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Blood, guts and a bite

And they look like such normal people. By day, Sharon LaBruno works for GTE data services. Ron Whitmore sells trailers. Tony Marsello is an engineer, and Michael Matti is your basic bespectacled sixth-grader.

But this weekend, along with dozens of other seemingly average Tampa Jaycees, they will become a grotesque bunch of bloodied psychos, chain saw wielders, disgusting creeps and ugly creatures haunting Tampa's Floriland Mall.

"This is so much fun to get ready for," said LaBruno.

This year, she is chairwoman of the event , which means putting this gang of masked loonies through their paces in the club's annual House of Horrors.

"Every year, it's a riot around here," she said.

Last year, the Jaycees' biggest annual fund-raising event took place at the Belz Factory Outlet Mall. In years past, they haunted Eastlake Square Mall. The cavernous shopping centers afford them the space they need for their twisting paths, rickety bridges and strobe-lit rooms.

"Floriland called us up and offered us space, and we said, "Great,'

" said LaBruno.

The space that once housed the cheery Tampa Children's Museum has been transformed into the dungeonesque moneymaker. This year's goal: $4,000.

The addition of the house of horrors at the mall's south end makes good business sense for Floriland, a much-maligned mall that has suffered from decline and neglect and is trying to put itself back in the retail running.

Through Halloween, thousands will walk through the mall, scaring up much-needed business for fast-food concessions.

And if the haunted house's dress-rehearsal night was an indication, the scare-seekers will be lined up 20 deep awaiting their walk on the wild side.

The scarers seemed to be having as much fun as the scarees.

"I don't want to be behind the scenes," said the 11-year-old Matti, who created his own costume of torn combat fatigues and a light-up rubber monster mask. "I like scaring people."

His favorite victims? "Girls. 'Cause they scream real loud. You know you really scared 'em."

"Sometimes we sit back and wonder if we're normal," said Marsello, cheerfully cranking up his chain saw. "But we know we're having fun, and that's the main thing."

Without spoiling the surprises, be warned: This venture isn't for the faint of heart. There are plenty of dead ends, bloody scenes and violent surprises to shake up even the most unshakable.

"It doesn't get too gory," said LaBruno. "But it's got to be bloody."

Outside the dark doors, a magician and disc jockeys from the Power Pig radio station are there to keep folks entertained. So is Whitmore, who used to chase the kids with a chain saw until a racquetball injury slowed him down. These days, he's a hulking presence wielding an evil-looking metal mace in one hand and a jack-o'-lantern full of lollipops in another.

"This calms the little ones down a bit," he said.

Eight-year-old Brandon Tuffie _ apparently aiming to live up to his name _ looked skeptical as he waited in line with his mother, even when bigger kids came screaming out of the mysterious dark doors.

"It would take Freddy Krueger, Jason and the Chain Saw Massacre guy to scare me," he said.

The Tampa Jaycees House of Horrors will be held inside Floriland Mall at Florida Avenue and Busch Boulevard through midnight on Halloween night. Admission is $3, and proceeds will be donated to the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation.

Sue Carlton is a staff writer in the Times Northdale bureau.

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