The Dark: Not for the faint of heart

Savannah Chastain
A maze of themed rooms winds through the 5,500 square-foot space with creepy scenes in every nook and cranny.

Two towering grim reapers and the words, “Are you scared of The Dark?” greet visitors to the 8th Annual Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge Haunted House.

This year’s haunted house, located in the old Hard Rock Café in the Destin Commons, will be the scariest and loudest experience yet according to Susan Leveille, assistant director for the Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge.

 “When people come in the music is a combination of haunted house spooky stuff as well as grunge, and is horrifyingly loud,” she said. “You almost enter another reality because of all the noise. It robs you of your senses and leaves only fear.”

A maze of themed rooms winds through the 5,500 square-foot space with creepy scenes in every nook and cranny. The old kitchen area of the closed restaurant has been transformed into a laboratory of torture, and numerous special effects are set up throughout the attraction to add to the thrill.

“It’s going to be pitch-black so you can’t see anything,” said Leveille. “Some of the areas you have to feel your way through. We’ve also added several new things to the haunted house this year.”

Leveille said that she is keeping the specifics of the new features under-wraps so that the thrill will be fresh and new for visitors, but she ensured the effects are sure to amaze.

“It really is a production, not your average fundraiser,” she said. “We have trained make-up artists that can create split-throats, bullet-holes and gaping wounds, the detail is amazing.”

Volunteers for the production are still needed, Leveille Told the Log, as the attraction utilizes 50 to 60 volunteers per night to operate.

“We have make-up artists, pushers, ticket-sales, and actors; it takes a lot to make this happen,” she said.

Volunteers will receive refreshments and dinner for their time, but must be ready for a full night of entertaining.

“They have to be energized,” said Leveille. “They have to be in their roles for hours.”

The haunted house is not recommended for children under the age of 12, but a special children’s night will be held October 25 as part of the Destin Commons Trick-or-treat event.

“We will have the lights on and no monsters,” said Leveille. “That night all the staff will be wearing kid-friendly costumes and will be handing out candy.”

All proceeds of The Dark Haunted House will go to help fund the Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge and its programs.

“We raise right around $50,000 a year,” said Leveille. “This is our first year in the Commons, and I believe this location will be good because everyone comes here. It’s such a fun time every year.”