Well-grounded in fear: Feargrounds remains a strong Halloween attraction
Enter, if you dare, the Wisconsin Feargrounds, where evil lurks around every corner and screams echo out throughout the halls.
Of course, it's clear that people do dare, given that the Waukesha haunted Halloween attraction is back for its lucky 13th year.
This year’s event features three haunted houses, all in one location. Frights begin at Morgan Manor, an 1800s style Victorian mansion over 10,000 square feet in size. New this year, the home now features a green house and aviary.
Owners and Waukesha residents Ann Marie Gavinski and her husband, Tim, the masterminds behind the scares, said the new features are they're response to patrons of past events.
“We’ve really expanded on the rooms of the house because our customers kept asking for more,” said Ann Marie.
Creating new and scarier frights is a full-time job for the Gavinskis. Tim builds much of the scenes himself, taking into account requests from fear lovers that pass through the houses each year.
“We take their feedback seriously. People expect more and more each year,” Ann Marie said.
They utilize the help of designers, makeup artists and other professionals to create bone chillingly realistic scenes.
“We have a lot of attention to detail,” she said.
Some people even question if some of the props are real, such as the fake animals in the stable.
So how did the Gavinskis get into such a morbid business? What started as placing a few decorations out for trick-or-treaters turned into creating a spooky scene for kids in the garage to then utilizing the neighbor’s three-car garage as a second scene.
“That’s when we realized that we need to move into bigger location and do this on a bigger level,” Ann Marie said.
For the staff, most of whom come back year after year, “we live for this time of year," Ann Marie said.
"This is all of the holidays thrown into one for us. This is our happy time of year,” she said, chuckling.
Acting in the haunted houses is an opportunity for team members to be someone else, if only for a little while. They can leave behind who they are Monday through Friday, and take on the persona of someone a bit creepier.
Team members come from all over the area, some even from Illinois. Despite only seeing each other for a short period of time each year, the crew is very much like family.
“It’s like our family reunion every year.”
So what have they scared up this year.
Well, first of all, patrons can pick their poison – scare seekers can sign up to go through just Morgan Manor, or all three haunted houses.
Those who make it through the Morgan Manor through the boiler room and enter the bowels of the mansion to haunted house number two: Twisted.
“It’s the one place where you’ll get lost in all reality. It’s just wrong what we do to people in there,” Ann Marie said, laughing.
Some might think that the last house, Unstable, is a breath of fresh air, but think again. This gore-filled stable is anything but, well, stable.
“It is definitely our blood gusting gore house,” she said.
For more information on the Wisconsin Feargrounds, visit www.wisconsinfeargrounds.com.
Location: 1000 Northview Road, Waukesha (Waukesha County Expo Center grounds)
Haunted houses: Morgan Manor, Unstable, and Twisted
Hours: 7-11:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays through Oct. 29; plus 7-9:30 p.m. Oct. 27, 30 and 31
Tickets: $15 for Morgan Manor only ($25 for front-of-line speed pass); $35 for three-haunt combo pass ($45 for speed pass); $25 for early-bird discount (online only, patrons must arrive prior to 8 p.m.); $80-85 per person for Night Terrors camp out.
Information and reservations: Wisconsinfeargrounds.com