By G. Michael Dobbs
SPRINGFIELD -- Jeffrey St. Germain wants to scare you.
The self-described horror film fan whose favorite holiday is Halloween has been working for the past several months on a walk-through haunted house attraction, "Faces of Phobia," in a warehouse ar 53 Turnbull St.
St. Germain intends to finish construction on the attraction and open in mid-September, but unlike other haunted house operations, St. Germain's will be open at other times through the year other than the season leading to Halloween. He plans to have it open for private parties and charities seeking fundraisers and special events for Friday the 13th and Valentine's Day.
Walking this reporter through a maze of walls he has created, St. Germain said he has taken a three-year lease on the building. He had staged a haunted house at his Pine Point home last year for Halloween and the response was so great he thought there was a market for one here.
Using a piece of chalk attached to a stick, he laid out his plan on the floor of the warehouse and then started building the wall and hallways. His haunted house will be handicapped accessible and will feature 30 actors in costume with a strict "no-touch" policy.
Unlike other haunted houses, St. Germain's has a somewhat different theme. He explained that many just present tableaus of horror film themes and gore, and while his attraction has some of that, it has areas that address specific fears.
He said with a smile that he has researched some of the most common phobias and designed areas that would "hit [those] fears." There are sections of the attraction that will present challenges to those who are claustrophobic, those who hate insects and those who are afraid of clowns. He was surprised to learn the fear of clowns is fairly prevalent.
His maze-like series of hallways has a surprise in the middle -- a spinning vortex through which people walk. It also has a series of hidden doors allowing actors to get into place for the next opportunity to scare patrons.
He has timed how long the walk through the haunted house should last and said it is between 30 and 45 minutes. Visitors will be encouraged to comment about their experiences on his Web site (http://facesofphobia.com) as St. Germain intends to alter the scares over the run of his haunted house.
Although he has designed the attraction to frighten people, he also is planning to have a "lights on" version of it on Saturdays for children under 13 who can see how the haunted house works and allay their fears.
St. Germain has no background in either amusement parks or theater that would have helped him in the creation of his haunted house. He admitted, "I just have a twisted imagination."
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