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October 19, 2010 > Suburbia descends into madness

Suburbia descends into madness

By Julie Grabowski
Photos By courtesy of Halls of Madness

While most experience fall as a time to see the changing leaves, get out their favorite scarves, and enjoy warm holiday inspired drinks, for the Loob family it means it's time to get their scare on. For twelve years Chris and Sonja Loob have turned their Fremont home into a host of horrors as the Halls of Madness, voted online as one of the scariest home haunts in California.

Halloween has always been Chris's favorite holiday, and the decorating he started as a kid has boomed in adulthood. What began as a small porch display for trick-or-treaters expanded to a nine-room tent on the driveway, and continued to grow each year. The haunt now surrounds the house utilizing all available yard space.

It takes about a month of preparation to create a different scare every year, so those daring enough to come by, never know what they will find. There is no theme, just whatever elements provide the greatest scare factor. Previous setups have included a spinning tunnel and a dark maze, zombies and killer clowns. Halls of Madness prefers to scare the old fashioned way, using actors, strobe lights, fog machines, and their own creative ideas without advanced technological aid. The only given is that the experience will be very intense and scary; for this reason, kids under age eight will not be admitted. "For a home haunt you'll be most surprised!" says Sonja.

People are admitted two at a time (or in a group of three if that is the party's total number) and taken through slowly to absorb the full effect. Run through times are also spaced out so that visitors are not riding on the heels of the previous people's scares. It takes about eight to twelve minutes to get through Halls of Madness, depending on the reactions of visitors.

But it isn't entirely about the scare. High school students volunteer at the haunt, building, working the event, and tearing it down, earning community service hours toward graduation requirements. Over the years, a mix of students from Washington, Kennedy, and Irvington High Schools have participated with some continuing to help out after they have gone on to college. These diehards have helped design the haunt as well as set up a web site that went live for the first time last year.

In addition the Loobs collect non-perishable food items for SAVE (Safe Alternatives to Violent Environments). "We just thought it was a good way to give back to the community," says Sonja. As for choosing SAVE as the recipient of their donations she says, "They are smaller, more worthwhile. They need it more than anyone."

So if you're looking to increase the thrill factor of your Halloween, make sure to visit Halls of Madness. Tennis shoes are recommended as well as clothes that you don't mind getting wet. And make sure to empty your bladder beforehand because this house has been known to cause accidents!

The cost of admission is $3 per person with two cans of food, or $5 without. All food is donated to SAVE, while monetary cost goes to support the building and running of the haunt.

Halls of Madness
Friday through Sunday, October 22 - 24 and 29 - 31
Friday and Saturday: Darkness - 11 p.m
Sunday: Darkness - 10 p.m.
4315 Dorsey Ave., Fremont

Cost: $3 with two cans of food, $5 without

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