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WITH THE KIDS

Scream, my pretty, scream

The long-running Spooky House began as just a little itch to bewitch.

October 26, 2006|Steve Baltin | Special to The Times

EVERY year around the beginning of October, you see that house on your street that starts looking a little spookier, the one with the cobwebs in the windows, the eerie lighting, a pumpkin patch sprouting up in the yard. People doing up neighborhood homes for Halloween have long been part of the holiday tradition. And some of those dreamers have turned their love of frights into a place for you to go, if you dare.

The website hauntedhouse.com lists 75 haunted house attractions in California, including more than two dozen in Southern California. Many of them are independently run businesses born out of a love for scaring people. Their fright factors generally range from those suitable only for older teens to those that include younger kids in the fun.

One of the most popular and longest-running scarefests in L.A. is Spooky House. It has locations in Northridge, Pasadena and Ventura (all under different names) and employs an estimated 150 people. Its nighttime shows are recommended generally for kids 10 and older, and it offers a matinee show geared more toward those as young as 3, depending on the child.

It all came about because, while most kids were out stocking up on candy, a young Bob Koritzke found other ways to celebrate Halloween.

"Every year I used to lie on my mom's roof, and when trick-or-treaters would come, I would drop a spider on someone's head, little stupid stuff," he says.

That little thrill that Koritzke, now 42, found in scaring people has led him to a deserted movie theater in Northridge, where he and a staff of like-minded ghouls and goblins run Spooky House.

Now in its 17th year, the haunted attraction has grown from its origins in his mother's yard to the three locations. And Koritzke, who runs an advertising agency, takes the months of August, September and October off to prepare for Spooky House.

But as a recent Saturday night at the Northridge location shows, the desire to scare people has not changed. And that site features posters of the original "Friday the 13th" and "The Texas Chain Saw Massacre" movies to add to the feeling of a deserted theater stuck in the '70s.

"Can I go home?" a teenage girl asks her three teen friends as she is about to enter "Phobia," a room for people to confront their fears, such as of the dark, tight spaces and being lost. "Do I have to go in there?"

Her screams of delight and fear once inside the maze are music to the ears of the Spooky House employees, many of whom have been there for seven years or more. What brings them all there?

"I love scaring people. I've been doing haunted houses since I was 5," says cast member Evan Greenberg. "Hard to believe I'm an IT engineer."

weekend@latimes.com

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Hauntings that keep returning

Here's a small selection of long-running haunted houses.

* Spooky House

19401 Parthenia St., Northridge, 7 to midnight today through Tuesday, except 7 to 10 p.m. Sunday; matinees, noon to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. $15 to $26; $8.50, matinees. www.spookyhouse.com

This haunted house's more intense nighttime shows are geared for ages 10 and up; matinees are for the younger set. The owner also runs Seaside Haunt, 10 W. Harbor Blvd., Ventura, (805) 648-3376, and Old Town Haunt, 20 N. Raymond Ave., Pasadena, (626) 737-6133.

* The Haunt

Northridge Shopping Center, 9301 Tampa Ave., Northridge. 7 to 10 p.m. today and Sunday; 7 to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 7 to midnight Monday and Tuesday. $10 to $25. www.hauntsusa.com.

Three mazes -- Nightmare Factory, Extreme Madness and ZombieVille -- cover more than 50,000 square feet. The Haunt was designed by Harlan and Laura Freedman, who have a long history in Hollywood. So when those zombies come grabbing for you, expect to hear screams. For 9 and older.

* Haunted Maze

5925 Los Nietos, Buena Park, 6 to 10 p.m. Friday through Sunday, and Tuesday. $5. www.freewebs.com/yumzmum.

Now in its lucky 13th year, this Buena Park favorite, run by a group of haunted house aficionados who combined their individual homes, features Death Row, Live Execution Chamber and the Bloodletting, as well as promising "terrifying twists around every turn." Recommended for ages 10 and up.

* Factory of Nightmares

6498 De Soto Blvd., Woodland Hills. Dusk to 10 p.m. today, Friday and Monday, dusk to midnight Saturday, Sunday and Tuesday. $12-$20. (818) 999-6300, www.frightfair.com

Part of the Halloween Harvest Festival at Pierce College (see accompanying list for more details), the Factory of Nightmares show is billed as "four haunted events slammed into one horrific journey through an industrial nightmare." Recommended for 10 and older.

* Nightmare on Beacon Street

1003 S. Beacon St., San Pedro. 6 to 10 p.m. Friday to Sunday. $5, adults; $3, children. (310) 514-4940, hometown.aol.com/llozano/HauntedHouse2006index.html

Scaring San Pedrans since 1986, this haunted house has a new theme for 2006: An alien ship has crashed into the home. In addition to the haunted maze, the festivities are highlighted by a street fair that includes food, dancing, karaoke (expect to hear a lot of versions of Boris Pickett's "Monster Mash") and fun for the whole family.

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