STRATFORD, Conn. -- You're surrounded by bugs -- small and leggy, big and slimy, and everything in between, and they're edging closer and closer to you. Is this a nightmare?
No, it's really happening at Fright Haven, the first haunted house attraction at Stratford Scare ... or rather, Stratford Square. The new attraction, unique in its size and scope, is set up to scare those brave enough to go through the doors this Halloween season.
Fright Haven is a 20,000-square-foot house that's "in the location of an old showcase cinema theater, which had been barren for years," said Charles Rosenay, who is scare master and organizer of Fright Haven.
There are three separate attractions within the house -- one is "Frightmare Fear Institute: Achluophobia," which is a sensory haunt that's in complete darkness. It includes a bug room, a mask room and a spark room, "which is a completely blackened room with a mad welder who is going crazy and sparks are flying everywhere," said Rosenay, an Orange resident.
There is also a three-dimensional carnival of evil where people wear 3D glasses. "It's infested with demented, crazed clowns," he said.
The third room is Dead End Manor, which is an old-school ancient Gothic Victorian Haunted House containing a baby room packed with old and deformed dolls.
It takes about one hour to go through the entire house. Live entertainment, including animatronics and video shows, is included outside the house.
Every few weeks before Halloween, the attractions inside the house will change so a return visitor can walk through it and be scared all over again. "We are constantly trying to amp up the scare factor," Rosenay said.
What's unique about Fright Haven is that it's all indoors. "Most haunted attractions are outdoors so if it rains, it's either cancelled or people have a horrible experience," he said. "This is heated, covered, safe and protected."
It's not the dark inside the house that's frightening, Rosenay said. "It's not the actual darkness, bug or clown that is frightening. It is the fear of the unknown."
According to Rosenay, all the 40 to 50 actors work at Fright Haven are volunteers. To find the right people, Fright Haven puts out casting calls throughout the area.
The actors never touch the guests, Rosenay said.
"Our actors are always in training. It's like refining a craft," he said. "Our goal is to make it scarier each year."
The cast is tutored in safety emergency procedures, he said. In the event that a visitor becomes too scared to continue through the house, have no fear.
"All the actors have been trained to break from character and will guide them safely out of one of the safety emergency exits," he said.
Fright Haven is a fundraiser to support the Stratford Police Athletic League.
Fright Haven opens at 7 p.m. Thursdays through Sundays and will be open every night during the week of Halloween.
Tickets are $20 online and $25 at the door. On Oct. 22, 23, and 29 from noon to 2 p.m., Fright Haven will have a child-friendly matinee with a lights on, music off afternoon.
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