Scarin' And Carin'
Cancer charity Halloween attraction rises again!
By Richard Whittaker, 4:35PM, Wed. Oct. 20, 2010
If you go into the woods this Halloween, you're sure of a big surprise. Yet while you're avoiding being eaten by zombies, you'll also be helping fight cancer, courtesy of Scare for a Cure.
The all-volunteer haunt enters its fourth Halloween this year raising funds for local cancer charities. What sets it apart from most other haunts is its a reputation for taking all the traditional scares of a good haunted house, and adding a heavy dose of plot and real character interaction. Dubbed H1Z1: Zombie Wasteland this year, horrorheads daring to brave the Hill Country attraction face a cross-country scramble before heading into an abandoned lab full of gore and ichor. "We are in your face from the minute you get here," said Scare creator and APD Det. Jarrett Crippen (better known to SyFy channel watchers as The Defuser) "We will slime you, we will gore you, we will bloody you up. It's pretty disgusting, actually."
As with many major haunts, Scare for a Cure began as a backyard endeavor. Crippen said, "I've always been that weird neighborhood guy that, at Christmas, puts up the thirty foot tree in the front yard and decorates with reindeer. Every Halloween, I put on the big elaborate haunted house in the yard for the kids and give out the crazy bits of candy." The home haunt came to a peak in 2005, when he turned his entire lot into a 3,000 square foot. "It shut down my subdivision and my homeowners association had to hire constables to direct traffic."
Realizing that it had got too big for their home, Crippen and his wife Norma sat down to talk about its future. He explained, "We just decided, if we're going to do it, let's do it right. You handle the non-profit, charity fundraising thing, I'll do the only thing I can do, which is build stuff to entertain people and scare the hell off."
After taking 2006 off, the Crippens joined up with what he called "an amazing group of people" including Matt Pinsonneault and Paul Sicard, two veterans of Austin's iconic Halloween attractions: The Haunted Trails and the infamous Britannia Manor, the epic home haunt created by Ultima Online creator-turned-cosmonaut Richard Garriott. "They were this incredibly talented bunch of people with no leader, and I'm a leader with no talent," Crippen joked.
With this new expertise on-board, in 2007 they opened the first Scare for a Cure at the Elks Lodge. After two very successful years there, in 2009 the charity was looking for a new home, and that's where the Britannia Manor/Garriott connection came into play. He offered them use of the incomplete second house that he was building on his property, and that's given Crippen a unique opportunity to fulfill his vision. "It's taken me four years to get here, but this is what I wanted," he said. "This is the kind of entertainment and scare that I want to give people."
Part of what Crippen hopes makes his haunt special is that the experience starts once guests are through the gate. When they enter the (mostly) zombie-free encampment of Outpost, they'll wait for their guide into the undead-infested wastelands beyond. To while away the time, there are bands nightly, as well as free-roaming ghouls working the crowd, and time for a quick round of zombie pull. "The worst part of an amusement park for me is waiting in line," Crippen said, but at Outpost "the show has started the minute you get on the bus. There's characters and actors with clues, then you're actually drug into the trees and the trail."
Scare still stands as one of the most interactive haunts in Central Texas, with running, crawling, puzzle-solving and a fair amount of fluids being flung. Guests can even chose to 'go red,' which involves enough fake blood to drown a vampire, and there'll even be a Quest Night, where visitors will be able to dress up in costume. That emphasis on an all-engulfing Halloween experience means there's a trade-off on scale. "We're not like the big commercial houses that can run 3,000 people a night through. The max we can do is 300, and that's just the nature." However, that still translates into a cash donation for local cancer charities. "The first year we did Scare for a Cure, we raised $1,000 and we were like, Woo! The next year we raised $5,000, and in '08 we gave away $10,000." The target for the 2010 season is $25,000. "It grows every year," Crippen said.
Even with that growth, there's still a homegrown element to the haunt that Crippen and his volunteers value. "We do our own prosthetics, we make our own masks," he said. "That's part of the fun."
Scare for a Cure runs Oct. 21-23, 27, and 29-31. Tickets $25-$30. Not recommended for children under 12. 7400 Coldwater Canyon Dr.