Halloween: haunted houses, caves, woods

If your county is like many in Wisconsin, you expect it to get pretty scary during this time of year.

The business of producing Halloween haunts can involve an odd range of people: Jaycees, firefighters, campground operators, Optimists, disc jockeys, farmers, high school students, professional stagehands and actors.

There are haunted barns and hayrides all over the state, plus a haunted ex-post office in Saukville, a haunted cave and fairgrounds near Chilton.

Ventures can be for fun, for theatrical practice, for profit or to benefit non-profits. It all depends on the place and the sponsor, but there is a tendency to reinvent a haunted site’s contents each year.

The more sophisticated places have multiple rooms and double-digit entrance fees. Then there’s Kirk’s Kreepy Korner, 114 Jean St., Combined Locks, a private endeavor, where admission is free but donations to charitable causes are accepted. This yard show is open on evenings, through Nov. 7.

That’s an exception, though. Most haunted enterprises will close for the season before Halloween arrives this Thursday.

How do we know all of this? It’s thanks to Jennifer and Andrew Meier of Waukesha, who have come up with a dynamic and thorough Internet site, www.hauntedwisconsin.com. It lists and reviews dozens of Halloween events, corn mazes, hayrides and other fall activities in Wisconsin.

“We were searching the Internet because we wanted to go to a haunted house before our Halloween party,” Jennifer writes. “There were a couple of great haunted house sites out there, but I found their information was out of date, didn’t include much information and didn’t list many places in Wisconsin.”

The Meiers went online with their site in 2000. “I’d like to think that we’re helping keep Halloween alive in Wisconsin,” Jennifer says.

So, because of their efforts, we now know about The Morgue (Oneida), Ghoulees in the Coulees (Coon Valley), Slain Manor (Green Bay), Transyl-MAZ-ia (Marion), Splatter Haus (Sheboygan Falls), the Carroll College Haunted Hospital (Waukesha) and Your Worst Nightmare (Kenosha).

Tours will include a séance at Old Gem Theater (New Richmond) on Halloween. Wakanda Waterpark, Menomonie, is another unusual haunted happenings site, as are a former orphanage infirmary in Sparta and the new Black Forest Haunted Woods on Highway FF, Omro.

We can’t do justice to them all, so take a peek for yourself online. Here is a sample of the more unusual things that you’ll find.

Terror on the Fox, National Railroad Museum grounds, 2265 S. Broadway St., Green Bay, 920-430-1844 or www.terroronthefox.com. About a week ago, 2,500 people saw the attraction during one night. Rocker Alice Cooper has been there, too, but not this year.

The wait can be two hours, or more, but there are outdoor diversions (a light show, music and videos).

Mike Krausert of Bad Boys Scenic Designs says the project involves professional stagehands and the Green Bay Preble Optimists. Now in its fifth year, “Terror” includes a 15-minute haunted train ride, a haunted forest walk, and a “spinning vortex” machine in a 5,000-square-foot haunted house.

Fans of fright come from as far away as Michigan and Illinois, Krausert says. His company makes a business of scaring people, as it also constructs haunted rooms and structures in other states, and he will teach a workshop at the Halloween Expo in Chicago next spring.

Proceeds from the Green Bay event help various non-profit groups. Ticket booth hours are 6:30-11:30 p.m. daily, through Nov. 2. Admission is $11.

13 Murders at the Haunted Theater, 1430 Washington St., Racine, (262) 633-4201 or www.thehauntedtheater.com. This production is called the state’s “only authentic haunted attraction,” and the former Majestic Theater’s deterioration is billed as an asset for these purposes.

So are the bats that have been captured here.
In its heyday, the theater could seat 1,800. The building got a spot on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.
Hours are 7-11 p.m. on Halloween. Admission is $8 ($5 for ages 12 and under; $7 for students, and ages 60 or older).

The first Haunted House Party here, for ages 16 and up, will have 16 disc jockeys, special effects and a 25-foot video screen in “14,000 square feet of madness.” It will be at 9 p.m. Nov. 2. Admission is $15; see www.hauntedhouseparty.com for more.

Can’t make it? Well, the Web site’s sound effects – from creaking doors to dripping blood – may be thrilling enough.

Also in the category of “extraordinary” is Fright Fest at Six Flags Great America, 542 N. Route 21, Gurnee, Ill. (off Interstate 94, south of Kenosha), (847) 249-4636 or www.sixflags.com . The 100-acre theme park is transformed into a haven for Halloween lovers this weekend (Oct. 26-27), and then will close until May 2003.

There are two haunted houses, illusionists, “four rides operating under frightful conditions” and no-fear zones for little kids.

Hours are 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday, and until 8 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $39.99 for people 5-foot-4 or taller, $29.99 for those who are tinier. Ages 3 or younger get in free.
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November marks the end for most corn mazes in Wisconsin, as farmers prepare for harvesting. So call or get online before hitting the road, to make sure you’ll have something to walk through.

From images of elephants to eagles, corn mazes are designed for family fun and occasionally are advertised as being haunted, too. The time it takes to walk a maze depends on its complexity; we’ve seen ranges from 20 minutes to more than two hours.

Choices include a “Salute to America” at Schopf’s Hilltop Dairy, Sturgeon Bay, (920) 743-9779 or www.dairyview.com, and the Lake Geneva Youth Camp’s “Packers-Bears Rivalry,” near Lake Geneva, (262) 539-3047 or www.fairwynfarms.com
A Dyersville, Iowa, cornfield — near Dubuque and the site of “Field of Dreams” filming in 1988 — also has a maze. For more, call (800) 443-8981or go to www.leftandcenterfod.com.

Several other Midwest maze options are described at www.wicornmazes.com, an Internet site organized by Judy Hughes of Janesville. Her family farm’s corn maze in 1998 attracted about 50,000 visitors. Now Judy teaches farmers how to supplement their income by developing their own mazes; her next classes are Jan. 17-18.