Goulish Pleasure

Scare up some fun this week at 'haunted' houses, barns and graveyards


In the glow of moonlight's faint pallor, ghastly figures creep waywardly among the living. A chainsaw's grating whine clips the air as clusters of teens scurry with terrified squeals. But when the ghouls and goblins begin to belt show tunes and dance with theatrical precision, the scene quickly evolves into a family-friendly night of thrills.

The musical ghosts at Six Flags America's annual Fright Fest are among just one of many area attractions promising a frightfully good time this weekend before Halloween. There are also haunted houses, creepy graveyards and even a 6 1/2 -foot killer rabbit.

At Six Flags, audiences revel in the sight of horned devils performing perfect pirouettes and singing selections infused with '70s soul music. At the crowd-pleasing Disco Inferno showcase, members of the audience ranging from toddlers to grandparents sing along with performers to hits such as I Will Survive and Disco Inferno.

At the Largo park's largest and most technically demanding show, Dead Man's Party, some performers croon with operatic trills while others wail with Cyndi Lauper-inspired tone. Their tattered, blood-stained clothes give the appearance

of a party best enjoyed by the dead.

"We've ended up with what I think is a great production," said Six Flags Vice President and General Manager Terry Prather. "We're going to do everything we can to make sure that this is the No. 1 show on the Mid-Atlantic."

The performance impressed Danetta Wiggins, who attended with her 4-year-old son. "It was really nice, especially the outfits," she said.

Unlike the musically inspired theme of Fright Fest, Jason's Woods in Lancaster, Pa., caters to adult crowds with immense pyrotechnic displays, an authentic 1880s hearse replete with decayed bones and larger-than-life props. This year's new attractions include a demented "sick Santa" and 6 1/2 -foot "killer cottontail."

"What keeps people coming back and makes us viable in the industry is our creativity," said Jason's Woods coordinator Bob Hershey. "On top of everything, the most important is that we care. I have a responsibility to want people to have this good, fun experience."

Although the attraction is geared toward older crowds, younger children will be entertained by paintball targets, inflatable slides and obstacle courses. Jason's Woods visitors also enjoy annual appearances by horror-movie legends. This year, Dee Wallace Stone, of E.T. and The Howling fame, greeted patrons.

"We have a lot of adults that come to this with their families and friends, and we maintain it well," said Hershey. "It's a safe place for families to be."

Kim's Krypt in Middle River has frightened audiences for 13 years with the blood, bile and mayhem found in many classic horror films. This year's visitors will enjoy several additions to the haunted house, including re-enactments of scenes from Silent Hill and Saw II.

Founder and tour guide Kim Yates explains her passion for the Halloween season and the reasons for Kim's Krypt's growing success:

"I think people like Kim's Krypt because they know that they'll be thoroughly entertained," said Yates. "You get chainsaws, guts and gore, but people know that it's all in fun."

Yates added that she looks forward to Kim's Krypt year-round.

"I would rather skip the sour cream on my baked potato and go out to buy an extra strobe light to make the haunted house better," she said. "I live for this time of the year. I want it to be the best that it can be for everybody."

Other Halloween events double as community entertainment and fundraisers for nonprofit groups. The Lineboro Volunteer Fire Department's Bedlam in the Boro entertains area residents with 24 scary but fun skits, a four-mile hayride and a haunted house. Proceeds benefit the Fire Department.

"It's good family entertainment," said hayride chairman and Lineboro firefighter John Krebs. "The haunted house is completely revamped from last year. It's a totally different set-up."

Bedlam in the Boro started in 1994 with an indoor fair and a dozen skits. In recent years, the event has attracted more than 11,000 people, who came to take a scary hayride and tour the 3,200-square-foot haunted house.

Another local show aiding community programs is the Haunted Graveyard of Charlesmont. Attendees at this Dundalk event watch as a lone black cat slinks among a display of mock gravestones, sinister pumpkin carvings and pneumatic props.

Display coordinators Jimmy Kolodziejski and Kenny Ashwell encourage visitors to contribute to a food drive for humans and pets.

Essex residents Wayne Squires and Tina Venker visit the display annually.

"Every year, there's something different," said Squires. "I've been coming for the past five years."

After watching a visitor empty a bag of canned goods into the collection bin, Ashwell was visibly pleased.

"It takes a lot of prep work," he said. "But that's what makes it worthwhile."


Spooky doings

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