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October 4, 2005 > Pirates of Emerson promise scariest ship wreck of your life

Pirates of Emerson promise scariest ship wreck of your life

by Natalia Smothers

Halloween is fast approaching and that means Fremont's own nationally acclaimed haunted house is gearing up for another year of frightening ghouls, ghosts and goblins.

Thousands of guests from the Bay Area and far beyond come to the pirate lair that appears on the corner of Warm Springs and Grimmer boulevards during the month of October for thrilling chills at the Pirates of Emerson, a Halloween Adventure.

"The suspense and terror of this place is so realistic that I definitely felt that I was living my worst nightmare," said Courtnie Ann one of the current acting "resurrected pirates," who experienced the haunted house for the first time last year. "I was literally shaking and screaming. The Pirates of Emerson are so much more thrilling because you are a part of the play and these scummy pirates almost touch you. This year it is my turn to dress in the 15th century costume and scare the heck out of you!"

Multiple camouflaged actors (most of whom are local college students) lurk in the least expected places around the 40,000 square foot compound. Their sudden appearance combined with extensive use of special effects, robotics and animatronics keep visiting adventurers in constant fright. The realistic feel of the Halloween Adventure has been recognized as the second best on the West Coast, ahead of the Universal Studios. The readers of Hauntworld Magazine named Pirates of Emerson among the top 13 haunts in the country in 2003. Last year AOL moved the Pirates to the number nine haunt in the nation.

The success of the Pirates is especially remarkable because there are no huge corporations or theme parks behind the adventure's design. All ideas, layout and artwork are done by a local couple, Karl and Patty Fields, their son Brian and a handful of friends. The hired help and volunteers now reach 75 crew members including acting "pirates."

"We all have our 'day' jobs," said Brian Fields, co-owner and promotion director of Pirates of Emerson. "I work at NUMMI, my dad is a computer programmer, and mom is a realtor. We just love our Halloween creation and devote most of our free time to it."

Fields family lives on Emerson Street in Fremont - that is where the name of the pirates' isle comes from. The Pirates of Emerson adventure started in their own average-sized backyard with a few props, donating the proceeds to local homeless shelters. After seven years of expanding the display which attracted about 3,000 people a year, the pirates had to move to another venue. They stretched out their main haunt and added a huge 3-D maze, a vortex tunnel, grotesque dungeons and a "cemetery" under the big black tents, which can be easily seen from I-680. Last year, nearly 20,000 visitors came for thrills at the Pirates' 13th Halloween season.

This year the Pirates expect to have even more haunt seekers. IBM Corporation has already reserved one night for their private party. To accommodate the growing number of guests, this year the free parking is extended and more food booths are open.

Each year, the main haunt is completely redesigned; this year is no exception. The newly decorated Bilge Rat Run maze will have some new twists and turns. A new "yellevator" is being built in the similar style to the popular "black hole" tunnel. Plus, prepare for crossing a bigger swamp, louder waterfalls and foggier lagoons and cemeteries.

"Traditionally we don't use any blood and gore, but it's a lot more intense than numerous 'cheap' tricks,'" said Brian. "We don't tone it down and don't recommend bringing kids younger 13."

The Pirates of Emerson opens Friday, October 7, at 7 p.m. It is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays until October 18. Beginning Wednesday, Oct. 19, it is open every day through October 31.

Hours are 7 - 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 7 - 10 p.m. during the week. Prices are $15 for general admission and $25 for a speed pass.

Pirates of Emerson, a Halloween Adventure
45031 Warm Springs Blvd., Fremont
(510) 657-2121

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