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xx Thursday, October 28, 1999

Second-hand screams

Artist makes haunted fortress from junk

By CRISTINA C. BREEN -- The Associated Press

This giant spider, seen Tuesday, Oct. 26, 1999, is the work of Mark Honish, 32, of Audenreid, Carbon County, Pa. It can be seen by motorists traveling along Route 309 between McAdoo and Hazleton, Pa. Honish made the spider using flexible sewer pipes, Christmas candle lights, and floats used in swimming pools. The web is made of rope and the inside of a mattress. (AP Photo: Frank Andruscavage)
 STANFORD, N.Y. (AP) -- Books fly off shelves in the cobweb-lined library. In the tiny church, a bloodstained priest conducts an exorcism as a tin-can snake jumps out of the holy water bowl. In the evil veterinary laboratory of Dr. Mel Practice, a toilet seat rattles the nerves when its lid flies up with a bang.

 If you don't believe an old toilet can be scary, you've never met Peter Wing.

 The commode is among the discarded objects recovered from junk yards and trash bins that Wing has incorporated into "Frankenstein's Fortress."

 "Stuff that you picked out from a Dumpster has that trashed-out look that you can't get with new materials," Wing said. "Death and decay is unsettling -- and that's what we're going for here."

 The enormous, scream-inducing Halloween attraction in this town 80 miles north of New York City, takes visitors on a harrowing, 10-minute journey through a Transylvanian graveyard, a wicked witches' forest, Miss Ann Thrope's fortuneteller's den, the Mad Hatter's tea party, an opium den, an execution yard and Frankenstein's lab, where the 7-foot monster makes a brief appearance.

 Wing, 52, started building the fortress on town property last year -- the town commissioned him for the job. It will remain an annual attraction.

 As many as 80 children and adolescents turn out each October weekend night to work at the fortress. All must be members of the Stanford Recreation Program in order to take part.

 "This is community theater," Wing said. "This isn't like sports, where you have to be a certain height or size. Any child can play."

 The "cast" also includes more than 200 adults who sew costumes, apply makeup, do construction work or sell tickets. Local residents donated an old school bus and a speaker system that pumps out creepy sounds.

 "It's fun making people scream," said 11-year-old actor Eban Coenen, who plays a different role each night. "By the time they get to me, they're so scared that I think I could do anything and they would freak."