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October 20, 2012

Santino’s Spookfest: Union teen turns family’s house, yard into Halloween attraction

NEW CASTLE — Santino Ferrese is obsessed with Halloween. He has been since he was three years old.

It was around then that he first saw the classic movie “Frankenstein.” That film so captured the young boy’s imagination that he has been enthralled with monsters, horror movies and, by extension, all things Halloween ever since.

His love and obsession was so strong that at 10 years old, he went to his parents with a hand-drawn pencil sketch of the floor plan of his house, showing how he intended to horrify each room for his own haunted house.

Needless to say, his parents were not as enthusiastic about the idea as young Santino was, but after some begging, they agreed to allow him to turn the breezeway and back porch into a small haunt for his friends in the neighborhood.

That initial haunt now has become an annual tradition. Six years later, 16-year-old Ferrese has gotten his wish. Not only has he taken over most of his house, but he has added several outbuildings and temporary structures as well.

The walk-through haunt is full of monsters, original artworks and designs, black lights, fog machines, lasers, sound effects and good old-fashioned, make-you-jump scares. It is manned by 25 to 30 of his friends wearing costumes and make-up he designed himself.

Ferrese’s make-up skills are in high demand. In addition to his own haunt, Ferrese is designing the make-up for another local haunted house as well.

Perhaps most impressive are the original masks that Ferrese designs, molds, constructs, pours and paints himself. The final product rivals anything seen on the shelves of  local Halloween stores.

When Ferrese first began his haunt project, it was meant for his own neighborhood and ran for a night or two.

Today, the haunt draws visitors from all over, with as many as 400 or 500 people making the trek through.

Ferrese says the construction, which this year included covering the the entire face of his home with pallets to give it a spooky, run-down look, began in early September.

The design and planning for next year is already underway.

“I work on costumes and and ideas throughout the year,” Ferrese said. “I already know what next year’s theme will be.”

“Everything is new every year,” he went on. “We incorporate some things as a nod to the past, but every room and scare is a new design each Halloween.”

The haunt, located at 135 S. Lee St. in Union Township, opens today. There is no charge, and everyone is welcome. Hours are 8 to 11 p.m. today and tomorrow, and Oct. 25-31.

Ferrese can’t say enough about how much he appreciates his parents, who not only give up their house for this, but also help in the construction and design. He also credits his neighbors, who take the crowds of screaming kids in stride.

Ferrese said the event costs him around $1,000 every year. It’s worth it, though,  just for the fun he has designing and building it, and the great time his visitors have going through it.

“If you are looking for somewhere to go and something to do that’s fun and safe, come to the haunt.” Ferrese said, “It;s a great time and the best place to be.”

 

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