For fear and fun
Haunted house would be good family fun, town officials decide
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But his dream hasn't been a nightmare. For almost a decade, he's been researching ways to bring a seasonal "haunted attraction" to Southold. And now he's got a permit from the Zoning Board of Appeals to do just that near the corner of Youngs Avenue and Route 48.
"Halloween is now the second-most-popular holiday, right behind Christmas," he said. "It's been growing. This should be an enjoyable thing for the kids."
Mr. Liegey is a contractor and owner of Ye Old Party Shoppe on Main Road in Southold. He's owned the multifaceted party supply store for 14 years, and he said he's been dreaming up his haunted attraction with Heather Armstrong, his store's manager, for nine years.
During the month of October, he said, his store is mobbed with kids and parents from all over Long Island, looking for toys, costumes, wigs and makeup -- and a good old-fashioned scream.
For $15 a person, Mr. Liegey hopes to attract not only local families but also tourists wandering from wineries to pumpkin farms to stop at his place and "have a fun time getting a little scared."
Mr. Liegey added that his attraction really isn't the stereotypical "house of mirrors" trailer you might expect to find at a carnival. He's purchased various sections of the attraction from vendors like Oak Island Entertainment Group, which provides attraction services to major national theme parks like Busch Gardens and SeaWorld, and he plans to stock it with items he already carries in his store, like skulls that move and light up.
"It's more sophisticated," he said.
According to the Web site of the International Association of Haunted Attractions, today's haunted attractions "are a far more advanced form of entertainment than haunts from the '80s or early '90s. Attractions today feature set design that compares with major Florida theme parks and special effects even a Hollywood movie would envy," the site asserts.
Mr. Liegey said one room called "Claustrophobia" will guide thrill-seekers through a room with a ceiling that drops lower and lower, forcing them to bend over to get by. Another, called "Maggot Mayhem," will feature fake maggots crawling out of fake rotting corpses, complete with moist rice (maggots) falling on visitors' heads.
"We'll have heads and body parts hanging," he said. "And it won't smell very well either."
During the month of October, Mr. Liegey said, people think of his store as a haunted house anyway. He and his employees dress up on the weekends, sometimes to scare, sometimes to entertain. Though he doesn't know if he'll do any spooking himself, he plans to hire some of his existing employees as well as some high school students as actors.
"We'll grab some from the drama clubs," he said.
Party Shoppe employee Kiara Rega said she's looking forward to acting in the haunted house. The Southold High School junior is active in the school's drama club. Though she's had roles in plays like "Thoroughly Modern Millie" and "Gypsy," she's never played the part of the ghoul. At least, she said, in this official capacity.
"I've scared people many times," she said. "Just never in a haunted attraction."
Zoning Board of Appeals member Gerard Goehringer said the board granted Mr. Liegey the type of outdoor events permit used most often for things like special events at wineries or farm stands. He said this one had to be modified due to the site's business zoning and the length of time the attraction will be open.
Mr. Liegey had approached the Town Board with his idea in mid-August, at which point Councilman Vincent Orlando said it would be great for local kids.
"Maybe they took my advice," Mr. Orlando said this week. "I'm all for some good clean fun. Entertainment is good. It keeps the kids here."
Party Shoppe manager Ms. Armstrong, a mother of four teens, ages 11, 15, 17, and 19, said that it's hard for North Fork parents with kids in that age group to find something fun to do together. And besides, she said, Halloween's a great "excuse for adults to play dress-up."
"I don't know anyone who doesn't like Halloween," she said. "Haunted houses are for everyone."
Mr. Liegey would like to have the attraction up and running by mid-October, he said during a phone interview on Monday.
Trick or treat: the economics of Halloween
With five weekends in October and Halloween falling on a Friday, the Halloween industry could celebrate a banner year in a frightening economy. Halloween-related sales are expected to generate more than $5 billion in revenue in 2008.
During the 2007 Halloween season, costume sales accounted for $1.82 billion in sales, candy sales were at over $1.5 billion and decorations represented $1.39 billion.
Average spending during Halloween has risen to more than $64.82 per person, up from $44.50 six years ago.
Source: International Association of Haunted Attractions, www.iahaweb.com.
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