Tag Archives: spooky

Trump, El Chapo among most popular Halloween costumes in Mexico

Two of the hottest Halloween costumes in Mexico this year are the country’s most wanted man — and arguably its most hated.

Striped prison jumpers and detailed latex masks representing the mustachioed, twice-escaped drug kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman are selling like hotcakes ahead of the late October holiday, according to Diego Esponda, CEO of costume maker Caretas REV.

Caretas, which operates a small factory in the city of Cuernavaca, has produced more than 2,600 “El Chapo” masks this month, with many of them being exported to the United States and Canada.

Besides brutal killings and the shipment of huge quantities of narcotics to the United States by his organization, the leader of the Sinaloa drug cartel is notorious for breaking out of a maximum-security Mexican prison not once but twice. The most recent was in July when he fled from his prison cell through a sophisticated mile-long (1½-kilometer) tunnel.

Designer Hector Bustos said the idea of producing a costume based on the drug lord began as a dark joke among colleagues but then they thought: Why not?

Its popularity reflects the gallows-humor japes that many Mexicans told following “El Chapo’s” second escape.

“It’s kind of funny, isn’t it: We captured him twice and he escapes twice, right?” Esponda said with a chuckle. “So, you know, we aren’t glorifying anybody. On the contrary, I think this is a wake-up call to the government, which captures him and then he escapes.”

Another popular getup this year is Donald Trump, the Republican presidential candidate, real estate mogul and reality TV star who angered many south of the border this year when he denigrated Mexican immigrants as criminals, drug traffickers and “rapists.”

The unflattering mask captures Trump with mouth agape and caricatures his signature blond hairdo.

“The Donald Trump one is also selling very well in the United States,” Esponda said. “I mean, he is the most hated person right now in Mexico.”

Halloween has traditionally played second-fiddle in Mexico to the Day of the Dead holiday, which takes place Nov. 1. But with each passing year more and more Mexican kids are also dressing up in costumes and going trick-or-treating the previous night.

Terror abounds at the Wisconsin Fear Grounds

What’s the scariest haunted house in the country?

Ask a lot of people, and you’ll get a horror movie-ready response: right behind you.

The house in question is the Wisconsin Fear Grounds in Waukesha, which consistently ranks as one of the top haunted houses in the United States. Haunted Attraction magazine gave it the No. 1 spot for Wisconsin and the nation at large, while USA Today readers have placed it as high as second place in a still-ongoing contest.

For such a spooky place, the Fear Grounds started small. Husband and wife duo Tim and Ann Marie Gavinski started it all with an annual small spook house in their garage, for their neighbors, before making the big, scary investment.

“Tim was nearing retirement,” Ann Marie says. “And one day I asked him, ‘What’s next?’ Tim replied, ‘I want to start a haunted house.’”

In 2004, beginning with a $55,000 investment to build and a matching amount in advertising, they opened their first haunt — The House of Darkness — at the Walworth County Fairgrounds. The people’s need for entertainment that could provide fear-induced shots of adrenaline grew and the Gavinskis subsequently expanded to the Waukesha Expo Center.

When you visit the Fear Grounds, Ann Marie says, “You know you’re going to get a great scare. We put on a huge theatrical production. We have 100 monsters every single night.

“I would never ask our actors to do anything I wouldn’t do and we’ve done it all. I have to give credit to the great people who work here — we wouldn’t succeed without their dedication and willingness to come back year after year.”
The whole thing starts in August, when methodically packed trailers are unloaded and a crew of 12 carpenters assembles the four houses. The entire Fear Grounds encompass 55,000 square feet.

As there are multiple houses in one location, the Fear Grounds are more like a haunted sub-division. Compared to the 3,500 other haunted houses in the United States, it’s unique in that regard.

The Gavinskis recommend at least 90 minutes for the full set, if you can make it through them all.

No self-respecting modern haunt would be complete without zombies. So, if you have a thing for The Walking Dead, try out Revenge Paintball. It’s the chance to hone your zombie kill skills before the Apocalypse and a way to entertain kids under 10, who aren’t allowed into the haunted houses. 

If all the terror scares up your appetite, don’t worry. The Fear Grounds offer carnival-style food — including hamburgers, hot dogs, cider, popcorn and caramel corn.

The Fear Grounds are open Friday and Saturday through October, as well as Sunday, Oct. 25, and Thursday, Oct. 29. If you somehow miss that wide window, you can swing by Nov. 13. That’s when the Gavinskis will reopen the houses for the annual TransWorld & Netherworld Haunted House three-day Legendary Haunt Tour, and they’re inviting the public to join 7:30-9 p.m.

Ticket prices depend on which houses you want to enter and how fast you want to get to them all. Morgan Manor is $13, while Morgana’s Escape is $30. The Three-Hunt Combo Pass is $30 ($20 if you reserve tickets online and arrive between 7 p.m. and 8 p.m.), but that requires you to wait in line, usually an hour or more. To skip the lines, you can get a Morgana Manor Speed Pass ($25) or Three-Hunt Combo Speed Pass ($45). To reserve tickets or for more details, visit wisconsinfeargrounds.com.

Fear Grounds Houses

Morgan Manor: All things ghoulish and terrifying orbit around Morgana and her eight sisters, who have a twisted thing for terrorizing people in their old Victorian manor. There are the obligatory jump-out-at-you moments of frightening fun — it’s a classic old-school haunt. One of the most startling moments occurs in the Green House.

Unstable: Grip your friend’s hand tightly and hurry through the dead cornstalks to the stables where the horses and barnyard animals are kept. Gentle reader, a spoiler alert: Make sure you’re into blood and gore before you embark.

CarnEvil of Torment: This “three ring circus of evil” is based on the premise of a traveling freak show of yesteryear. If you are at all claustrophobic or afraid of the dark, be forewarned: This house immerses you in total darkness and challenges you to work your way out of the obstacle course yourself (if you can’t handle it, just say, “I quit” and you will be escorted out, although you will have to pass through a personalized “Hall of Shame”).

Morgana’s Escape: The final house — new this year — is an interactive escape game. Fright seekers are locked in a room and given clues and puzzles. They must solve the riddles, locate three keys and unlock the doors or “abandon all hope, ye who enter here.”

On the market: Haunted House real estate

The cold autumn wind cuts through the twisted branches of a long-dead tree as you walk down the dark street. The bare twigs scrape eerily on the windowpane as lightning flashes in the distance. Out of the corner of your eye, a shadow moves. You turn to look, but the shadow is gone. You’re left standing, staring through the front window of an old abandoned mansion, across the street.

Tales of grisly murders surround the old place and the hairs on the back of your neck stand up as the facade of the creepy old manse stares back at you. To your surprise, you see a “For Sale” sign swinging in the wind, through bursts of lightning. Do the walls of the master bedroom bleed at midnight, like you’ve heard? Or is it really just a classic Victorian, remodeled with contemporary fixtures and appliances and priced to sell? Are those bumps in the night dead demons walking the halls or the bass from the newly installed full-house stereo system?

The only way to find out the answer to this dark mystery is to dig into this year’s “Top Ten Haunted Homes for Sale” list. One must be strong of heart when touring these homes where ghosts play and devils dance in the stories rumored about these estates. Everything from scary mansions to Dracula’s Castle to famous television show homes on this year’s list, so jump right in. If you dare!

1. Dracula’s Transylvania Castle

Bran Castle. It isn’t a high-end European retreat where health seekers can go to get a dose of vitamins and fiber in their diet. No, the legend of this nightmare palace is much more sinister in fiction and in reality. Bran Castle was home to one of the most notorious monsters in literary history — Count Dracula. No other name elicits more fear and respect in the world of horror than Dracula. His dark powers and blood lust are legendary. On par with the count himself is the castle Bram Stoker reportedly based the Lord of the Night’s home after.

Bran Castle is nestled in the heart of the mountains in Romania — formerly Transylvania. Carved from the rock of the mountains, Bran raises like a dark monolith above the sweeping verdant valleys below. Home to queens, kings and knights, the castle’s history is rich and storied. The most infamous character, and what draws over half a million visitors a year to see this horror home, is Vlad Tepes or “Vlad the Impaler” as he is more commonly known.

Vlad was known to be a vicious and vindictive ruler. To the enemies that he defeated in defense of the Wallachia border and those who broke laws under his rule, he was the impaler. Known to put his enemies on sharpened spikes as a “message” to others, his name struck fear in the hearts of all around him because nothing says, “doesn’t play well with others” than putting them on sharpened spikes.

Truth be told, Vlad’s actual residence is a couple of miles from Bran and in ruins. His connection to the castle is that he reportedly was a guest there in the dungeons. Though there were many bloody battles surrounding it, the castle was actually a customs post, home and museum for much of its history. It’s traded hands many times even being stolen from the royal family when communism took hold in Romania and they were given only 24 hours to flee the country. Fortunately, the castle is now back in the hands of the heirs and they’ve painstakingly and lovingly restored the property. Now they are looking to sell to a private buyer with intentions of investing in this major tourist attraction and “taking it to the next level.”

This one of a kind estate is on the market now for 47 million pounds ($78 million USD). Yeah it may bleed your bank account dry…

2. Victorian Killing Estate  

Kill Road. Never was there a more appropriate road for a home to be nestled on than this one. The history surrounding the Victorian estate is a dark and haunted one. Tales of mysterious fires, multiple suicides, wandering spectral couples and crying ghost children wreathe the Staten Island manse. Oh yeah, there was also a grisly mob hit in the home. There is that too.

Originally constructed in the mid-1880s by wealthy brick magnate Balthasar Kreischer as one of a pair of mansions for his family, the 14-room home (which is oddly lacking in brickwork for the home of a German brick millionaire) is all that’s left of the Kreischer legacy. The second home mysteriously burned down during the Great Depression. The brick factory, which the sons inherited after their father passed away just one year following the construction of the homes, burned down as well. The sons rebuilt but the factory never regained its original glory and the family fortune dwindled. Balthasar’s son, Edward, distraught with the losses, killed himself, and his wife allegedly did the same. Their spirits are said to be the ghostly couple that reportedly wanders the grounds to this very day.

The home was converted into a restaurant in 1996, but the true terror surrounding the 3,300-square-foot structure is the grisly mob hit that took place in 2005 when Joe “Joe Black” Young slit the throat, stabbed, drowned in an ornate pond (which is one of the home’s nicer features), dismembered and then burned in the basement furnace the body of victim Robert Meckelvy.  

This mansion looks like it crawled out of every horror movie combined.  If the Adams family were the interior designers, then Satan was the architect.  The home does have its own ghastly charm and the realtors who list this home at $12 million say that it has “endless possibilities” and “a wraparound porch.”  Well if a wraparound porch doesn’t help you ignore the bloodstains, ghosts and bumps in the night…we don’t know what will.

3. Ozzie Nelson – the Friendly Ghost

One of Hollywood’s long-running rumors is that the Los Angeles home where the Ozzie and Harriet Nelson family lived and was the actual home used for the “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet” exterior scenes in the 1952 to 1966 television show is haunted.  

It is probably just a Hollywood legend but the story has been circulating for years that the home where Ozzie and Harriet Nelson, and their sons, Ricky and David lived for 25 years, is haunted. Ozzie was the friendly, easy going and popular dad who didn’t seem to have a job but lived in a fancy house, drove a nice car and played a lot of golf. Their Hollywood Hills home is the perfect All-American home with a nice lawn, tall leafy trees, white wood siding and a lovely pool.

But don’t always believe what you think you see! The stories began when Ozzie died in 1975 at age 68 that his ghost was frequently seen poking around the house still wearing one of his comfortable cardigan sweaters. New owners reported hearing footsteps, doors that opened and closed on their own, covers ripped off sleeping guests, and light bulbs and faucets that turned on and off on their own. Workers who were hired to paint the house were spooked by moaning noises and ghost-like apparitions.  According to the Los Angeles Times, the prominent Beverly Hills real estate agent who handled three recent sales of Ozzie’s home said that all three owners told him the house is haunted.    

The 5,813-square-foot home was built in 1916 on almost a half acre, with five bedrooms and four baths. The house is gated and private at the end of a cul-de-sac. The grounds contain a guesthouse, separate office and the backyard pool. Recently remodeled, the interior includes a media room, chef’s kitchen with marble countertops and Viking appliances. The house is also ghost friendly with white walls, curtains and cabinets that make it easy for a ghost to navigate the home without drawing too much attention. Also, French doors, two fireplaces and light hardwood floors. Everything a friendly ghost could want.

The current listing agent says the house is no longer haunted (that’s what they always say) and the asking price is $5.25 million, which is a good price for the expensive Hollywood Hills market. For one extremely lucky home owner, a chance for a beautiful home and maybe the ghost of  Ozzie Nelson happily puttering around the yard. If we had to pick a ghost, charming Ozzie would be a nice guy to have around.

1822 Camino Palmero Street, Los Angeles California.

4. World’s Most Haunted Island

Poveglia.  To anyone in the paranormal community, the name elicits chills up the spine and frightful images of hell on earth.  To those who don’t know, Poveglia might sound like a tasty side dish at Olive Garden.  But it’s a dish you don’t want to order unless you want to be served a large helping of terror.

Poveglia is a 17-acre island off the southern “coast” of Venice that holds a history straight out of the mind of Stephen King.  The island, recently purchased by Italian businessman Luigi Brugnaro (who is rumored to want to turn it into a tourist attraction), has been labeled by locals and paranormal experts alike as the “most haunted place on earth.”

The island has worn many terrifying faces making one wonder if the people of Italy through the years thought to themselves, “Hey, how can we make this place creepier and more terrifying than it was before?”  It was a quarantine station for people with infectious diseases.  Much like the Hotel California, people could check in but they could never leave.  It was a dumping ground for people who were stricken with the black plague.  If someone was suspected of even having the sickness, they were taken to the island to die and then be burned in massive pyres.  It’s rumored that well over 150,000 people were brought to the island to die.  The ashes from the burned bodies are still so thick on the ground that those who dare to step foot on the island find their feet sink down into the soil.

Later, the Italian government built an insane asylum on the island where a mad doctor subjected his patients to cruel and gruesome experiments (think needles in the skull to see if it improves or hampers your math skill) that just added to the island’s already monstrous death toll.  It is said that the doctor, for some mysterious reason, climbed to the top of the bell tower and jumped to his death.

Italy sold Poveglia to Brugnaro for $672,000, but he will have to pour in an estimated $16 million to bring the buildings and surrounding architecture up to snuff on the island before he can think of turning the area into a weekend getaway. In the meantime, the island sits, uninhabited and scary, in the middle of the Venetian Bay. If you are brave, keep this place on your travel radar for when Luigi gets finished fixing it up.

5. World’s Biggest Ghost House

You stand on the other side of the wrought-iron fence, your hands white-knuckling the bars as the fear in your veins forces your grip tighter.  You stare past the dead, twisted trees that look like dark arthritic claws reaching out of the ground to grab you and drag you back down with them to Hell.  Is that a ghostly apparition staring back at you from the upper floor or just an old tattered curtain blowing in the wind, a trick of your mind sending shards of panic into your soul?  Could it be the ghosts and goblins that some people say “haunt” the 70,000-square-foot Lynnewood Hall, now back on the market for $20 million?

Lynnewood Hall is a Philadelphia landmark built in 1900 with 110 rooms on 33 acres for wealthy businessman Peter Arrell Brown Widener, a foreboding monster that has captured the attention of buyers, creditors, paranormal enthusiasts, churches and historical preservationists for years.  The super-manse, currently owned by Rev. Dr. Dick Yoon who wanted to turn the estate into a piece of the First Korean Church of New York, has fallen into major disrepair and according to some estimates may take upwards of $50 million to bring it back to its glory days.  The exorbitant cost, the fact that Yoon is paying over $100,000 in property taxes every month, and that court battles have kept the property in real estate limbo for years are just a few of the problems Lynnewood Hall faces. A few ghosts would not be a problem.

Is this Philadelphia landmark haunted?  Sadly, if a buyer with deep pockets doesn’t come along soon to fix the mansion, in 5 to 10 years as estimated by a restoration expert, Lynnewood Hall will be lost forever.

6. Chicago’s Schweppe Mansion

A few miles north of Chicago is one of the most beautiful estates in the United States. It has everything a buyer could ever want including detailed old world architecture and spectacular Lake Michigan views. The only bad thing is that some people say it is haunted.

In 1917, as war raged in Europe, Chicago’s wealthy elite were still enjoying the bounty of the Golden Age. These families produced landmark American companies and many of the goods that we still buy today. They also built fabulous mansions with a level of craftsmanship that is almost impossible to duplicate today.

Such was the case of two important families, John G. Shedd, chairman of Marshall Field & Co. and donator of the Shedd Aquarium to Chicago, and the Schweppe family, heir to the carbonated beverage company. Since families of great fortune usually married into other families of great wealth, the marriage of Laura Shedd and Charles H. Schweppe seemed made in high society heaven. John Shedd gave his daughter Mayflower Place, a grand 24,500-square-foot English Renaissance mansion, as a wedding present.

During its heyday, Mayflower Place was host to many of the world’s most notable members of American and European society. Included in the guest list were abdicated King Edward, Duke of Windsor and Wallis Simpson. In the summer of 1926, Sweden’s Crown Prince Gustavus Adolphus and his Princess Louise were guests at the estate and were said to have danced on the large terraces.

But things soon turned bad. In 1937, the lovely Laura Schweppe died at age 58 of a heart attack,

leaving Charles only $200,000 of her $10 million estate. Charles became despondent from the financial slight as well as loneliness and committed suicide with a gun shot to his head in 1941. The only clue from Charles was a note he left on his dresser, “I’ve been awake all night. It’s terrible.”

So why was Charles “awake all night?” After his death, the magnificent mansion remained empty and liveless for almost 50 years. Rumors spread that both Laura and Charles’ ghosts roamed the mansion’s empty corridors. Some people even said that the servants, who discovered Charles’ dead body, also became ghosts and never left. Which might explain the one window overlooking the home’s driveway that people say has always remained spotless no matter how dirty the rest of the windows might be.

Now called the Schweppe Mansion, the home was purchased in the late 1980s and underwent a total two-year restoration by 70 craftsmen, including Italian artisans and Bavarian stonecrafters. However, the couple who did the restoration divorced, and the home went to foreclosure in 2009, leaving the estate to the bank.

It is easy to understand why ghosts might not want to leave such an exquisite estate, but it seems the ghosts are officially gone and the beautiful mansion is for sale. With approximately 400 feet of Lake Michigan beachfront, the home has 10 bedroom, 16 bathrooms, 11 fireplaces, a library,  family-game room, elevator and extensive marble and limestone mouldings. The exterior includes lush landscaping, balconies, terraces, fountains and gardens with Lake Michigan beach.

The Schweppe Mansion, located in Lake Forest about half way between Chicago and Milwaukee, is asking $12 million.

7. The Addams Family Mansion

They’re creepy and they’re kooky, mysterious and spooky, they’re all together ooky, the Addams Family.   The Verulam estate in Australia, which just sold at auction for a bit over $3 million, has frequently been mistaken for the famous facade of the Addam’s Family Mansion that 50 years ago premiered on ABC-TV with John Astin and Carol Jones as the loveable, but slightly off kilter, Gomez and Morticia Addams.  

The home, with its Federation Queen Anne style design, so closely resembles the famous home of the TV family that one can easily imagine Lurch (Ted Cassidy) opening up the front door and saying a grim, “Helllooooooooooo” or Uncle Fester (Jackie Coogan) taking your coat with a lit light bulb in his mouth. Once inside, instead of finding the macabre family, the visitors would see a beautiful old home just waiting to be remodeled and brought back to its original glory.  With leaded windows, verandah columns and marble fireplaces, there’s a wealth of potential in the home.

The home has five bedrooms, two baths and stables out back that could potentially be a three-car garage.  Who knows what the new owners envision with their recent acquisition?  It sits right across from a sports stadium so one might imagine they could make it into a high-dollar rental for sporting events.  But if they’re looking for ideas they could just turn it into a tourist attraction taking advantage of the already existing case of mistaken identity.

The home, owned by the same family since 1924, was picked up as soon as it hit the auction block.  It will be exciting to see what the buyers will do with their new home “snap snap.”

8. Sleepy Hollow Mansion

Sleepy Hollow Road, the mythical byway that inspired the legend of the headless horseman, a nightmare dreamed up by author Washington Irving in the form of a decapitated Hessian artilleryman that rises nightly from his grave riding up and down the road searching for his lost head, is the backdrop for this gory tale.  Ichabod Crane lost his life to the horseman when he was struck down by the ghost rider’s flying pumpkin…it doesn’t sound that scary when spelled out like that.

The Georgian manor, built in 1929 by architect Mott Schmidt for banker William S. Lambie, is nestled on a secluded 16-acre parcel of land not far from the famed Hudson River.  The house, whose style could be best described as “muted opulence,” has no real tales of haunting within its walls.  So, any potential buyer can feel sure that in any of the eight bedrooms or 10 bathrooms inside the 13,242-square-foot mansion, they’ll be living a ghost-free lifestyle.

A heads up!  The price of this piece of architectural mastery has been reduced from $10.9 million to $9.8 million, so if you can afford it you should jump at this chance to buy a piece of history.  Just a word of advice though…we wouldn’t recommend any midnight strolls. Watch out for flying pumpkins! Don’t lose your head!

9. Colorado Ghost Town

There’s a chill in the air and a full moon over Boot Hill. A pack of wild hounds howl in the distance as the mountain winds whistle through the empty streets. A piano plays something familiar from the old saloon, but the place is empty. Where did the people go? Are you afraid? Would you buy a Colorado ghost town?

There was nothing supernatural about the town called Uptop, but the place was an actual ghost town when two sisters from Boston bought the empty hamlet in 2000. After the sisters spent lots of time and money restoring the town to its former glory, the ghosts have left and the sisters are selling.

The town, which saw the first train roll through Colorado, was established in the 1870s shortly after the railroad carved its way through the territory. The mountain location comes complete with a train depot, dance hall, saloon, chapel, meeting hall and a 28’ x 40’ log cabin where the ‘Lathrop Duo’ (the sisters who renovated the town) lived while they restored the Old West site.

The ghost town, which is on the national historic registry, is the perfect place for any buyer who wants to play local sheriff, judge and jury trying to shake down travelers just passing through, or for the buyer who wants to relive the glory days of the Old West by stepping out of the saloon and having a showdown every day at high noon! For the asking price of $2 million, you can be the envy of all your friends with your very own ghost town and 250 acres.

10. Black Dahlia Murder House

Tales of terror and tragedy rarely last as long as one of the most notorious Hollywood mysteries of the last century: The Black Dahlia Murders.  Rumors still abound about the home’s previous owner, LA Dr. George Hodel and his involvement in the brutal killing, mutilation and dismemberment of Elizabeth Short.  Elizabeth was sliced in half at her waist and all the blood drained from her body. It looked like the work of a skilled surgeon. Even with its dark history this home, which is now back on the market for the asking price of $4.875 million, has been the back drop for multiple Hollywood movies, TV shows such as “Ghost Hunters” and “Paranormal America” and even an American Express commercial.

The home, an iconic piece of architecture crafted by Lloyd Wright (son of Frank Lloyd Wright), looks like it is cut straight out of an Indiana Jones movie.  Now while the $2 million renovation has brought the house current and back to its original splendor one can still feel, given the home’s particular style, that they should be running for their life through the house being chased by a giant boulder.  As you run though don’t miss the walls of vegetation, pool with center patio or large open rooms that give you that warm, welcoming “Mayan Temple” feel.

The home is unique in its style and still holds up today as a posh pad for entertaining that seems perfect for its Southern California location.  Don’t miss your chance to own a piece of Tinsel Town history, checkered though it may be.

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