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Ghost tours and immersive sensory experiences: The ‘Museum of Oz’ has thrills and chills for all ages

We’ve all seen The Wizard of Oz, the 1939 film featuring Judy Garland as Dorothy, a young girl who is swept by a tornado (or possibly just a severe head injury sustained during a tornado) into the magical land of Oz. Yellow brick roads lead her through Munchkinland all the way to the Emerald City, where resides a powerful wizard who may be able to help her return home to Kansas.  On the way to see the wizard, Dorothy is hunted by the Wicked Witch of the West, mentored and guided by the graceful Glinda the Good Witch of the North, and aided by a troupe of misfit friends, including the Cowardly Lion, Tin Man, Scarecrow, and, of course, her trusty dog Toto.

Sure, we’ve all seen that classic film; some of us have even read the book by L. Frank Baum or watched a theatre adaptation.  But, how many of us have actually been to Oz?

You didn’t misread that sentence.

Have you actually walked on the yellow brick road?  Have you made your way through the Haunted Forest, taking precaution not to run into any flying monkeys or the Wicked Witch?  Speaking of her, have you actually smelled the foul, burning odor caused by the Wicked Witch of the West’s famous melting death?

Or have you been surrounded by the bubbles and floral scent that drift into the room and float around you any time Glinda the Good Witch is nearby?

Did you feel the high-speed winds and rain in the tornado with Dorothy and Toto? Did you?

We have.

South Carolina State Museum has reintroduced the Museum of Oz, a month-long celebration of all things spooky and peculiar.  They have actual replicas of Wizard of Oz sets for families to stroll through, from Auntie Em’s house to a dark place where the Wicked Witch herself awaits.  Below, you can see an exclusive sneak peak Jared Glover, the public relations manager at the state museum, recently gave our assistant publisher.

On Tin Man Tuesdays, museum guests are invited to test their knowledge and vie for prizes during trivia.

This month, the museum is offering a variety of Oz-themed events and special features.  One of our favorites is the immersive 4D showing of The Wizard of Oz.  There are daily showtimes for a collapsed 16-minute version of the original movie, in which families may engage in a unique sensory experience that puts them right in the middle of each scene.  When Dorothy and her friends are falling asleep in a field of poppies, you’ll be there with her, with up-close red poppies visible in your 4D glasses and a pleasant aroma filling your senses.  The show is an absolute must-see for families who visit the museum.  The museum also offers a planetarium show, Skies Over Oz, in which The Wizard of Oz becomes a dazzling 30-minute show where constellations and stars tell the story.

There’s also the ghost tours…if you can handle them.

Have you heard about the ghost-woman who has been seen inside this hearse on display at the South Carolina State Museum?

That’s right, we said ghost tours.  As it turns out, not all of the museum’s wacky October fun is completely centered on The Wizard of Oz.  Every Tuesday in October is #TinManTuesday, and the museum stays open until 10 p.m. to accommodate visitors who wish to take night tours of the exhibits, look at the stars in the observatory, participate in Wizard of Oz trivia, or attend one of the special feature shows in the 4D theater and planetarium.  But #TinManTuesday also is the night you can take a ghost tour at no extra charge – it’s included in the price of admission.

When we visited on a #TinManTuesday and requested a ghost tour, guests were separated into two groups: those who were easily spooked, and those who were eager to be horrified and scared.  We, of course, were in the latter.  A costumed volunteer led us around the museum, explaining various citywide folklore, some of which was said to have taken place when the museum was actually Columbia Mills, an old textile business.  If you haven’t heard of Bubba, the mill employee who was decapitated in the freight elevator and now haunts the museum, then trust us: you won’t forget him after the ghost tour.  In fact, if you’re like us, you’ll be cautiously looking for him around every corner.

On Tin Man Tuesdays, museum volunteers become costumed storytellers who lead guests on complimentary ghost tours.

Children are welcomed at most Museum of Oz events, even the ghost tours; a volunteer explained to us that visitors can request to be in an “adults only” group or have a kid-friendly tour when they feel like learning about the haunted history of Columbia.  There’s also Growl at the Moon on Thursday, Oct. 26, a Halloween party for adults that features craft beer, barbecue, fortune-telling, and live music.

South Carolina State Museum constantly has unique, innovative features, exhibits, and special events, putting them in a different class than most museums.  But the Museum of Oz is an incredible, interactive month that celebrates South Carolina history, culture, and recreation through eccentric, fun shows and events.  For a complete schedule of Oz-themed events, visit here.

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