The maze is dark and claustrophobic. In the shadows, something unspeakable lurks, ever patient.Your heart pounds as you scramble for the exit. It’s coming to get you.
Scared? Russell and Linda Paul of Pace hope you will be.
Nothing screams Halloween like a haunted house, and starting Oct. 21, the Pace couple will welcome visitors to Fear City Nights: “The Legend of Sherwood Manor."
Located across the street from Seville Quarter in downtown Pensacola, the haunted attraction will feature more than 10 rooms of frightful fun, including a vertigo- inducing tunnel and creepy characters.
“We want everyone to come and have a good time,” said Linda Paul, who has created haunted attractions with husband Russell for several years. “And we want to give them a good scare.”
The Pauls built their first haunted house 16 years ago in their neighbor’s backyard.
“We all loved Halloween, so we pooled our resources and built a haunted house for the subdivision,” Russell Paul said. “It took off from there.”
For several years, the Pauls operated a Halloween haunted house fundraiser at Big Lagoon State Park.
This year, at its new Seville Quarter location, the Fear City Nights fundraiser will benefit Manna Food Bank, Pensacola area state parks and other groups. During tours, visitors will be asked to vote on their favorite sponsored rooms in Sherwood Manor; each vote will count as a $1 donation.
Buck Mitchell, Seville’s Marketing Director, was excited to add the haunted house to the numerous “Halloweek” festivities.
“Seville Quarter is known for celebrating Halloween,” he said. “We had the perfect property for a haunted house this year, and we think it’s going to be amazing. They’ve put a lot of work into it.”
Since September, the Pauls and their volunteer crew have been busy building the multiroom attraction. Surrounded by grotesque mannequins and props, Russell Paul spent a recent afternoon testing various secret elements of the haunted house.
“It’s a labor of love,” he said, chuckling. “If there were such a thing as Haunted House Anonymous, Linda and I could be in charge of it.”
The Pauls are constantly looking for new, ghoulish ideas. They’re regular attendees of the annual Haunted Attraction National Tradeshow and Convention (HAuNTcon), where they met Leonard Pickel, the so-called “Godfather of Haunting.”
Pickel, who has designed haunted attractions for venues including Universal Studios Florida and Madison Square Garden, was in town recently to check out the Pauls’ latest haunt.
He said an effective haunted house required several elements.
“You can’t just buy some cool props and expect success,” Pickel said. “You need good actors, good costumes and an entertaining story line.”
The Pauls plan to have all three in place for the spine-tingling Sherwood Manor.
“Our personal satisfaction comes from hearing those shrieks and seeing scared faces,” Russell Paul said, smiling. “We can’t wait.”