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Haunted happenings await at Placer County Fairgrounds

By: Nathan Donato-Weinstein, Gold Country News Service
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Take a look around 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, Rocklin’s neighbor, 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 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 any 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 resting 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. What: Callson Manor When: 7:30-10 p.m. through Nov. 1 Where: Placer County Fairgrounds, 800 All America City Blvd., Roseville Cost: $10 per themed haunted house or $20 for all three Info: www.callsonmanor.com