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Daunting brew

Ghosts and goblins. Witches and warlocks. Cowboys and ballerinas. It's that time of year to dress up and go haunting.

There are plenty of fun ways to celebrate Halloween. Here are some events offering a ghoulish time:

+ Check into the Bates Motel at Seminole Mall and you may not check out, warns Bill Miller, chairman of the eighth annual Seminole Kiwanis Haunted House. Yes, he's only joking.

Miller says it took about three weeks and 20 volunteers to create the haunted house, which has 12 rooms and two mazes. The 10-minute tour winds through the motel, an eerie back street, a barn and a junk yard, where a witch is brewing a pot of poison. About 20 other frightening characters appear in the mist created by a fog machine.

"Everyone meets up at the graveyard," said Miller, who added that 1,500 people already have walked through the spooky spaces.

Miller said volunteers accommodate young children.

"We do friendly tours, too," he said.

The haunted house is open from 6:30 to 9 p.m. today at Seminole Mall, at the corner of Park Boulevard and 113th Street. Cost is $3. Call 393-2001.

+ The third annual Enchanted Forest, a night walk through Moccasin Lake Nature Park, may not be a typical Halloween event but it offers a fun and safe alternative for the entire family, said supervisor Cliff Norris.

Participants walk through the 51-acre park and look for nocturnal wildlife such as raccoons, bats and armadillos. There are four stops where people in costumes give brief educational presentations about various animals.

After the walk, people return to the campfire area, where they'll roast marshmallows and listen to local singer Cliff Patterson.

The tour starts at 7 p.m. today. Norris suggests people arrive at the park at 6:30 p.m. It's at 2750 Park Trail Lane, Clearwater. Pre-registration is preferred, but not necessary.

Cost is $5 for adults, $3.50 for children ages 3 to 12. It's free for children 3 and younger. Call 462-6024.

+ The site of the Bay Area Renaissance Festival in Largo is usually pretty dormant around Halloween, but not this year. The same people who put on the annual festival have turned the wooded area into a Fright Fest.

"These grounds are already kind of spooky," said marketing director Lee Courtney.

But now they're even scarier. Guides take small groups of people on 25-minute tours. They'll wander through 13 different scenes, including the Walk of Fear, Witches Den, Ghost Ship and Zombie Graveyard, where a coffin might even pop open.

About 150 people are involved in Fright Fest. Some work behind the scenes, while others are scary characters. But not too scary, Courtney said.

"We wanted to startle more than scare," he said.

Boo Bash, a special section for young children, will have games and coloring and costume contests.

Fright Fest is open from 6 to 10 p.m. today at the Renaissance Festival Village, 400 Central Park Drive, Largo. Food will be sold. Admission is $7.95 for 12 and older, $3.95 for ages 4 to 11. It's free for children 4 and younger. Call 586-5423.

+ The city of Clearwater will sponsor free Halloween festivities at 6 p.m. today at the following recreation centers: Ross Norton Complex, 1426 S Greenwood Ave.; Morningside Recreation Center, 2400 Harn Blvd.; Clearwater Beach Recreation Center, 69 Bay Esplanade, Clearwater Beach; King's Highway Recreation Center, 1751 King's Highway Road; Martin Luther King Recreation Center, 1201 Martin Luther King Jr. Ave.; Wood Valley Recreation Center, 2816 Park Trail Lane. Call 562-4800.

+ Down Home Country Fair and Haunted House is from 5 to 10 p.m. today and 1 to 9 p.m. (barn dance and barbecue 5 to 9 p.m.) Saturday at First United Methodist Church, 411 Turner St., Clearwater. The barbecue costs $5. Call 446-5955.

+ AIDS Community Project of Tampa Bay haunted house is from 8 to 11 p.m. today and Saturday, 1180 Cleveland St., Clearwater. It's $5 for adults or $3 with two canned goods; $3 for children 13 and younger. Call 449-2437.

+ Halloween Spooktacular features carnival games and two costume parades (7:30 p.m. ages 7 and younger; 8 p.m. ages 8 and older), trick or treating at City Hall and a canned-food collection for Project Heartstrings. It's from 6 to 9 p.m. today at Ulmer Park, West Bay Drive at Fourth Street NW, Largo. Free admission, $4 for unlimited games and rides. Call 587-6723.

+ It's Monster Movie Madness in Largo where Young Frankenstein will be shown at 7:30 p.m. today at Largo Cultural Center, 105 Central Park Drive. Cost is $3.50 per person, $2.50 with non-perishable food item. Call 587-6793.

+ Fourth annual Haunted Halloween horse-drawn hayrides are offered from dusk to 11 p.m. today and Saturday at Rosebud Ranch, 1200 Donegan Road, Largo. It costs $4. Call 584-9344.

+ Foreboden, Girls' Inc. haunted house, is from noon to 9 p.m. today at Pinellas Square Mall, U.S. 19 and Park Boulevard, Pinellas Park. Cost is $4 for adults, $2 for children 11 and younger. Call 544-6230.

+ The city of Safety Harbor's Haunted House is from 6:30 to 9 p.m. today at Rigsby Recreation Center, 605 Second St. It's $2. Call 724-1545.

+ Boy Scout Troop 340 will present a Murder Mystery Tour at 7:30 p.m. today at the log cabin at Seminole United Methodist Church, 5400 Seminole Blvd. It's $1. Call 391-2824.

+ The youth group at Anona United Methodist Church, 13233 Indian Rocks Road, Largo, will have a haunted house from 6 to 10 p.m. today and Saturday. It costs $2. Call 596-9095.

+ An old-fashioned Halloween Trick or Treat is from 3 to 7 p.m. today on Main Street (between Philippe Parkway and Ninth Avenue S) in Safety Harbor. Call 726-2890.

+ Oldsmar Halloween carnival features a costume contest (registration 6:30 p.m.) and games from 7 to 9 p.m. today at the Oldsmar Library, 101 State St. W. It's free. Call 855-5588.

+ The Halloween party at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church, 455 Missouri Ave., Clearwater, begins at 5:30 p.m. today with a hot dog supper, games and crafts. It's free. Call 585-9969.

+ Halloween Fun Course features six obstacle course events from 4 to 6 p.m. today at the corner of Safford Street and Tarpon Avenue, Tarpon Springs. It's free. Call 942-5610.

+ 11th annual Halloween carnival has rides, games, food, a haunted house and a children's costume contest from 5 to 11 p.m. today and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday at the corner of Alternate 19 and Tarpon Avenue, Tarpon Springs. Admission is free. There is a fee for rides and the haunted house. Call 944-3364.