Beware the scare lair

Haunted happenings await at Placer County Fairgrounds
By: Nathan Donato-Weinstein The Press-Tribune
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Take a look around Roseville, and it’s clear: things are getting pretty darn gloomy out there. Market turmoil? Real estate stagnation? Nah. We’re talking zombie invasion. ’Tis the season for good old-fashioned Halloween thrills and chills. And this year, Roseville is at the top of the region’s premiere bloodcurdling destinations. Welcome to Callson Manor, a 55,000-square-foot haunted house that’s transformed the Placer County Fairgrounds into a spook-a-minute fright site. Now in its third weekend, the mixture of theater, animatronics and plenty of demons runs through Nov. 1 (see box for details) and promises at least goose bumps for even the hardiest among us. “We’ve seen big macho guys come through it all tough, and they come running out screaming,” boasted Garrett Call, who started Callson Manor in San Jose two years ago with business partner Bryan Patterson (hence the name). The business is an outgrowth of Call’s penchant for all things Halloween, he said. “I started just decorating my parents’ house when I was a kid,” said Call, whose year-round gig is in real estate. “Halloween was just my favorite holiday. And then I found operating a haunted house could be very lucrative.” Much of Callson Manor’s terror – and fun – is thanks to the roughly 30 volunteer actors (the youngest is three), exquisitely made up by a professional special-effects makeup artist, Call said. In other words, don’t expect many rubber masks here. Callson Manor is actually three separate haunted houses, each of which carries a different theme: the “Callson Funeral Home” features real embalming equipment as you “tour the body preparation areas,” according to its Web site; “The Afterlife” is a cemetery-themed (and buried-alive-themed) look at tortured souls’ would-be restting ground; and “The Deadlands” centers on an Old West bounty hunter whose victims are about to get their revenge – from the afterlife. Parental discretion is, thus, advised. “It’s all very, very detailed,” Call said. “We’ve collected stuff for three years. We have antiques that are 200 years old. It’s not black walls like a lot of the haunted houses.” How scary is it? Rose Smith, who lives nearby and works at the fairgrounds, compared the sounds coming from the site to “someone getting murdered.” “I figured the police must be getting a lot of calls,” she said. But it’s not the only option for frightening fun this year. Once again, the Martin family of Roseville has converted its west Roseville home into a grade-A scare lair, boasting a gaggle of ghouls, vampires and zombies – and all for a good cause. The house opens to the public for its one-weekend-only run 6:30-9 p.m. Oct. 24 and 25 and 6-8:30 p.m. Oct. 26 at 3000 Mammoth Drive. It’s the fourth year for the homemade haunted house, which mom Betty, husband Mike, daughter Jessica, 15, and sons Cannon, 8, and Michael, 17, started as a way to do something fun for the neighborhood kids. Since then, it’s grown to a regional destination and done some serious good. The canned-food admission brought in more than 3,200 items for the St. Vincent de Paul food locker last year alone. Staffed with volunteers (culled from family and friends), the house promises 25 themed rooms, filled with menacing props like Jason from “Friday the 13th,” headless brides, clowns and about 30 live (or undead) actors. There’s even a maze slated for the front driveway. “Every year it gets a little bit bigger,” Betty Martin said, confessing it almost didn’t get off the ground this year. “We’ll probably be doing this until we’re old and gray and unable to pick up a hammer,” she said. – The Press-Tribune wants to know what your church, non-profit organization or business has planned for Halloween. Send us the details at and we’ll try to print as many events as we can next week. What: Callson Manor When: 7:30-10 p.m. Oct. 17-19; Oct. 23-Nov. 1 Where: Placer County Fairgrounds, 800 All America City Blvd. Cost: $10 per themed haunted house or $20 for all three Info: