Welcome to fright town
Two haunts offer chills and thrills this Halloween
This weekend, Forest Grove and the outlying areas will be invaded by all manner of ghost and goblin, not to mention princesses, fairies and Spider-men.
They will crawl through downtown Forest Grove on the 31st, seeking candy. They will converge on the Grand Lodge Saturday to feed on the music of Big Mama Gayle and Her Sugar Daddies and the Pagan Jug Band during the annual Halloween Dance Party.
But there's something more wicked out there for brave souls who would rather be scared than be scary. That old tradition for those who want to walk among monsters in the dark, where actors in macabre makeup wait to pop out and deliver frights: The Haunted House.
This year, two very different venues are vying for local horror fans' screams, and both offering ample fright for kids and adults alike.
In Forest Grove, Theatre in the Grove is bringing back its popular haunted theater event, in which the historic - and some say haunted - building is transformed into a maze of frights during downtown's annual Trick-or-Treat the Merchants event.
Meanwhile, in Hillsboro, a hollowed-out Hollywood Video built next to a cemetery has been transformed into Zombiefest 2011, a 27-room labyrinth full of shock and awe.
Finding joy in being frightened is a tradition that dates back as far as All Hallows itself, and for many, the idea of confronting the things that go bump in the night in a controlled environment offers a safe way to get adrenaline pumping.
'If people know they aren't going to be hurt, it's fun to be scared,' said Theatre in the Grove board member Ken Centers. 'It's going into something you know is the unknown, and knowing it is going to frighten you.'
Last year, more than 700 people walked into the haunted theater's dark corridors for a fright. This year, Centers says the organization hopes to top that number.
Part of the allure of hosting the event in the historic theater, according to Centers, is the idea that, with its long history, some people believe there really are spirits lurking behind the curtains of the 100-year-old venue.
Of course, that's a sentiment that is played up for the event, and Centers says that though the haunt offers some pretty good jolts, it's a fright-fest that in no time pushes people beyond their limits.
'There were some children last year that, once they realized they were going to have to walk into a dark area, they said 'no,'' says Centers. 'And that's just fine.'
Haunted Hollywood Video
Things are a bit more sinister in Hillsboro at Zombiefest. The brainchild of local concrete statuary manufacturer and business owner Teresa Mullins, the event's 27 rooms are packed to the gills with frightful props right out of Mullins' personal collection, as well as approximately 20 volunteer monsters ready to pop out of the darkness.
Each room has a different theme, from areas paying homage to classic movie monsters to blood-splattered scenes of doom, a 'clown maze' full of giggling maniacs, a morgue, a mad scientist's lair and more.
'It's pretty frightful,' says Mullins with a cackle, adding that she takes a distinct pleasure in frightening tough-seeming guys. 'It's the guys who get more startled. My actors come out and say 'that guy was screaming like a girl.' It's always the tough guys… the ones who act all big and tough are the ones that are most scared.'
In addition, Zombiefest, which benefits the Bonnie L. Hays Small Animal Shelter, includes food from Smokin' Hot BBQ, a kiddie carnival and concessions.
Mullins, an avid horror fan, says a big part of the appeal of Zombiefest and haunts like it is that they serve to test the nerves of patrons young and old.
'It's kind of like a test. You want to see if you can be scared, or what it's all about because of the hype,' says Mullins, stressing that children are always comforted when the going gets too ghoulish and are escorted away from the scares.
Mullins says her frights are far more pervasive than many bigger events, including Portland's Scream at the Beach. She also says that some of the unease might be attributable to something more otherworldly: she believes her venue might be haunted.
During one day of setup, motion detectors mysteriously went off. Sometimes voices can be heard in the dark. Visitors captured a floating orb in the frame when they took pictures. A ghost-detecting app on a smart phone even detected the spirit.
'I guess there's a spirit in the building named Dan,' says Mullins. 'It makes sense because the cemetery is so near, and it's not really a creepy or evil feeling. It's just a feeling that somebody else is there in the building.'
Spirits or no, both Mullins and Centers agree that there is one reason, pure and simple, that people go to events like the haunted theater and Zombiefest: It's fun to be frightened.
'But in the end you're going be scared and to have a good time,' says Centers. 'People go to horror films for the same reason. It's just fun.'
Get a scare
• Zombiefest 2011 is held at the former Hollywood Video, 1296 S.W. Baseline St. in Hillsboro. Hours are Thursday through Friday from 6 to 11 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday 3 to 11 p.m. Admission is $10, with kids under five admitted for free. To learn more, call 421-6228.
• Theatre In the Grove's haunted theater event takes place 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., Monday, October 31 at Theatre in the Grove, 2028 Pacific Ave. For more information, including times, call 359-5349.
• Trick or Treat the Merchants happens from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., Monday, Oct. 31, when a number of downtown merchants will open their doors and offer candy to trick-or-treaters young and old.
• Forest Grove firefighters will be handing out glowsticks for kids to keep visible while trick-or-treating. To pick up yours, visit the corner of Pacific Avenue and Main Street during the Trick or Treat the Merchant event and ask a firefighter.