Maybe it's the Spanish moss dripping eerily from live oaks in the moonlight, the hushed secrets of multiple cultures, or the imaginations of a thousand storytellers–the South is a born-and-bred backdrop for intrigue. The region is fertile ground for folklore and secret societies (that old Greek fraternity/sorority handshake counts for something), and mystery is bound to entail. Similarly, we're home of the famed phrase: "Hey y'all, watch this!" A Southerner will try anything once.
I strung together a little listing of ways to get your heart a-racing in the South. What are some other ways to get thrills below the Mason-Dixon?
10 Ways to Thrill Seek in the South
1. Take a Ghost tour in a Southern City. Charleston, New Orleans, Savannah, St. Augustine, Key West–it doesn't take an October 31 calendar date to send chills down your spine in these historical towns.
2. Lose your stomach on a roller coaster. The anticipation of the climb, the click of the chain, the release and consequential scream–nothin' like a roller coaster, huh? Test your nerve on these coasters.
The Manta at SeaWorld in Orlando, FL
Afterburn at Carowinds in Charlotte, NC
Thunderhead at Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, TN
Goliath at Six Flags in Atlanta, GA
3. Bring one of Kathryn Tucker Windham's books to life. The famed storyteller from Selma, AL scribed six books based on "true" local folklore in various Southern states. Read up and then go out exploring the haunts Windham lists.
4. Tour an old military base. Some of America's most influential battles took place on Southern landscapes. Weather or not you decide they're haunted, you've gotta admit they're pretty intriguing.
Fort McAllister in Savannah, GA
The Depot in Huntsville, AL
The Antitam Battlefield near Sharpsburg, MD
Fort Leaton near Presido, TX
5. Zip-line at Historic Banning Mills. Remember how free falling down a zip-line and into the backyard pool was so fun at age 12? In Whitesburg, GA, they've figured out a way for adults to give it another go. Screaming is acceptable for all ages.
6. Experience Thirteen Bridges in Montgomery, AL. For generations of central Alabamians, this was THE way to be spooked. There's been mention of Confederate soldier ghosts and possessed cows on Bargainer Road, but you've got to see for yourself. The trick is to exit the car with a bunch of friends (bonus points for wearing camo) and trek down the small, swampy road across rickety creek-covering bridges until you cross the final bridge, #13. On your way back, a bridge "disappears" and there's only 12. Bizarre.
7. Faces your fears and slither into the zoo. Alligators, snakes, lizards–oh my. But hang out with the creatures for a bit and those chills will subside.
St. Louis Zoo in St. Louis, MO
North Carolina Zoo in Ashboro, NC
Houston Zoo in Houston, TX
National Aquarium in Baltimore, MD
8. Freak out over heights. For the super-daring, there's hang gliding off of Lookout Mountain in Rising Fawn, GA. Even if mounting the St. Louis Gateway Arch, the Vulcan statue in Birmingham, or your local rock climbing wall is more feasible–you'll be reminded why that lurching pit in your stomach makes us love/hate heights so much.
9. Check out the Myrtles Plantation in Francisville, LA. Always at the top of spooky mansion listings, this home was built in 1796 and has plenty of tales to tell. If you can tough it out, try spending a night at this bed and breakfast. (Tours offered for the faint of heart.)
10. Brave the rapids. Riding huge waves, dodging rocks, and lurching over "hidden" drops are all a part of paddling down the Ocoee River in southeast Tennessee or rafting down the Gauley River in West Virginia. Do you dare?
Prefer to live vicariously through characters in the comfort of your well-lit sunroom? Try one of the South's latest mystery novels:
By Jill Ciment (Pantheon Books, $23)
On Friday night, the weekend holds great promise for Ruth and Alex Cohen. A realtor has valued their East Village co-op at nearly a million dollars, and the open house begins in the morning. Then Ruth notices that her beloved dachshund, Dorothy, is unable to stand. Fearing for the little dog's life, the Cohens run into the night and find chaos. The city has become paralyzed by the rumor of a suicide bomber with a gasoline truck parked in the Midtown Tunnel.
In Heroic Measures, Florida author Jill Ciment traces the fate of the family as the long weekend unfolds and the city holds its breath. She deftly crafts her story from the perspectives of Alex, Ruth, and even Dorothy as they struggle to make sense of the chaos. While Dorothy languishes at the animal hospital and potential buyers vacillate, the Cohens are left to worry about their dog, themselves, and their future in a city going mad. Placed in the context of a national crisis, this family drama becomes all the more poignant, its players flawed and frightened but remarkably hopeful as they wait for one small dog to walk again.
By Michael Connelly (Little, Brown and Company, $27.99)
For newspaperman Jack McEvoy, life is never dull at the LA Times, even when he's being laid off. Given two weeks to train his eager successor on the crime beat before he's show the door, Jack decides to go out in a blaze of glory–to write a murder story so phenomenal, so prize-worthy, that
he will be remembered long after he leaves. There's only one problem: The case seems open and shut, but the young man accused of raping and suffocating an exotic dancer is innocent of the crime.
As Jack begins to weave together the threads of this sordid tapestry, he finds himself faced with a brilliiant, deviant mastermind–one who has studied Jack's work and is tracking his every move. Partnered with his onetime lover, FBI Agent Rachel Walling, Jack must find the scoop of his career before the Scarecrow strikes again.In The Scarecrow, Florida author Michael Connelly returns to characters introduced in The Poet for a past-paced trip into the dark heart of a sadistic killer. Bottom Line: Fans of Connelly's Harry Bosch novels will not be disappointed. Lauren Simpson
By Eric Barnes (Unbridled Books, $25.95)
Robbie Case seems to have the world by the tail. A 35-year-old CEO of a $20 billion company, he oversees 5,000 employees and a network that handles gargantuan amounts of financial information. But the technology is all built on a lie, a giant Ponzi scheme that threatens to collapse the company and its employees.
Memphis writer Eric Barnes makes his debut as a novelist in Shimmer, a ripped-from-the-headlines tale of deceit and intrigue. How long will it take for the company to collapse? Robbie maneuvers the lies on a shadow network server named Shimmer and tries to delay the inevitable. "Work. Work harder. Work until the problem went away." But no matter how many hours Robbie puts in, his secrets are just a few clicks away from imminent discover by his senior staff, competition, and stockholders. But this page turner isn't for techno geeks only Bottom Line: Even the computer challenged reader will be wired into the intrigue. Wanda McKinney
Okay, your turn. What gives you a rush? Post below or shout at me on Twitter: EAStallings.