I would call myself a Halloween aficionado. I spend months planning my costume and the ideal schedule for haunted house festivities.
Each year I try somewhere new in search of a haunt that truly scares me. Only one has come close — it’s billed as full-contact and requires attendees to sign a waiver. The experience resulted in me being lifted by two towering lumberjacks and placed in a meat freezer, which was then locked, separating me from friends.
It’s fair to say I have high standards.
This year I took on the ScareGrounds at the Clark County Event Center at the Fairgrounds. I went on the spookiest day I could think of: Friday, Oct. 13. This just also happened to be opening day.
In the darkened chill, I ventured past the Ferris wheel and approached the first haunt, known as the Lost Colony. A witch issued her warning of frights come to life and the journey began. Decor dripped stage blood and actors participated in some light banter, often difficult to do with an undeterred participant like myself. The haunt continued to Return of the Asylum and Night Terrors. These were similarly well-crafted with creepy creatures and impressive decorum.
In the end, my personal highlight was petting a rat held by what I presume was a swamp witch.
To her credit, she only let me pet the rodent actor on my second ask.
Perhaps an early indication of the evening in store was my fellow haunted house attendees. I was the only noticeable 20-something in a sea of tweens, children and their parents.
That’s a typical audience, said Jason Greeley-Roberts, ScareGrounds co-creator.
“We’re a family-friendly event so we work with a lot of professional actors to make sure we’re putting on a really flexible show to cater to each individual’s desires,” Greeley-Roberts said. “If they want to be scared, we’re going to scare them as much as possible.”
That scare is different than fear, however. Greeley-Roberts described the experience as more of a tension.
“Right before they go into the haunt, they giggle, say ‘I’m so scared,’ but it’s different,” he said.
That doesn’t mean actors won’t try to give you a genuine fright. Actors are trained to read the audience and respond accordingly.
“You won’t be able to scare everyone,” he said. “My No. 1 rule is if you can’t make ’em scream, at least make ’em laugh. We’re not here to terrorize, we’re here to entertain.”
“Entertaining” is an apt description for my experience at the ScareGrounds. I offer kudos for a good try, but the experience was more laughs than screams for me. If you’re scared easily, though, the ScareGrounds are a spooky-good time.
Alas, this scare-seeker’s annual search continues.
Get Your Screams In
Rankings are the opinion of the respective haunted house operators. Less scary versions available for small children.
Clark County ScareGrounds
• Scary Ranking: 3.5.
• When: 7-10 p.m. Oct. 22, 26, 29-31 and 7-11 p.m. Oct. 20-21 and 27-28.
• Where: Clark County Event Center, 17402 N.E. Delfel Road, Ridgefield.
• Tickets: $25 for adults, $18 for age 12 and under. VIP and group packages available. Parking included.
• Age restrictions: No, but parents may not carry children. Recommended for 12 and up.
• On the web: scaregroundspdx.com
Trail of Terror
• Scary Ranking: 3.75.
• When: 7-11 p.m. Oct. 20-21, 27-28 and 30.
• Where: 6600 N.E. 144th St., Vancouver.
• Tickets: $13.
• Age restrictions: Under 10 must be accompanied by adult.
• On the web: facebook.com/Trail-of-Terror-Vancouver-1980827478852390/
Haunted Theater at Washougal High School
• Scary Ranking: 4.
• When: 6-7:30 p.m. Oct. 28, not-so-scary Kids’ House; 8:30-11 p.m. Oct. 27 and 28 and 7-10 p.m. Oct. 31, Full Scare House.
• Where: Washburn Performing Arts Center, 1201 39th St., Washougal.
• Tickets: $3 for Kids’ House, $4 for Full Scare, $2 for return trips.
• Scary Ranking: 2.5.
• When: 6-9 p.m. Oct. 20 and Oct. 21.
• Where: Bennett Hall in Abrams Park, Division Street, Ridgefield.
• Tickets: $5; age 3 and under are free.
• On the web: www.ridgefieldartassociation.com
Headless Horseman Halloween Train
• Scary Ranking: 1.5.
• Featuring diesel train ride to Moulton Station and Yacolt Falls, where the Headless Horseman will make an appearance. Candy and games for children.
• When: 9:30 a.m., noon, 2:30 p.m. Oct. 28 and Oct. 29.
• Where: Yacolt Station, 207 N.E. Railroad Ave., Yacolt.
• Tickets: $20; $19 for seniors; $15 for ages 5 to 12; $13 for ages 2 to 4; free for younger than 2. Reservations recommended.
• On the web: www.bycx.com