PENINSULA - As autumn sweeps in with its chilly winds, there are other things that bring chills: Painted-faced ghoulies, haunted buildings and devil dogs. Devil dogs? Yes, devil dogs.
The Peninsula braces itself as the creepiest of all holidays, Halloween, approaches, bringing with it a plethora of frightening events and gatherings for those not of the faint of heart.
Two events, which have become a tradition in recent years - the Humane Society Halloween "Dog" party and the Coast Guards' Haunted Bunker - kick off the dreadful deeds throughout the area.
Saturday afternoon saw the scary sight of pets and masters dressed in costume for the Humane Society's get together. Nearly 40 humans and 12 pets, including a devil dog (actually, just a very nosy hound with red horns and a cape) and a frighteningly fat orange cat, bigger than many pumpkins. Humans and animals alike competed in a costume contest, vying for prizes that included cookies for the kids and bones, dog bones that is.
Diana Galbreath is the director of this madness, and the Humane Society.
"It's kind of a way to say thank you to the public. It's just something fun to do and plus it benefits us in adoptions," says Galbreath of the event, which has been going on for three years. The idea is to get people down to the shelter and possibly adopt a pet. "People have such an image of shelters. But they come down here and see we're nice and clean, animals are happy, they're well taken care of. Kind'a gives them a different perspective. We get'em in the door, and nine times out of ten, if they're a good home, we can get an animal in there."
And this trick has been a treat for the animals hoping to spend All Hallows Eve out on the town instead of in lock down. Galbreath says about every other person who comes down to the event ends up adopting an animal, and they had already had a couple adoptions that day.
Galbreath glows with an unnatural light, though, as she tells a tale of a fateful dog who was saved by an angel.
"Oh, that was a nice one, too. We got this little dachshund that was all skin and bones, I mean just a terrible mess," Galbreath says. "And this lady came walking in, and she said, 'Well, I've been thinking about getting a dog and I want a dachshund,' and I thought, "Whoa!' Showed her the dog and they just both fell in love with each other. She brought it back the next year as a snow angel or something. And it had put weight on, he was just looking great. It was really sweet. There's a lot of happy endings down here. Miserable starts, but they are happy endings."
The other event that gets people into the unholy holiday spirit is the annual Haunted Bunker at Cape Disappointment, hosted by the Coast Guard.
What was originally called the Gunther Bunker, the structure was used for storing munitions and mortars, which could be fired from the bunker over the cape to the shipping channel on the other side. It was built and operated sometime around the turn of the century.
It was just a creepy old stone building until a few years ago when the guardsmen got hold of it and created a masterpiece of tortured delights. Reconfiguring the inside with mazes housing dreadful and disgusting creatures there solely to scare the wits out of those who dare enter.
"Everybody just loves the mazes, and they keep saying 'Man, that maze was so much fun going through there 'cause you can't see the characters,'" says Petty Officer Kyle Betts, the mastermind behind the horror. "That's when we reinvented the wheel and said 'You know what? Let's do two mazes.' Because everybody seems to really enjoy it, because they can't see where they're going, guys are coming out and scaring them."
This freaky fort is a non-profit venture that ends up helping a lot of people. But don't be scared of going just because you don't think you can't afford it. This house on a haunted hill is free.
"It's a huge draw," says Betts. "Last year we estimate around 2,000 people came through. And it took in about 600 to 700 pounds of canned goods and perishable goods that we gave to the Elks Club for their holiday gift baskets. We give about $700 to the Red Cross last year for the 9-11 fund, too, so we did bring in quite a bit. We don't charge. We just say the admittance fee is if you want to make a monetary donation or bring canned goods. We don't hold people to it, because we'd hate to discourage people who really want to come out but maybe not be able to afford to do something like that."
And this year's version promises to be the scariest yet, as they have redesigned the inside with a new series of mazes lit with strobe and black lights. They have an endless hallway made of mirrors, and you never know when or where someone or something will jump out at you. They have a torture chamber where you may find people losing limbs and screaming bloody murder, chained to walls and perhaps even chasing unlucky visitors with a chainsaw.
They toned down the graphic nature of the event last year due to Sept. 11, but this year they are keying up the gore factor to a new level of bloody fun.
"Hopefully, everybody will enjoy it," says Betts. "The only thing we stress is that our target audience is more toward the teen age. We're not going for the little guys. Its up to the parents if they want them to go through or not. It gets pretty graphic in here. You do see little kids come through and they're the ones that are kind'a like, 'Hey, that's neat, that's neat' and its the teenagers that usually take off running or screaming. They tend to get more afraid then the kids do."
But all this craziness leads Betts to think, "I wonder who has more fun? Us, or the people going through?
Now, if getting chased by a maniac with a chainsaw is not your bag, then perhaps some of the other events around town will be more your pace.
The Port and Downtown of Ilwaco are holding a Trick or Treat walk on Halloween from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m., where costumed kiddies can get candy from local businesses.
If you want to see if your costume is better then others, perhaps the Halloween costume contest is up your alley. Hosted by the merchants of the Lewis and Clark Mall at 700 N. Pacific Highway, the contest will get prizes for best, funniest, scariest and most original outfits. It takes place starting at 4:30 p.m. on Halloween night.
And the Public Market on the Willapa in Raymond will be holding their annual Halloween Bash from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Halloween. The market will be decorated in holiday theme.
Tips for a safer Halloween
Bellevue - Citing the fact that there is a fourfold increase in young pedestrian deaths and injuries on Halloween evening, AAA urges everyone to do their part in keeping children safe this Halloween.
"On Halloween evening, we're placing our children in some of the most dangerous traffic situations they'll face during their lifetime," said Janet Ray, AAA Washington spokesperson. "Children will be outside after dark, walking on and across unfamiliar streets and they often wear dark colors that are difficult for motorists to see."
Because of these safety concerns, many parents are finding alternative methods to celebrate such as local mall events and Halloween parties. For those parents and children who continue with traditional trick-or-treating, AAA recommends a few simple tips for a safer Halloween:
Children: Instruct children to walk facing traffic and cross streets only at the corners - never cross mid-block or between parked cars; avoid costumes that include masks, they block vision; urge your children to wear light-colored costumes. Also, apply reflective tape and glow-in-the-dark accessories to costumes and treat buckets. Be sure every trick-or-treater and chaperone carries a flashlight. For younger kids, make it hands-free by placing the light face down in their treat bucket. Remind your children not to shine their flashlights in the eyes of oncoming drivers.
Parents: Plan the trick-or-treat route in advance and include only neighborhoods you know; be sure children are accompanied by an adult; wear reflective tape and glow-in-the-dark accessories, too.
Motorists: Slow down and drive cautiously to give yourself extra time to react to children crossing the street; be extra alert to children crossing the street between parked cars or in the middle of the block; broaden your scan - look left and right into yards and onto front porches; turn your lights on even in daylight - lights make you more visible.
Arrive home a little earlier on Halloween; make sure you have your treats ready early so you can avoid last-minute trips to the store.
"Keeping kids safe is a safety challenge for everyone on Halloween," said Ray. "Keep in mind that trick-or-treaters are focused on candy and fun - rather than traffic safety. And, remember that you are going to be seeing pedestrians where you usually don't."
AAA Washington would like you to have a safe and happy Halloween! AAA Washington provides more than 688,000 members in western and central Washington a full range of products and benefits, including travel agencies, personal lines insurance agencies, a range of auto-related services, and member discounts. A not-for-profit organization, AAA Washington also assists travelers through its highway and transportation safety and legislative advocacy programs. More traffic safety information is available on the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety website http://www.aaafts.org