IF YOU GO
What: Haunted “Gross” House Asylum for the Criminally Insane
When: October 25, 26 and 31; gates open 7 to 11 p.m.
Admission: $15 per person (all ages) for 1 walk through the Haunted “Gross” House. There will be haunted hay rides and food vendors. Hay rides are $1.
Where: Collier County Fairgrounds, 751 39th Ave NE, Naples (10 miles east of Interstate 75’s Exit 111 on Immokalee Road)
More info: On Halloween night, there will be a trunk or treat at 8 a.m., with free candy in a safe environment for costumed kids, and a costume contest at 9 p.m. The event is a benefit for the Life’s not “Fair” Foundation, with all proceeds going to charity. For more details, call (239) 455-1444 or go to www.colliercountyfair.com.
Just don’t say you weren’t warned. Make sure you have fresh batteries in your pacemaker and keep the smelling salts handy before you take that portentous first step, and become a guest in this particular house.
The whole purpose of the Haunted “Gross” House is to scare the wits out of you. One could even make a stronger statement, although not in a family newspaper.
The twisted sensibilities behind the spookatarium at the Collier County Fairgrounds have clearly worked overtime to dig deep into the dark, slimy reaches of our collective subconscious, dredging up all the primal fears lurking there.
Imagine, if you will, that Tim Burton, director of “Edward Scissorhands,” “Corpse Bride” and “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” invited you to take a stroll through his dreams. Filling 14,000 square feet of horror, the venue gives the creators the largest haunted house in Southwest Florida, and a vast canvas on which to paint their “monsterpiece.”
With tips of the headless, bloody hat to every fright movie from “Friday the 13th” to “Scream,” from Chuckie and Freddy Krueger to “Saw” No. 1 through whatever, the Haunted Gross House grabs you by the throat at the get-go and doesn’t let loose.
The entry door, covered with bloody handprints, is opened by a young ghoul, giving a hint of the creatures to follow. The screams of the guests start right away, with a reminder that in this house, you are never far from a “scare,” and you never know where that scare is coming from. So keep looking behind you, and above you — but don’t take your eyes away from what’s just in front of you.
Until your eyesight is taken away from you, repeatedly and without warning, as the room plunges into darkness. When the lights come back on — if they do — things might have changed. Have you ever felt that you were stabbed in the back by a co-worker? The receptionist who welcomes you in at the Gross House can relate, although she might not be in a mood to talk about it.
And you know how clowns have a sort of weird vibe, like “what’s going on behind that smile?” The clowns inside the room bathed in spectral black light aren’t even close to wholesome, but they’d love to play with you.
In fact, the whole approach is playing with you, messing with you, playing with your head.
“It’s all psychology and misdirection,” said Chance Singletary, marketing director for the Collier County Fairgrounds, plus head ghoul and chief designer of the Gross House. “You get ’em looking one way, and then the ‘scare’ comes from the other way.”
The “Gross” part, incidentally, is not a description, although after you go through the bloody operating room where the patient apparently was not given enough anesthetic before they started pulling her innards out, that might be hard to believe.
“Gross” comes from the late Cheryl Gross, a Fairgrounds board member, who passed away from cancer in 2012, and was the original inspiration for the haunted house and its fundraising component.
This year, the Haunted “Gross” House has become the Asylum for the Criminally Insane. The prisoners are crazy, the guards are crazy, and just maybe, the visitors grip on their own sanity is coming loose just a little. They did choose to put themselves through this, and pay for the privilege.
“Some people cry the whole way through, some cling to each other, and some run through as fast as they can,” said Singletary. “But our actors are good — they can tone it down a little if people are bothered, or really play it up if someone is really into it. Some people want to go right back through again.”
It takes more than 40 volunteer actors, who go through a lengthy makeup and costume routine each night — honestly, they don’t actually look like that in real life — plus another 10 volunteers keeping things going, refilling the fog machines and bringing cold drinks to the actors.
Perhaps the coolest part of the whole experience — literally — is the morgue. This room is chilled down to what feels like freezing, complete with “stiffs,” dead bodies who’ve been “iced.” But do you think they have the decency to remain dead?
And providing a stream of fresh corpses for the morgue, the execution chamber lets you be present as one of those inmates pays the ultimate price in the electric chair. Just hope nothing goes wrong with a power surge in the wiring
Singletary takes a “hands-on” approach to the business of fright.
“I’m the Chainsaw Massacre guy,” he said. “You never know where I might turn up in there.”
There is no age limit at the Haunted “Gross” House, although children are cautioned that this might not be suitable for parents, if they are easily scared. Singletary said they’ve never lost anybody.
“We have a Collier County sheriff’s deputy on hand, but we’ve never had anyone have any kind of medical problem” in the four years the attraction has opereated, he said. Last year, more than 3,200 people went through the house. Opening weekend this year brought 850 visitors, compared to 600 last year, so Singletary thinks they might top 4,000 visitors over the five nights the show operates.
Everyone goes through in small groups, no more than five at a time, to ensure each gets their full ration of terror. And it seems to work.
“People tell us they’ve been to the Fright Factory, to Halloween Horror Nights at Universal, and to Howl-o-Scream, and we’re at least as scary,” said Singletary. “One young lady said, ‘You made me pee myself,’ so that’s pretty scary” sort of like winning the Oscar in the haunted house category.
Just don’t say you weren’t warned.
Scott McIntyre contributed to this report.
Other spooky and not-so-spooky events
Halloween Spooktacular on Fifth
4:30 to 9:30 p.m. Oct. 31 at Fifth Avenue South in Naples. This ghoulish event will kick-off with children’s activities from 4:30 to 7:00 p.m., including trick-or-treating at Fifth Avenue businesses and the Shamrock Bank kid’s costume contest. The evening will continue from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. with the fabulous adult costume contest, the pet costume contest, live music, a street dance, a giant movie screen, and activities for kids and adults. Informaiton: www.fifthavenuesouth.com.
C’mon It’s Spooktacular!
Trick-or-treating, monster mash dance party, ghost stories on the lawn, and creepy creature encounter, 6 to 9 p.m. Oct. 19, Golisano Children’s Museum of Naples, 15080 Livingston Road, Naples. $10 per person. (239) 514-0084
Trunk or treating
Treat from decorated vehicles, kids activities, classic cars, hamburgers and hot dogs for sale, 6:30-8 p.m. Oct. 31, First Baptist Church Naples, in parking lot, 3000 Orange Blossom Drive, Naples. Free. (239) 597-6057
Noon Sunday, Oct. 27 at Christus Victor Lutheran Church, 15600 N. Tamiami Trail, Naples. Join us as we gather for Trunk or Treat, games, activities and a light meal in the park pavilion. Costumes are encouraged. Information: Bridget at (239) 597-1043 or email email@example.com.
Max Hasse Trunk or Treat
6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Oct. 25 at Max Hasse Community Park, 3390 Golden Gate Pkwy. West, Naples. There will be a costume contest, bounce house, arts and crafts and music. Cost: $5 per family. Information: (239) 348-7500.
2 to 5 p.m. Oct. 26 at The Village on Venetian Bay, 200 Gulf Shore Blvd. North in Naples. Join us for a frightfully good time. Face painters, balloon artists, pumpki3n decorating, arts and crafts, and pose for complimentary photos in our spooky Halloween backdrop and much more. Enjoy trick or treating around the Village at participating merchants. Information: (239) 261-6100.
For children 2 and older, crafts and trick or treating, 5:30-6:30 p.m. Oct. 31, Immokalee Library, 417 N. First St., Immokalee. Free, registration required at http://public.collier-lib.org. (239) 657-2882.
Fort Myers/Estero/Bonita Springs
Enjoy a friendly and fun Halloween with trick or treating, animal presentations, and games from 2:30-5:30 p.m. today, Oct. 26, & Sunday, Oct. 27, at the The Calusa Nature Center & Planetarium, 3450 Ortiz Avenue, Fort Myers. The event is included with admission to the center. Come dressed in your favorite costume! Information: (239) 275-3435 or visit http://calusanature.org
The Calusa Nature Center & Planetarium (3450 Ortiz Avenue, in Fort Myers), is hosting their annual Haunted Walk “Swamp Zombies” through Thursday, Oct. 31. Prepare for terror and make it double. Come walk the Haunted boardwalk. Ticket sales start at 7 p.m., with the walk starting at 7:30 p.m. Admission is $10 for non-members and $8 for members. Spooky laser light shows will show every 20 minutes for an additional $1 per person. Haunted walk is not recommended for individuals under 12 years of age. Admission is non-refundable. Information: (239) 275-3435 or visit http://calusanature.org/HauntedWalk.html
Trunk or Treat
4 to 6 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 27 at First United Methodist Church, 27690 Shriver Ave., Bonita Springs. No costumes are necessary. Bring a bag
to collect your treats.
Fall Harvest Festival
9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Through Oct. 30 at Gulf Coast Town Center, 9903 Gulf Coast Main St., Fort Myers and at Life Christian Church, 3001 Santa Barbara Blvd., Naples. Inflatable games, bounce houses and kids activities from 3 to 9 p.m. Bring an unwrapped toy to receive $5 off one unlimited bounce bracelet or $2 off one Jack-O-Lantern. Proceeds benefit Toys For Tots. Information: Al at (239) 229-6582 or Taylor Rental and Creative Events at (239) 768-6393.
5 to 8 p.m. Oct. 31 at Miromar Outlets in Estero. Trick-or-treating throughout the Miromar Outlets. Children come in costume and trick-or-treat in participating stores while supplies last. A Halloween Fun Photobooth will be offered near the Nike Outlet. Get 5” x 7” photos by Dick Parrish Photography for $5. A Halloween costume contest will take place at 6 p.m. near Bloomingdale’s. A contest for pets will begin at 7 p.m. near Neiman Marcus Last Call. Prizes will be awarded for the best costume. Information:
Halloween bake sale
Hosted by Goldstein, Buckley, Cechman, Rice & Purtz, P.A. to benefit Lee County Heart Walk, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Oct. 31, 1515 Broadway, Fort Myers. Information: (239) 334-1146 or www.JusticeStartsNow.com.
Trick or Treat
Treat for kids 10 and younger while supplies last, 3-7 p.m. Oct. 31, Marco Island Branch Library, 210 S. Heathwood Drive, Marco Island. (239) 394-3272