You're riding in a van when breaking news interrupts the music on the radio. A deadly supervirus is wiping out the population of planet Earth. You will be taken to the medical center in the woods where you will get "vaccinated" — and no one can hear you scream.
Behold Tarpon Springs' Haunted Forest in the North Anclote River Nature Park off Old Dixie Highway. Bring mosquito repellent and running shoes.
"It's full-on scary," said R.J. Latherow, who with his wife, Jamie, founded ScareCo in 2009. "You become part of the story."
As it has for the past couple of years, ScareCo is partnering with the city's recreation department to present some seasonal spooking. This year, it's a haunted trail.
The couple started brewing up Halloween fun about six years ago when their three children attended Sunset Hills Elementary School.
"We created haunted houses as school fundraisers," said Latherow, a computer programmer by day. "Everyone told us they were so good we should put on a real haunted house. We thought, 'That's a crazy idea. Let's do it.' "
So they formed a partnership with the city and for the last two Halloweens rented vacant storefronts on Tarpon Avenue where they created a Haunted Downtown. Now that those properties are leased, they've moved the frights into the woods.
"It's a long, skinny park that's almost a peninsula," Latherow said. "It holds the fog beautifully."
The first haunt is tonight. The Haunted Forest will be open Fridays and Saturdays through Oct. 26. It opens at 6:30 p.m. with the "kids' hour," when the scares are a little less so.
Children too afraid to enter the trail can visit with "Mother Goose," who will give puppet shows near the park entrance.
In 2010, the haunted houses in Tarpon Springs' downtown were recognized by Rand McNally as one of the Top Ten in the nation.
"I was kind of startled," scare-master Latherow said.
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