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Fear factor: Local haunts open their doors

| Thursday, Oct. 5, 2006

For local thrill seekers and adventurers, the Temple of Terror Haunted House, presented for the first time at the Syria Shrine Temple in Harmar, promises "fear has a new beginning ..."

Ken Eastgate, co-chairman of the event, says the Temple of Terror, at 6,500 square feet of classical and modern day attractions, is one of the largest haunted houses in Western Pennsylvania.

With 8,500 Syria Shrine members, Eastgate says he has plenty of volunteers to design and build sets and activities. Students from Lower Burrell, Springdale and Deer Lakes are participating.

The Temple of Terror will include animated scenes, surprises at every turn, and encounters with corpses, zombies and ghosts.

"For folks who like to be scared, something will always be going to happen," Eastgate says, referring to the continuous maze participants will follow. "But, even though there will be something going on all the time, I don't want to give anything away," he says. Billed as "one of the most terrifying haunted houses in Pennsylvania that will test your tolerance of fear," the sheer size of the attraction makes it an experience, Eastgate says.

The Haunted House is on one level and is wheelchair-accessible.

"The Shriners do things for children and the community -- especially for children," Eastgate says. "One of our members suggested a haunted house, and, after previewing others last year, we thought it was a great idea."

For the little ones, there is Pumpkin Hollow, with an inflatable haunted house, corn maze, pumpkin painting and Halloween games.

To experience other things that go bump in the night, visitors can board the Zombie Encounter Tram, which brings you face to face with the living dead. The ride, which includes human and electronic special effects, covers about five acres of the 38-acre property.

At one end of the Shrine Pavilion, there will be a free, continuous screenings of horror movies. "We think this should be a great attraction for teens, and we welcome them," Eastgate says. Besides movies, the area will offer refreshments such as pizza, hot dogs and nachos.

Temple of Terror

When: 7-10 p.m. Sun-Thurs. and 7-11 p.m. Fri.-Sat. through Oct. 30.

Where: Syria Shrine Temple, Little Deer Creek Road, Harmar

Cost: $12 admission to Temple of Terror, which includes Zombie Encounter Tram; age 4 and younger admitted free when accompanied by paying adult. $5 admission for age 9 and younger to Pumpkin Hollow. Group discounts for parties of 15 and more. $2 off coupons for Mondays and Tuesdays available.

Details: 724-274-7000

The Haunted Mine

In its second year, The Haunted Mine, at the Tour-Ed Mine and Museum, in Fawn, is offering above-ground scares as well as subterranean adventures. Folks won't be bored standing in line, mine manager Bob Black says. While reluctant to divulge surprises, Black did warn that guests should be on the lookout for a cruising hearse.

Once again, volunteers will provide the go power. "We have a nice assortment of 'Halloween nuts' -- people who love Halloween and think it's better than Christmas," Black says. His Halloween helpers, who will spend most of their time underground, are from Frazer, Harrison, Springdale, West Deer and Plum.

Black credits Nathan Derringer and Jason Shumaker, "our Halloween gurus," as the brains behind the attraction. They're the ones who devise the attraction's designs.

Volunteers also include students from Shady Side Academy, the drama clubs at Highlands and Plum high schools, and Riverview Key Club members.

"Not only is this a fun thing to do, it's a great fundraiser," says Black, who says that proceeds are used to add exhibits to the museum and mine, maintain facilities and continue to educate the public about coal mines.

Black says coal-mine operators have a saying they use when miners mistakenly go off site: "Cut into hell, and all the demons are released."

Such terrifying information explains why The Haunted Mine is not suitable for children younger than 10.

When: 7-10 p.m. Thurs. and 7-11 p.m. Fri.-Sat. through Oct. 28

Where: Tour-Ed Mine and Museum, 748 Bull Creek Road, Fawn

Cost: $8

Details: 724-274-5459

The Haunted Habitat

For a walk on the light side, the family friendly Haunted Habitat at Rachel Carson Homestead in Springdale offers Halloween fun during the day. The event, in its fifth year, will have an element of environmental issues but will focus "more on fun things and less on the scary."

New this year is the Creatures of the Night Program, which will focus on nocturnal animals and include exhibits provided by the Carnegie Museum of Natural History. Amanda Trapp, a Chatham University graduate student, says, "This year, since it's a daylight event, we're looking more at doing a fall festival, not all haunted stuff."

In addition to the hiking trail, there will be lots of traditional Halloween activities, such as candy-apple making, bobbing for apples and pumpkin painting.

Fiona Fisher, 2007 Rachel Carson Centennial coordinator, says everyone is welcome, but families with children are the focus.

"It's fun for all the family and offers an alternative to those who prefer humor to horror," Fisher says.

Children must be accompanied by an adult.

When: 1-4 p.m. Oct. 28

Where: Rachel Carson Homestead Association, 613 Madison Ave., Springdale

Cost: $5 per family

Details: 724-274-5459

The Haunted School

At the old Sherrett School in Washington Township, fear and horror are as common as ABC.

For the 23rd consecutive year, the haunted school will be home to ghosts, goblins and creatures more terrifying than your ninth-grade English teacher.

Volunteer Mary Judge says new attractions this year include a hunter's camouflage room, a cornfield and the traditional "surprise room."

For a real education, try exploring the darkened hallways, transformed rooms and basement mazes.

Proceeds go to the Washington Township Memorial Park and Washington Township Fire Department.

When: 7-10 p.m. Oct. 27-29

Where: Old Sherrett School House, three miles off Route 268, along Sherrett-Wattersonville Road, Washington Township

Cost: $5; pumpkin patch for kids, $2

Details: 724-545-2496

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