11/01/13 10:00am
11/01/2013 10:00 AM

KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTO | Dozens of kids in costume celebrated Halloween last night at the Mattituck Lions Club.

The Mattituck Lions Club held its annual Halloween celebration Thursday evening. Dozens of kids in costume marched in a parade from the firehouse to the school gym, where they were treated to a party complete with DJ and light show.

Judges Joanne Dougherty of Bridgehampton National Bank, 2013 Strawberry Queen Leah LaFreniere, and Love Lane Kitchen owner Carolyn Iannone awarded prizes in several categories.

Some of the winners included:
Ages 0 to 3: Brendan Erickson, 2, for scariest costume; Ellie McKenna, 2, for cutest; Mason Sterling, 18 months, for most original.

Ages 4 to 7: Charlie Pasca, 7, for cutest costume; Cormac Orlowski, 6, for scariest; Mikael Rice, 6, for most original.

Ages 8 to 10: Avianna Merkel, 8, for cutest costume; Ethan Evers, 9, for scariest; Ben Dufton, 9, for most original.

Ages 11 to 13: Rhiannon Cherney, 11, for scariest costume; Michael Wineberger, 12, for most original.

10/31/13 4:00pm
10/31/2013 4:00 PM
JAY WEBSTER FILE PHOTO | A pair of superheroes take to the streets in last year's Greenport Halloween Parade.

JAY WEBSTER FILE PHOTO | A pair of superheroes take to the streets in last year’s Greenport Halloween Parade.

The Southold Town Police Department and AAA are urging parents, motorists and children to be in safety mode this Halloween.

Police Chief Martin Flatley and AAA New York offer the following tips for trick-or-treaters:

• Be bright at night: use reflective tape on costumes and treat bags, wear light colors and carry flashlights with fresh batteries for extra visibility.
• Don’t wear a costume that obstructs vision. Instead of masks, try nontoxic face paint.
• Look all ways and listen for traffic before crossing, and review pedestrian safety rules before you leave the house.
• Cross at corners, not between parked cars or mid-block.
• If there are no sidewalks, always walk facing traffic, on the left side of the road.
• Younger children should always be accompanied by an adult or trustworthy teen; older children should be given boundaries and should communicate with their parents along the way.

AAA recommends the following tips for motorists:

• If possible, avoid cutting through residential areas where trick-or-treaters are likely to be present.
• Obey all traffic signs and signals, and travel with caution in residential areas.
• Scan far ahead and watch attentively for children who may run from house to house or cross at unexpected places.

10/31/13 12:00pm
A young mariachi band.

A young mariachi band.

If you’re really proud of your Halloween costume this year or you think your kid will be the cutest in the neighborhood, then share your photos for all to see on suffolktimes.com.

Several of our staff’s favorite photos will appear on the cover of the community section in the Nov. 7 issue of The Suffolk Times.

There are three different ways you can submit photos:

• Click the blue “upload tab” at the top of the gallery below.

• Or hashtag your photos #northforker when you post them on Twitter and Instagram.

• Or email your photos to [email protected] or [email protected].

10/31/13 8:00am
CYNDI MURRAY PHOTO  |  Fashion-forward skeletons have taken up residency in a Greenport yard.

CYNDI MURRAY PHOTO | Fashion-forward skeletons have taken up residency in a Greenport yard.

Ghosts, graves and ghastly goblins — these are just a few of the props local homeowners are using to decorate their houses and lawns for Halloween. From menacing masks and cobwebs to spooky scarecrows and the Grim Reaper, here are photos of some of the scariest-looking spots around.

For a chance to have a Halloween photo in the Nov. 7 edition of The Suffolk Times, click here to read more.

10/06/13 10:00am
10/06/2013 10:00 AM

RACHEL YOUNG PHOTO | A prop in the haunted village portion of Darkside Productions’ haunted house in Wading River.

Walking through a simulated haunted house, Mike Meola says, should trigger the same conflicting emotions one feels when riding a roller coaster.

“Your body is telling you, ‘Oh my god, I shouldn’t be upside down,’ but your brain is like, ‘Yeah, this is awesome!’ ” he says.

It’s with these feelings in mind that Mr. Meola, who has operated the Darkside Productions Haunted House in Wading River for the past 16 years, continuously looks for ways to scare and excite people when he transforms an old potato barn and surrounding field on Route 25A into a haven of horrors each fall.

“You’re going to see some really cool stuff,” he says. “You’re going to get that startle and you’re going to have that adrenaline rush.”

Making all that happen, however, is no easy task.

Northforker.com: Haunted houses and trails on the North Fork

Preparations for the Halloween season at Darkside Productions, Mr. Meola says, typically begin at the end of July and include building sets and creating props, like the menacing scarecrows hanging around in a field at the site’s haunted village. Ninety percent of the props are homemade, he says. The remaining 10 percent are purchased from Halloween specialty stores.

In addition, Mr. Meola hires about 50 actors each year to terrify visitors at Darkside Productions’ 30 “scare spots.” He works closely with each actor on improvisation and timing, he says. For safety reasons, the actors are prohibited from touching visitors.

Then there are the sets. Mr. Meola, a carpenter by trade, builds new wooden structures each year for his 3,000-square-foot haunted house and 10,000-square-foot haunted village — only to have to tear them down at the end of each Halloween season, which runs from Oct. 4 to Nov. 3. Most props are bundled into a storage unit during the off-season.

“Basically we tear down 90 percent of [the sets] each season because you can’t really store them out here,” Mr. Meola says. “Then we have to put everything back, change it, tweak it. It’s a tremendous amount of work and a lot of people don’t realize it. For 16 years, this has been my life.”

But it’s one he wouldn’t change. Mr. Meola has always had a love of the macabre, beginning when he was just 6 years old and saw “The Exorcist” for the first time.

“That movie scared the crap out of me, but I liked the feeling,” he says. “It was the first movie to actually make you feel like there was something under your bed, something in your closet, things that go bump in the night.”

Oscar Gonzalez, owner of the new Voodoo Field of Horrors haunted house in Mattituck, understands that feeling well, having first seen “The Exorcist” at age 10 in his native Costa Rica. Mr. Gonazalez’ love for horror quickly grew from there, later compounded by the existence of a year-round haunted house operated in Costa Rica by his former boss.

“That’s where my passion came from,” he says.

Mr. Gonzalez, a personal trainer who lives in Hampton Bays, got his start creating his own haunted houses two years ago when he and his partner, John Sieni, a co-owner of La Maison Blanche hotel on Shelter Island, transformed the inn and restaurant into the “Haunted Mansion” for an event that raised money for breast cancer research.

This year, Mr. Gonzalez said, he opted to move the event to the mainland so more people can attend. He has created a 1,500-square-foot wooden structure on the site of Patty’s Berries and Bunches on Sound Avenue that he says cost $6,000 in materials alone. The haunted house sits on the property across the street from Harbes Family Farm. Voodoo Field of Horrors opens Oct. 11 and runs through Oct. 27.

On a sunny afternoon last week, a sense of darkness loomed over Voodoo Field of Horrors. During a walk-through of the haunted house, Mr. Gonzalez pointed out the rooms’ various props, most of which he created, including a seven-foot-tall evil clown and a man being transformed into a frightening insect.

“I try to look for ideas on the Internet,” Mr. Gonzalez says of the inspiration behind his props. “As soon as I build a prop, I can design a scene.”

In a section of the haunted house Mr. Gonzalez refers to as “the baby’s room,” a demonic doll equipped with two bloody knives for hands waits in a shadowy corner to scare visitors. The rest of the room contains props like an old wooden rocking horse and a dilapidated antique carriage Mr. Gonzalez picked up at a thrift store. Not surprisingly, the effect is thoroughly unsettling.

“We try to target the fears of people,” Mr. Gonzalez says. “When I designed this haunted house, I designed it to target those fears — claustrophobia, darkness. I want to make you feel like you want to get out of here.”

In Wading River, Mr. Meola shares a similar vision.

“We try to put something for everybody in here because there are things that really terrify certain people,” he says. “Fear of bugs, fear of being alone, fear of dolls, fear of clowns.”

Mr. Gonzalez and Mr. Meola agree that their ultimate task is to create a spooky but completely safe experience.

“As much as we want to be scary, we’re here to entertain you,” Mr. Meola says.

[email protected]

10/09/11 2:00pm
10/09/2011 2:00 PM

VERA CHINESE PHOTO | Eric Striffler demonstrates what visitors will be asked to endure during a visit to "Nyctophobia."

The promotional cards read, “You don’t have to be afraid anymore.”

Medical professionals at a Long Island testing facility are working to develop a cure for Nyctophobia, the fear of the dark, according the glossy 4-by-6-inch card.

But it’s all a ruse.

The web address on the card, FightNyctophobia.com, redirects visitors to a site for a local haunted attraction hosted by 20-year-old Manorville resident and YouTube.com star Eric Striffler.

Billed as “unlike any haunted house on Long Island,” visitors are asked to enter Nyctophobia — now operating in its second year, this time in a rented barn on Main Road in Jamesport ­— alone or in pairs. Guests are warned that they will be touched by actors and given a safe word to shout if they feel too scared to go on.

Inside you won’t find vampires, witches or any masked man wielding chain saws. Mr. Striffler strives for a more cerebral experience that plays on the fear of the unknown rather than relying on abrupt scares — though there are some surprises sure to make visitors jump.

At one point, guests are subjected to total darkness, feeling their way through a maze and occasionally grazing the hand of an actor.

“You don’t know what to expect,” said 26-year-old Jeff Niemczyk of Riverhead right after walking through the attraction. “It messes with your mind a little bit.”

But what really sets Mr. Striffler’s creation apart is the motivation behind it: He doesn’t do it to make a profit and lays out all the money himself. Last year he hosted Nyctophobia at Dream Come True farm in Manorville and did not charge admission. Before that, he volunteered his time for many years at the Spooky Walk haunted attraction to benefit Camp Pa-Qua-Tuck, a camp for children with disabilities in Center Moriches.

Scroll down to see a video of Mr. Strifller preparing for Nyctophobia 2010

This year he will charge $18 for general admission and $23 for VIP admission, though he expects to recoup only half his costs.

Mr. Striffler, a 2009 Eastport-South Manor High School graduate, earns most of his income through a partnership on YouTube.com that sells ads on videos uploaded to his channels “EricStrifflerVids” and “PrettyMuchIt.” He spends the entire year scouring hardware stores and yard sales for props and attends haunted house conferences as far away as St. Louis, Mo.

“We basically look all year,” he said of he and his friends. “And we’re not finished yet.”

He also consults with his younger sister Jillian to determine the right level of “scary” for the average consumer.

“If it’s not scary to me, it’s not scary to anybody,” said Ms. Striffler, 19, after ushering a small group of people through Nyctophobia last week.

Nyctophobia has a staff of about 16 actors and Mr. Striffler said he hopes to scare more than 1,000 people this October.

Nyctophobia, which received final approval from Riverhead Town Friday, will be open Oct. 13 through 15 and Oct. 20 through 22.

Anyone interested in learning more about Nyctophobia or purchasing tickets can do so on its website at Nyctophobiahaunt.com

[email protected]