By LOIS KINDLE
Black lights, fog, eerie music and unearthly characters will set the scene as the Masonic Park and Youth Camp in Wimauma hosts its inaugural Halloween Haunted House Oct. 26, 27 and 31.
The free event is modeled on “Halloween Horror Nights” in Orlando, said lodge member Eric Bade, designer of the house, a 3,000-square-foot office he and other volunteers converted into a maze of scary scenes, including a chop house, ghostly cemetery, ghoulish clown room and more. Each will feature its own frightening character who’ll interact with visitors.
“It’s an inexpensive alternative to theme parks,” he said.
All of the props used in the haunted house were accumulated over 20 years by Bade and others were supplied by the park. An additional $5,000 has been spent on construction, so donations to replace the funds would be much appreciated by the 501(c) 3 organization.
The event is open to children of all ages; however, parents should know it’s not designed for the faint of heart.
“It’s probably going to be scary for some small kids,” Bade said.
Exits have been built into the design so anyone who wishes to leave at any point can do so. And all of the actors have flashlights to reveal their true identities if needed.
“This is a place to experience some safe and exciting Halloween fun,” said David Brigham, Masonic Park and Youth Camp manager. “We’ll be giving away safe treats to all children, and those who wear a costume will receive an extra treat.”
For safety’s sake, visitors with masks must take them off before entering the haunted house.
Each night, members of a lodge or two will be preparing and selling barbecue, hot dogs, hamburgers and beverages to raise money for their lodges.
The Halloween Haunted House event is being held as a community outreach as an effort to build more awareness of the park. It will take place from 6 to 10 p.m. Oct. 26 and 27 and 5 to 9 p.m. Halloween night (Oct. 31).
The 204-acre Masonic Park and Youth Camp, 18050 U.S. 301 S., Wimauma, was established in 1969 by the 16 Masonic lodges in Hillsborough County. It’s managed by a park board and is open to the public.
“We’re all about kids and doing something for the community here,” said John Hooker, board secretary. “During the year, we offer youth camping, where we try to provide a wilderness experience, canoeing and kayaking, hiking, horseback riding and ziplining. The park is also open for recreational vehicle camping and corporate parties, and to church groups.”
Hooker said the park also hosts events like Mud Endeavor Mud Run in April. Last year, the event had 1,000 participants. The next one will take place April 6.
For more information, visit www.masonicparkflorida.com or call 813-813-634-1220. The park also has a Facebook page at https://bit.ly/2q5eOAP.