Castle of the Damned opens Friday for those who dare visit

GLOUCESTER ? It’s not for the faint of heart. The ninth annual “Castle of the Damned” is not your everyday haunted house.Hammond Castle in Gloucester will once again serve as the scene for the most unique and fearsome haunted house in New England starting Friday.Guests, who dare to take the guided tour of the historic castle and its grounds, will be treated to nightmarish displays inspired by the works of H.P. Lovecraft, Italian horror maestro Dario Argento and Pastimes Entertainment Dean Calusdian, who directed the independent horror film “Tortured Hearts.”Calusdian and Pastimes Creative Director David Stickney designed the horrific “Castle of the Damned” which eschews the traditional haunted house theme for bizarre images that will truly haunt those who dare brave the castle’s halls.?There are no people in sheets jumping out and yelling ?Boo’,” Calusdian said. “We want people to be afraid to go to sleep for the rest of their lives.”Stickney said the tour of the castle and grounds takes approximately 30 minutes but it could take a lifetime to forget what you saw within the castle walls.?People could see anything from Victorian funerals to demonic clowns and arcane rituals,” he said. “We tap into a lot of phobias. We really try to creep people out traumatize them. We do jump out scares but it’s mostly about creeping people out. We want them to be afraid to turn the lights out when they get home.”If the “Castle of the Damned” gives you nightmares-rest assured you’re not alone.Stickney, who has been alone in the castle at night setting up for the show admits he has gotten a case of the heebie jeebies while in the castle that he couldn’t quite shake after leaving.?It gave me nightmares some nights,” he said with a chuckle. “Some nights I’m there alone late at night and get creeped out. It gets really creepy in the dungeon. I start imaging people behind me and hearing weird things.”But if you’re going to be scared it may as well be for a good cause. Stickney said all proceeds from “Castle of the Damned” would go to help restore the medieval-style castle, which was built by John Hays Hammond, Jr. between 1926 and 1929 to serve both as his home and as a backdrop for his collection of Roman, medieval, and Renaissance artifacts. Stickney pointed out the castle is home to the largest privately owned organ in the world and a campaign is currently underway to raise money to restore the organ.?The Hammond Castle is really an undiscovered treasure in New England,” he said. “It has an indoor marble pool with medieval shop fronts around it. It’s a really great place.”If you go: Be advised “Castle of the Damned” is not handicapped accessible and is rated PG-13. The haunted house is open Oct. 12, 13, 19, 20, 26 and 27 from 7 p.m. until 11 with the last ticket being sold at 10:45 p.m. Admission is $12 for adults, $10 for seniors and students, and $6 for children under 12. Parking is available at Stage Fort Park and Pastimes will run a free “Shudder Shuttle” from the parking lot to the castle.

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