Kitsap Haunted Fairgrounds actors give a good scare

Kitsap Haunted Fairgrounds volunteers Kymber Thomas and  Christina Wright pose together for a photo after finishing their makeup in preparation for a night of scaring guests. Volunteers start their transformations at 3 p.m. on event nights.  - Seraine Page
Kitsap Haunted Fairgrounds volunteers Kymber Thomas and Christina Wright pose together for a photo after finishing their makeup in preparation for a night of scaring guests. Volunteers start their transformations at 3 p.m. on event nights.
— image credit: Seraine Page

The Kitsap Haunted Fairgrounds is not for the faint of heart.

For the volunteers who organize the event, it has only been a good night when someone runs out of the barn clutching their britches, trying to hide an accident. The black lights always rat out the scaredy cats, though. It serves as a silent compliment that the volunteers have done their best work. From 5-6 p.m., visitors can enter the Bremerton haunted house with the lights on for minimum scare. However, it is the “full scare” and game on from 6 to 11 p.m. that gets people shaking in their boots and leaving puddles.

“We call it “pee your pants time,’ ” laughs Vicki Josal, volunteer coordinator for Kitsap Haunted Fairgrounds of the lights-out event. Josal has around 175 volunteers in her database, all willing to come forth to act as zombies, aliens, tortured souls, whatever she needs. The actors never come out of character unless there is an emergency, like the first weekend when a guest suffered from an asthma attack.

For three weekends out of the year, and on Halloween, the Kitsap County Fairgrounds is transformed into a place of terror. Gone are the vendors offering fluffy cotton candy and whirly rides at the Kitsap County Fair & Stampede. There’s nothing cute or fun about the transformation that takes place immediately after the fair vendors have packed up and left.

This year’s event is expected to draw around 7,000 visitors to the grounds, breaking last year’s attendance rate.

That could be blamed on the ground’s fictitious characters, Otis and Lester, the homicidal duo who happen to also be cannibals. Every year, the Kitsap Haunted Fairgrounds crew gets together to fabricate another story about what Otis and Lester are up to around the fairgrounds.

They’ve been burying bodies. Right in the fairgrounds. That’s the rumor Todd Josal heard anyway.

Josal, vice president of Kitsap Haunted Fairgrounds Productions, said that a UFO crashed into the area. Between the dead rising and the extraterrestrial beings crashing, the place is a nightmare for the living, he remarked.

“We want people to feel very unsafe, but we want it to be very safe,” he said.

When walls and floors move, zombies follow, and rabid dogs bark, it is no wonder guests feel unsafe in the 22,000 square-feet of haunted house. The realistic touches are what create the goosebumps, even for seasoned haunted house visitors. In one particular room, two real coffins are part of the landscape.

“That’s a real coffin, dent and scratch-proof special,” Josal remarked, walking through a specially ornate scare room that includes a moving floor.

For guests who return every year, there will always be a new surprise, Josal promised, as no two boards are left nailed together.

“We change 100 percent,” he said. “It’s a lot of work.”

Despite the work, every person involved in the act is a volunteer. From the dancers who entertain guests prior to their entrance to the masked clowns and painted zombies, everyone offers up their time for free. Around 3 p.m. on a scare night, volunteers pile into an unnamed barn for makeup and character transformation.

Briefly, they’ll gather for pizza, supplied by the Kingston North-Kitsap Rotary, co-sponsor of the event, and carry on with transformation duties.

Toolboxes filled with latex and paint are placed on several tables throughout the barn. Racks and racks of costumes fill one whole side of the barn, where actors sift through to find their character for the night. The actors shuffle through, one by one, sitting in front of a their specialty makeup artist. First goes on the base coat, then the layers of paint. Then goes on the splattering of blood, especially for the zombies.

“I’m the registered thrower of the blood,” announced Nicole Wood, volunteer makeup artist. She acts as a resident makeup artist. This year, her specialty is zombie and clown makeup.

On a Friday show night, she called out to the zombies inside the barn. They follow her outside, drawn to the queen of the blood who laughs as she tosses handfuls of  red goop onto her fellow actors.

Wood, a bubbly and dramatic individual, attributes her theatrics to how she found her spot among the volunteer crew. As a lifeguard at North Kitsap pool, she was involved in doing serious emergency responder training where she met President of Kitsap Haunted Productions, James Tubberville, who came in to do the bloody makeup for the course to simulate real wounds. Wood was so theatrical during the whole thing that he invited her to take part in the haunted house event.

She’s been doing it every year since. That was seven years ago.

This year, Wood won’t be inside the haunted house, but she keeps her own act as the ticket collector. In early October, she had a makeup artist use latex and other makeup materials to create the illusion that her neck had a zipper half-open with an eyeball sitting inside it.

“I’ve never seen it so hard to get people inside the house,” she said. “People get so freaked out before they even get in.”

Wood laughs as she recalls some of her favorite moments of watching spooked guests trying to make it through the whole haunt. Sometimes, she said, it just doesn’t happen. Like the time a boyfriend took off and left his girlfriend inside the haunted house. He literally jumped the fence surrounding the property and left her to fend for herself, Wood said.

The coffin ride a few years ago also left guests on edge, she recalled. For an extra fee, guests could climb inside a real coffin that was set up on wheels and hydraulics. It closed shut, and the inside was completely dark. However, a night vision camera showed live feed to guests on outside, eliciting nervous laughter for those in line.

“We’ve had people throw up, pee,” she said. “It’s actually very funny.”


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