Ghastly, gory ghosts — and goofballs

Fright can be fun, and imaginative folks at local haunted houses want to prove it to you

By Sue Vorenberg, Columbian features reporter

Published:

 

Bloody-torso-sized animatronic spiders, skeletons and, well, bloody torsos pepper the landscape of Brian Mudgett's new collection of attractions at Confront Your Fears.

In its third year at Vancouver Plaza, Mudgett's playground of haunted houses has grown from his original "Mayan Apocalypse" house in 2011 to three houses in 2012 and to four this year.

Walking through the gut-soaked hallways, Mudgett said he's most proud of the contraptions he builds himself. He grinned as he pointed out his latest — a metal storage shelf that lifts up, propelling a load of metal barrels toward unsuspecting visitors.

"The barrels roll, but they don't actually hit anyone," Mudgett said. "They do make a hell of a noise. We had our welding team put it together."

Mudgett and his team spend the whole year working on the attractions, which inhabit two different locations in the plaza.

To pay most of his bills, Mudgett works for a cellphone company and sells marching band music he composes to a company back east, but Confront Your Fears is getting closer to becoming a real day job, he said.

Last year, the attractions broke even. This year, with a lot of the initial equipment costs paid, the young company should make a little profit, Mudgett said.

"We're looking for a major turnaround this year," Mudgett said. "We hope to make some money, and then all that will go back into the haunts."

The Vancouver location has worked out perfectly, he added.

"We're in our own little market," Mudgett said. "Vancouver has a lot of people that just love haunted houses. We're very happy here."

Some of the original "Mayan Apocalypse" setup remains in this year's "Relic" house, which tells the story of a temple guarded by a lost tribe and demon monsters. But Mudgett has added more animatronics and altered the interior with some new scares.

Another section of what was once "Mayan Apocalypse" has turned into a new attraction, "Biohazard," which tells the tale of a disaster at a chemical plant that spawns a horde of angry zombies and psychopathic killers.

Mudgett decided to turn the larger haunt into two medium-sized ones because lines were growing behind slow groups in the larger one. Groups flow through the two separate haunts much more efficiently, he said.

Most of his work in the off season went into "Circus Insane 3D," which launched last year. Mudgett improved the haunt with more scares, more effects and a musical score that he wrote specifically for the attraction.

"Usually haunted houses don't have a score, things just sort of creep along, but I was able to make theme music in a few different styles, and they play together to give it a scary feel," Mudgett said.

Last year, "Circus Insane 3D" was less detailed, with some creative three-dimensional paint effects and a few animatronics.

"We had a great mold, we just added to it," Mudgett said. "Last year it was a fun house, this year it's a scary fun house."

Also more detailed this year is "Morbid Nightmares," a slasher house that he contracted out to Ira and Christina Kortum, friends who have also been infected with an insatiable love of Halloween haunts.

"My wife and I have worked for varying haunted houses for the past several years," Ira Kortum said. "This is the first one that we've put together on our own."

Every room in the haunt represents a separate nightmare with its own theme.

"It's a labor of love," he said. "If you ever get to the point where you're getting something out of it, that's great, but it's usually three to five years before that happens."

The couple, which has experience in the film industry, wanted to learn from Mudgett for a few years before striking out on their own, Kortum said.

"Brian's very, very, very good at the technical side, the animatronics, sound," Kortum said. "It's been really great to have him there to answer questions. He's been very supportive."

One of his favorite parts of putting together an attraction is teaching young actors how to scare people, Kortum added.

"As an actor, I really enjoy working with people who want to be haunters," Kortum said. "When you're trying to scare somebody you don't know, and you face them, it's actually pretty intimidating. I try to help them get comfortable with that and have fun."

Another aspect that Mudgett has been playing with in all the houses is the addition of smells, many of which aren't pretty.

"They're horrible," he said with a laugh. "Our kitchen will smell like a slaughter house. Our bathroom smell is something called 'PoopFart.' But we also have rain forest smells for the temple and a cotton candy and popcorn smell for the 3-D haunt."

He's also added more lighting effects, strobes, areas of black light, fog and even a little comedy, he said.

"The reset button for fear is comedy and laughter," Mudgett said. "We're really pushing that this year. So when you see something funny and laugh, well, then you know something else is coming."

Mudgett said his goal is just to keep building and improving his haunts each year.

"I really enjoy it, and everybody gets along," Mudgett said. "We're just all a bunch of goofballs having fun in the dark."

Clark County Halloween Haunts:

Confront Your Fears

• What: Four haunted houses at Vancouver Plaza. "Relic" is based on a story of a lost tribe's temple guarded by demon monsters. "Biohazard" is a high energy adventure where a chemical plant leak unleashes a horde of zombies and psychopathic killers. "Morbid Nightmares" is a labyrinth of dreams gone awry. "Circus Insane 3D" is the story of menacing circus freaks — 3-D glasses provided.

• When: Open 7-10 p.m. Thursdays and Sundays, 7-11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Also open from 7-10 p.m. Oct. 28, 29 and 30, and from 7-11 p.m. on Halloween.

• Where: 7701 N.E. Vancouver Plaza Drive, Vancouver.

• Cost: $25 covers all four haunted houses. $35 for a VIP pass to skip the lines at all four haunted houses. $45 for an all-you-can-fear pass that includes unlimited haunted house visits.

• Information: http://confrontyourfears.com, Confront Your Fears on Facebook or 360-944-3019

Hickory Street Graveyard

• What: Home haunt by Eric Poteete and Belinda Deaver with animated characters and special effects. Includes a small haunted house that will be open Saturday nights and Halloween night.

• Where: 15611 N.E. Hickory St., Vancouver.

• When: Haunted House open 5 to 10 p.m. on Halloween, probably some other dates and times. Graveyard open all month long, and visitors are welcome so long as lights are on. Check Facebook for updates.

• Cost: Free, donation box.

• Information: Call 360-852-1199 or visit https://facebook.com/HickoryStreetGraveyard

Trail of Terror Fundraiser

• What: Walk through a 10-acre farm and escape the terror of the flesh-eating inhabitants and gigantic spiders. Proceeds will go toward efforts to build an animal shelter for pets whose owners are in drug and alcohol recovery.

• Where: 6600 N.E. 144th St., Vancouver.

• When: 6 to 10 p.m. Oct. 24, 25 and 26.

• Cost: $10 at the gate.

• Information: Call 360-989-4766

Chelatchie Prairie Railroad Headless Horseman Halloween

• What: Trains will run through a 330-foot solid rock tunnel to the Heisson area with a stop at Moulton Station to visit Yacolt Falls — and the Headless Horseman. Includes candy and games for the kids and refreshments for everyone.

• Where: 207 N. Railroad Ave., Yacolt.

• When: 9:30 a.m., noon and 2:30 p.m. Oct. 26 and 27.

• Cost: $15 for adults, $14 for 60+, $10 ages 5-11, $8 ages 2-4, free for children under 2.

• Information: Call 360-686-3559 or visit http://bycx.com

Run 2 Survive Zombie Fest

• What: Zombie Fest running event and beer festival to support the Evergreen School District Foundation.

• Where: Al Angelo Fields, Endeavor Elementary School, 2701 N.E. Four Seasons Lane, Vancouver.

• When: 2 to 10 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 2. Registration opens at 2 p.m., ghouls kids run at 3 p.m., survivors start at 5 p.m., zombies start at 5:02 p.m. Witches Brewfest 4 to 10 p.m.

• Cost: $40 for pre-registration through Oct. 29, $45 on race day. Brewfest pints are $4.

• Information: http://energyevents.com/run2survive