Fall Fest haunted house culminates of years of collecting elaborate spooky props

When the 2013 Culver Fall Fest's haunted house at the beach lodge opens its doors, it will represent years of collecting elaborate and high-quality Halloween-themed props and decorations on the part of Mark Damore Sr. -- and a lot of set-up experience on the part of his son, Mark Jr.

Mark Sr., best known to Culverites as the owner of the Original Root Beer Stand, says he had to master plan to collect and set up the spooky paraphernalia. Instead, he says, "I love Halloween," and once he started buying a few items, he "just kept buying!"

All that buying is expected to make for some fun scares Sat. evening, Oct. 19, as part of the festival, when the Culver beach lodge will be transformed into a "haunted house" from 5 to 9 p.m. (earlier hours are planned to be less intense, and more suitable for younger attendees, while the later hour or two are reserved for the less feint of heart).

There will be a small fee at the door, with proceeds to benefit the Culver Boys & Girls Club. Members of the Culver Youth Community Organization (or CYCO), a collaboration between Culver Academies and Culver Comm. High School students, will be on hand to run the event.

Some in the area experienced Damore's collection in years past at an annual Halloween party held in his garage on 18th Road near Culver.

There, he says, a "dungeon" effect was created with black tarp walls and ceilings, lit by lanterns ("The lighting is the main thing," say both Marks).

"My friend owns a funeral home, and he gave me an actual casket," adds Mark Sr.

Additionally, a number of motion and sound-activated, battery-powered props appear, make noises, produce lighting exhibitions, and more.
Many, says Mark Jr., are "fun, life-size 3D props."

"It's pretty spectacular," Mark Sr. says, noting Mark Jr. did a lot of the set-up in the old garage days and will duplicate much of the same at the beach lodge.

And Mark Jr. is geared up to do just that.

"It's an exciting thing," he says, referring as much to the festival itself as the haunted house specifically. "It's something in the middle of October, which is usually a dead, boring time, that's fun and different. The whole point is to do something for everybody."

And, he adds, "It's vastly underrated how beautiful Culver is this time of year."