Creepo is not a clown you want hosting your son's 7th birthday party. The disgruntled ex-entertainer, who resides in The ScareHouse attraction in Etna, is out for blood.
This year, Creepo will don a red Santa hat and warn children, "I know if you've been bad or good, but I'll kill you anyway."
While it's barely October, the Halloween season has long been under way for owners and managers of haunted house attractions. Many spend the entire year preparing for October, when it's finally time to put their terrors to the test.
When patrons walk through Creepo's Christmas in 3-D, The ScareHouse's newest theme, they can experience "a little bit of twisted humor," said Scott Simmons, creative director and one of three owners, who also include his wife and father.
The new section of The ScareHouse will be strung with Christmas lights, best viewed through 3-D glasses for a "trippy, surreal spin." This is where Creepo abides, seething over the premature holiday decorations.
Inspiration for this seasonal syncretism came when Mr. Simmons went shopping this month and had to walk past Christmas decorations to reach the Halloween section.
"We thought, you know, this is a little annoying to us because Halloween is our time," Mr. Simmons said.
There is a fine line between humor and fear at The ScareHouse. Whether it's a clown dressed as Santa, a bunny carrying an ax or a living doll who giggles and flirts with patrons, the goal is to combine creepy with cute to defy expectations.
This confusion of the psyche lowers one's guard, which translates into a higher level of fear, said Mr. Simmons.
In addition to the new Creepo's Christmas section, changes have been made to the two other attractions, The Forsaken and Pittsburgh Zombies -- the latter of which will be "much darker, scarier and with many more zombies," Mr. Simmons said.
At Terror Town in the Strip District, the fright factor involves a few monsters but also real spirits said to be hovering in every corner. Preparing to open for its second year, the all-indoor basement-level attraction is "one of the most paranormal-active locations in Pennsylvania," said manager Chris Firman.
"You'll be walking through one portion and it's a normal temperature, and you turn a corner and it's freezing cold," Mr. Firman said of the unusual activity in the building, which was constructed in 1921 and used by Standard American Cable.
The 35-minute tour of post-apocalyptic Terror Town -- which sank underground and became inhabited by cannibals and other bloodcurdling creatures -- includes a walk through an abandoned bus, a funeral home and the kitchen of a family who wants to feed visitors severed appendages and entrails.
While the owners of many haunted houses have an affinity for the gruesome and gory, Castle Blood owner Ricky Dick takes a different approach. The Gothic theatrical attraction in Westmoreland County is suitable for children and adults alike.
"The 'blood' in Castle Blood doesn't mean carnage; it means that we're owned by vampires," Mr. Dick said. "Vampires don't need chain saws, they don't need Michael Myers and they don't need killer clowns."
Formerly based in Beallsville, then Bentleyville, the 20th anniversary of Castle Blood will be celebrated in a new location in Monessen this year.
City planners approached Mr. Dick and asked if he would move Castle Blood to Monessen to promote business and the town's revitalization efforts. He agreed, seeing the benefit of an all-indoor location that would enable Castle Blood to stay open on select dates year-round.
Plans are already in the mix for a spooky Christmas affair and a "terrifyingly bloody" Valentine's Day event.
Castle Blood is set up like a game for Halloween, and this year patrons will need to appease a phantom to reach the exit safely. "Phoenix Rising" will involve transformation, rebirth and resurrection of vampires -- a fitting theme for an anniversary celebration in a new location.
"After 19 years, a fresh start is good for the 20th," Mr. Dick said.
PHANTOM FRIGHT NIGHTS: 11th year features BioFear, Voodoo Bayou, Mortem Manor, Villa of the Vampires and other frights. For $48, customers can attend The Phantom's Pre-Scare Dinner (Oct. 12-13), including meal, ticket, early admission and a photo with a ghoul. Reservations required. Call 412-464-9931 or visit the website. Fright Nights run 7 p.m.-1 a.m. Fri.-Sat. through Oct. 27, and 7-11 p.m. this Sunday, only at Kennywood Park. $28.99; $25.99 at Giant Eagle locations. Not recommended for children under 13. 412-461-0500; www.phantomfrightnights.com.
HUNDRED ACRES MANOR HAUNTED HOUSE: New this year: Brine Slaughterhouse, an abandoned meat-processing plant. Other attractions: Massacre Manor, The Maze, The Family: Unearthed and South Valley Hospital. Hundred Acres Drive, off Corrigan Drive, South Park. Oct. 3-7, 10-14, 17-30; Nov. 1-3. 7-10 p.m. Sun.-Thurs.; 7-11:30 p.m. Fri.-Sat. $18. 412-851-4286; www.hundredacresmanor.org.
THE SCAREHOUSE: Three attractions: The Forsaken, Pittsburgh Zombies and Creepo's Christmas in 3-D, a new event. May be too intense for children under 13. 118 Locust St., Etna. 7 p.m.-midnight Oct. 5-6, 12-13, 19-20, 26-27, Nov. 2-3; and 7-10 p.m. Oct. 7, 11, 14, 18, 21, 24-25, 28, 30-31; Nov. 1. $14.99-$19.99. 412-781-5885; www.scarehouse.com.
TERROR TOWN: Paranormal Testimony theme at the second year of Pittsburgh's largest indoor haunting attraction, at 17th and Smallman streets in the Strip District. 7 p.m.-midnight Oct. 5-6, 12-13, 19-20, 26-27; and 7-10 p.m. Oct. 7, 14, 18, 21, 25, 28. For Black Out nights on Oct. 24 and 30, patrons receive key chain flashlights to guide them through the dark attraction. $18.99. 412-315-7331; www.terrortownpgh.com.
CHEESEMAN FRIGHT FARM: Halloween hay ride, with audio and visual effects. 147 Kennedy Road, Portersville. Oct. 5-7, 12-14, 18-21, 25-28. The attraction opens at dark. $15. 724-368-3233; www.cheesemanfrightfarm.com.
DEMON HOUSE: 417 Coyle Curtain Road, Monongahela. Oct. 5-7, 12-14, 19-21, 25-28. Light Out nights ($20, glowsticks provided) on Oct. 31; Nov. 2-3. 7 p.m.-midnight Fridays and Saturdays; 7 p.m.-10 p.m. Sundays. $17. www.demonhouse.com.
FRIGHT FARM: Farmageddon theme; includes Haunted Mansion, Haunted Hayride and Terror Maze. Rich Farms, Route 857, Smithfield. All three attractions will run through Oct. 31 on Sun., Wed. and Thurs. from dusk to 10 p.m., and Fri. and Sat. from dusk to midnight. Individual prices: Mansion $19; Hayride, $15; Terror Maze, $10. All three attractions for $25, a combination of two attractions for $23. Wed. nights students gain admission to all three attractions for a discounted price. 724-564-7644 or 1-888-564-7644; www.frightfarm.com.
CASTLE BLOOD: The 20th anniversary will be held at a new, all-indoor location at 11 Eastgate Ave. in Monessen. Oct. 5-7, 12-14, 19-21, 26-28, 31. Ticket booth open 7-11 p.m. Fri. and Sat.; 7-9 p.m. Sundays. $15 admission. Matinee, daytime and no-scare tours for children will take place Oct. 21 and 28 from 1-4 p.m. for $7.50. 724-314-3563; www.castleblood.com.
MISCHIEF MANOR: The former Victory Haunted House is reopening for tours of the "haunted" schoolhouse. 2820 Douglas Run Road, Elizabeth Township. $10. Oct. 5-7, 12-14, 19-31; Nov. 1-3. 724-489-1115; www.mischief-manor.comuf.com.
TRANNIES, GRANNIES AND THE 11 FOOT FRANKENOPRAH: The seventh annual Halloween party hosted by KISS-FM. Featuring special guest performances by Karmin and Outasight and a costume contest with prizes. Oct. 27 at Stage AE. $25. www.ticketmaster.com; 1-800-745-3000.
KDKA ZOOBOO: Haunted House, Ghost Trail, Halloween Village and 96.9 BOB FM & Q929 Monster Splash. Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium. Oct. 29-30, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Free with general admission ($14). 412-665-3640; www.pittsburghzoo.org.
HALLOWEEN HAPPENINGS AT PHIPPS CONSERVATORY: Family-friendly activities and healthy snacks provided Oct. 26 from 4-8 p.m. Free with general admission ($12). 412-622-6914; www.phipps.conservatory.org.
OWL-O-WEEN AT NATIONAL AVIARY: Dress up in a costume and enjoy appearances from owl ambassadors, an owl craft and the creepy crawly bug station. Free with general admission, $13. Oct. 20 and 27, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. 412-323-7235; www.aviary.org.
GATEWAY CLIPPER FLEET HALLOWEEN CRUISES:
• Halloween Whodunnit? includes a dinner buffet and show. Oct. 24, 6:30-9:30 p.m. Adults $50; children $22.
• Halloween Fun Cruise is a kids' costume party with characters, prizes and treats. Oct. 27 from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. or 1:30-3:30 p.m. Adults $25; children $12.
• This year's Haunted Halloween Dinner, named Spirits on the Mon, features comedian Howard Mincone and illusionist Dan Kuniak. Oct. 12 and 19 from 6:30-9:30 p.m. Adults $50; children $22.
Information: 412-355-7980; www.gatewayclipper.com.
PITTSBURGH ZOMBIE FEST: Dress up as a zombie and join the effort to break the "largest gathering of zombies" Guinness world record at this year's Walk of the Dead in West End Village on Oct. 13. There will be live bands, contests and vendors. Admission is free, but attendees are welcome to bring nonperishable food items for The Greater Pittsburgh Food Bank. Registration available online; www.pittsburghzombiefest.com.
HALLOWBOO! Family Halloween celebration, with trick-or-treating in Story Book Forest, themed rides and costumed characters. Idlewild Park, Ligonier. Weekends only. Oct. 6-7, 13-14, 20-21, 27-28. $26.99. Free admission for age 2 and younger. 724-238-3666; www.idlewild.com.
BUMP IN THE NIGHT: Nonscary Halloween program, with sing-along, storytelling, nocturnal animal "creature feature" and night hike. Frick Environmental Center, 2005 Beechwood Blvd., Squirrel Hill. Oct. 12-13, 19-20, 7-9 p.m. $11/adults, $9/children ages 3 and older. Advance registration required. 412-422-6538; www.city.pittsburgh.pa.us/parks/frick_environmental_center.htm.
PUMPKIN PATCH TROLLEY: Trolley rides and pumpkin patch. Pennsylvania Trolley Museum, near Washington County Fairgrounds. Oct. 5-8, 12-14, 19-21, 26-28. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Adults $9, seniors $8, children ages 1-15 $7, under age 1 free. 724-228-9256; www.pa-trolley.org.
NORTHERN NIGHTMARES HALLOWEEN FESTIVAL:
• The Nightmare Tour -- Trolley tours of alleged haunted locales in Zelienople and Harmony. Oct. 19-20, 26-27. 6:30, 7:30, 8:30 and 9:30 p.m. Adults $15, children 12 and under $9.
• Chiller Theater -- Horror movies, trailers and clips. Strand Theater, 119 N. Main St., Zelienople. Fri., Sat. and Sun. in October. See website for movies and prices; show times are 7:30 p.m. Fri. and Sat.; 4 p.m. Sun. Information: 724-742-0400; www.northernnightmares.com.
• Ghost Hunt -- Paranormal investigation team will conduct a ghost hunt at The Strand, Oct. 20 at 10 p.m. A maximum of 20 guests permitted. $65 per person; send inquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
EERIE HORROR FILM FESTIVAL: Annual horror film festival with appearances by actor Vernon Wells ("Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior"), cast of "Dawn of the Dead" and more. See website for complete schedule. Warner Theatre, Erie, Oct. 11-14. 1-814-873-4500; 1-814-873-2483, www.eeriehorrorfest.com.
LINCOLN CAVERNS' GHOSTS AND GOBLINS: 29th annual haunted house and trail. Fri. and Sat. from Oct. 5 through Oct. 27. U.S. Route 22, 7703 William Penn Highway, Huntingdon. 1-814-643-0268. www.lincolncaverns.com.
WOODLANDS FAMILY FRIENDLY HAUNTED TRAIL: A "not so scary" haunted trail, storytelling, face painting and more. Refreshments. Admission free but donations appreciated. Oct. 27. The Woodlands, 134 Shenot Road, Marshall. www.woodlandsfoundation.org.
HALLOWEEN AT CHILDREN'S MUSEUM OF PITTSBURGH: SPOOK-TACULAR: Family-friendly event with black and orange craft-making, trick-or-treating throughout the museum and a costume parade. Oct. 26, 5:30-7:30 p.m. Members free. Guests $11. RSVP at 412-322-5058, ext. 274, or email email@example.com.
GHOST HUNTING AND SPOOKY STORIES AT OLD STONE HOUSE:
• The Old Stone House and The Center for Paranormal Study & Investigation team up for a ghost hunt around the historic site at the intersection of routes 8, 173 and 528, about 12 miles north of Butler. Oct. 19, 8:30-11:30 p.m. $15. Reservations required. For more information or to purchase tickets, contact Jake at 724-738-4964; firstname.lastname@example.org.
• Spooky Stories -- Storytelling, historical reenactments, costume contest and walk through the woods along a "haunted trail." Oct. 28-29, 5-8 p.m. Admission is free, but donations encouraged.
HAUNTED PITTSBURGH TOURS Downtown Pittsburgh walking tour, Fridays and Saturdays 7 p.m.; $15. Mount Washington/Incline tour, Saturdays 7 and 9 p.m. and Oct. 30-31 at 7:30 and 9:30 p.m.; $18. Oakland, Sundays 6 p.m. through Oct. 28; $15. www.hauntedpittsburghtours.com.
GHOST TOURS: Haunted tours of Nemacolin Castle run through the end of October. Sat.-Sun. noon-5 p.m. 136 Front St., Brownsville. Adults $8, children 12 and under $4.
ALLEN'S HAUNTED HAYRIDES: A wagon takes passengers on a ride through the woods, cornfields and into the "Haunted Barn." Carnival rides, games and concessions. Through Oct. 31. 7:30-10 p.m. Fridays; 7:30-10:30 p.m. Saturdays; 7:30-9 p.m. Sundays and Oct. 30-31. $12. 2430 Pittsburgh Road, Smock, Pa. 724-677-2589; www.allenshayrides.com/index.html
AN EVENING OF TERROR WITH DOUG BRADLEY British actor Doug Bradley, Hellraiser's Pinhead, performs dramatic readings of classics from Poe, Lovecraft and more, followed by a question and answer session. 8 p.m. Oct. 17 at Bricolage Theater, Downtown. $25; proceeds benefit the ToonSeum. Preceded by a special VIP reception with Doug Bradley at the ToonSeum ($50). www.eveningofterror.eventbrite.com.lifestyle - holidays
Emily Petsko: email@example.com, 412-263-1468. First Published October 4, 2012 4:00 AM