Nightmare on Newton Avenue 

Amy1I hate being scared,” says Amy Slone. “But everyone is afraid of something – whether it is fear of the dark, snakes or spiders.”

As a child, Slone’s older sister made her watch scary movies, and as she got older, Slone says she avoided attractions such as Halloween Horror Nights and other creepfests. But for the last five Octobers Slone has transformed her Gulfport home on Newton Avenue into a haunted house.

What began in a small area on her carport – a benefit for the Pinellas Park Fire Explorers after her son, now 19, joined the program – expanded in the last four years to Slone’s entire backyard, creating a haunted maze of scares.

Slone says she has always enjoyed crafting, and Halloween was the perfect time for her to go all out with “creepy crafts.” Once she discovered many people have a fear clowns – or coulrophobia –  clowns of all shapes and sizes began to appear in the maze.

“Most local haunts do not do clowns,” Slone says, “and my son’s friend was scared of clowns so I decided to add clowns to aggravate him. As often happens, now that he has had to deal with them, he is no longer as afraid as he once was.”

Figuring out what might scare other people for the last five years has also helped Slone cope with some real life scares. Seven years ago, she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Her best friend died three years ago, and her sister committed suicide. These tragedies prompted Slone to tatoo the formula for Kevlar on her arm.

“My personality is bulletproof,” she says. “Doing the haunted house has helped me figure out what really scares me and deal with it.”

Slone is willing to divulge how she creates some of her creepiest scares. Only a small section utilizes gore. Besides the clowns, there are rib cages made from garbage cans. Contractor bags are melted down to form flesh. Severed heads are created from Styrofoam and latex.

Although many of the items are reused, creating the haunted house each year and taking it down is a lot of physical work. The maze takes two months to build and set up, working every weekend, then two weeks to take it down after Halloween. She has had her son and his friends from the Fire Post to help, but now that they are headed off to the Fire Academy, Slone says this is the last year the haunted house will be open.

“It’s been fun and we’ve helped raise money,” says Slone. “I know I’ll miss it, but not as much as I’ll be glad I’m not doing it.”

Slone isn’t giving up the haunt business completely, though. She has a friend who works for Tampa Bay Local Haunts and plans to get involved. Neighbors Sharon and Jody Butler, who live on the 5600 block in Gulfport, also run a successful haunted house, and she plans to be involved in that as well.

The last chance to experience Amy Slone’s haunted house, 5613 Newton Ave. S., is October 30 from 7:45 p.m. to 10:45 p.m. The suggested donation is $3. Go – if you dare. Photos courtesy of Amy Sloan.

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