The scenes of terror are literally strung together with blankets, props, wire and a few electric cords -- scenes of a mad scientist and electric-chair victims, and various offerings of severed bodies. But when night falls and the exhibit hall doors at the county fairgrounds swing open, Halloween Happening becomes one of the more popular seasonal fright draws in the area.
Opening tomorrow for its 10th season, Halloween Happening routinely brings in more than $20,000 with nearly 3,000 visitors over a three-weekend run. Lines to get into the spook barn sometimes stretch the length of more than two football fields, with a two-hour wait.
The event has scared enough visitors to generate stories of its own. Volunteer "ghouls" love to tell how one man was so shocked during the Halloween Happening haunted hayride that he had an embarrassing accident.
And who can forget the teen-age boy whose girlfriend was so frightened she wouldn't let go of his hands long enough to allow him to pull up his drooping pants? By the time they hit the hayride, his pants were around his knees -- or so the story goes.
"It's amazing how people will pay to be scared to death," said Sharon Shorter of Crownsville, who's known on the fairgrounds as the Head Witch.
Money from Halloween Happening supports the Anne Arundel County Fair. Through the years, the event has paid for an $85,000 restroom, built on the fairgrounds three years ago, and volunteers are working on saving money for another one.
This year, visitors will be treated (or tricked) to dark, winding pathways; dancing aliens; creepy, crawling things; shrieking victims and cackling witches -- all before the meandering hayride through the woods to visit vampires, ghosts and bogymen.
The focus is purely on fright.
"We do not promote a lot of blood and gore," said Rosemary Dunn, event coordinator. "We have things that scare you."
Halloween Happening at the county fairgrounds on General's Highway in Crownsville is open from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday through Oct. 31. Tickets are $8 for general admission. Children under age 5 are admitted free. Tickets can be purchased at the fairgrounds or by calling 410-923-3400, Ext. 7. Visit it on line at www.aacountyfair.org
Here are a few other things haunting Anne Arundel County and the neighboring area this month. Be sure to check your local public library for more events:
The Hauntings of Ellicott City, guided ghost tours throughout the city, at 8: 30 p.m. every Saturday through November. Tour meets at the Historic Ellicott City Visitors Center, 8267 Main St. General admission is $7, children 12 and under and seniors pay $5. Reservations required. There are still spaces for Oct. 30, when there will be several tours. All other Saturdays are filled, but organizers have started waiting lists. Information: 410-313-1900 or 410-313-1905.
Build a Family Scarecrow, 10 a.m. to noon Saturday at Quiet Waters Park, Red Maple Pavilion in Annapolis. Cost is $4 per scarecrow. Information: 410-222-1777.
Halloween Craft Time, holiday workshop for ages 5 through 10, is scheduled from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. Oct. 21 at St. Mary's Street Recreation Center, 9 St. Mary's St., in Annapolis. Registration ends today. You must register on site and pay the $10 fee for supplies. Information: 410-263-7958.
Clandestine Tales and Tours by Candlelight at Charles Carroll House, 107 Duke of Gloucester St., Annapolis. 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Oct. 22, 23, 29 and 30. Cost is $5. Information: 410-269-1737.
Scarecrow Madness, with hay rides, crafts and storytelling. Children can bring a pair of pants, a shirt, and pantyhose to build a life-size scarecrow. The event is free from noon to 3 p.m. Oct. 23 at the special events deck, Annapolis Harbour Center, 2512 Solomon's Island Road in Annapolis. Information: 410-266-5857.
Campfires and Vampires: A Bewitching Feast of Food To Die For, a benefit dinner with costume parade, dancing, and silent and live auctions, will help send needy children to the YMCA Camp Letts. The event is from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. Oct. 23 at the camp, 4003 Camp Lets Road in Edgewater. Tickets are $40 per person or $75 per couple. Children are admitted free, and there is free child care. Information: 410-798-0440.
Trick and Treat Weekend at Homestead Gardens in Davidsonville features pumpkin carving. Come dressed as your favorite Halloween character from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Oct. 23 or from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m Oct. 24. Information: 410-798-5000.
Build a Family Scarecrow in Crofton Park from 10 a.m. to noon Oct. 23. The cost is $4 per scarecrow. Information: 410-222-7300.
Haunting in the Park celebrates the holiday with hay rides, storytelling, and a trick-or-treat trail from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Oct. 23 (rain date Oct. 24) at Lake Waterford Park, 830 W. Pasadena Road in Pasadena. The cost is $2 per child. Information: 410-222-6248.
Ghosts from the Past, a moonlight play featuring the history of London Town and its inhabitants, is scheduled from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Oct. 28-30 at London Town Foundation, 839 London Town Road, Edgewater. The cost is $8 for adults, $6 for children. This play is not recommended for children under age 7. 410-222-1919.
Halloween on the Half Shell, a charter boat tour, features ghost stories, songs, a costume contest and trick-or-treating. Tours Oct. 29 and 30 depart from 3rd Street, Annapolis, at 6 p.m. and return at 7: 30 p.m. The cost is $15 for adults and $8 for children 12 and younger. Reservations are required. Information: 410-216-9787.
Halloween Organ Recital with organist Monte Maxwell at 8: 30 p.m. Oct. 29 will offer spooky surprises, laser lights and smoke. The event will be held at the U.S. Naval Academy Chapel in Annapolis. The cost is $5. Information: 800-US4-NAVY.
Halloween Weekend at historic Cider Mill Farm will have costume contests, performances by the Footnotes cloggers, hayrides and cider. The event is from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Oct. 30 at the farm, 5012 Landing Road, Elkridge. Admission is free, but there are nominal fees for hayrides, pony rides and the petting farm. Information: 410-788-9595.
Pub Date: 10/14/99