroes of the Night.”

“It features live bats and explains to people who might be afraid of them how they’re very beneficial to the global ecosystem, no matter what environment — benefits like pest control and pollination that we need,” said Schleicher.

CIS After Dark: Fright will be held 7-11 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 15. Adults 21 and older are welcome. Tickets cost $10 for members, $15 for the general public and $20 at the door. Food and beverages cost extra.

Halloween Science will be held at 6:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 16, and at 11 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. Saturday Oct. 17. Preregistered tickets cost $14 per child and $3 for members, and $17 per child and $5 per adult for the general public. Tickets go up by $3 at the door.

For information on either event or to purchase tickets, visit or call (248) 645-3200.

Cranbrook Institute of Science is located at 39221 Woodward Ave. in Bloomfield Hills.