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September 28, 2010 > Avast ye mateys! The pirates return

Avast ye mateys! The pirates return

By Fina Mora
Photos By Courtesy of Karl Fields

Dorothy might have been scared when she said "Lions, and tigers, and bears! Oh, my!" but she never encountered pirates. This year, October is more than dressing up as your favorite movie character, but instead to get the thrill of your life with the Pirates of Emerson.

"We're calling ourselves a haunted theme park this year, it's not just a haunted house, that kind of didn't do us justice," says Brian Fields of Pirates of Emerson. "This year our haunts are all new, they're never the same thing with the same things going on."

You better bring your own good fairy because this year Pirates of Emerson has elevated their scare factor. "We have five haunted houses, all different from last year, they're all different themes... we have our maze with strobe lights, CarnEvil Chaos where we have a lot of games: dart games, ping pong, that kind of games. And then our stage where we're going to have a lot of shows out there," says Fields.

If you think this is your typical haunted house, you would be better off walking the plank. "It's the haunted house you always thought of, but was never there," says Fields. "The haunted house that you thought you'd be in, but you've never been in... not the typical haunted house with plywood walls." Although the physical construction of the haunted houses takes only 5 weeks, Fields explains that planning is year round. "We put a lot of thought and energy into detailing."

In addition, Pirates of Emerson has relocated to new surroundings. Fields explains, "We actually lost our spot to BART because the BART [South Fremont/Warm Springs] station is coming in and taking over, so basically we had to find a new position." In their new location, Pirates of Emerson has more space, something they are taking advantage of. "Unlike last time, our spot was kind of on the small side, this [new location] will allow people to stay and go through all these things... go through the games, the houses, gypsy fortune teller and then go get a cup of coffee and watch a movie, get some food and then go to the haunted houses. Someone can actually spend a whole evening here," adds Fields.

Plus, more space means more room to scare. Several new attractions include a coffee shop with tables and chairs so people can sit down and relax, and an "execution room" where people can watch an electric chair for a jolt more powerful than a whole pot of coffee. Another new addition is "The Never Was," like a big doll house according to Fields.

There will also be a food booth serving barbecue. "This year we'll have a real barbecue vendor; the fair is providing [food] vendors for us," says Fields.

The pirates are experts when it comes to scaring people. Now in its 19th year, Pirates of Emerson started out relatively small. In fact, Pirates of Emerson is put on every year by Fremont residents Karl and Patty Fields and their son Brian. "We started this in our yard," says Fields. "It was a keg and some friends and we scared the neighborhood kids on the side yard." However, they soon faced closure. "After seven years, the city shut us down, [they] said you're too big for a residential area so we had to go out and do something else. The first thing we did was buy this big tent, [the original Pirates of Emerson haunted house]. We haunted like half of it and the other half was costume stuff. Then we had to buy a trailer for storage; each year we got a little bit more and a little bit more," says Fields.

Pirates of Emerson has come a long way since its beginnings and a visit to their haunted theme park will prove just how far they have come. Local residents have been attending for years and they're not the only ones who have taken notice; the Travel Channel has voted them one of the scariest haunted houses in America.

"These haunts on the Travel Channel were a state prison in Texas and an insane asylum in North Carolina... and I'm out in a field on a parking lot," says Fields. "They showed this prison, insane asylum and then they showed us out in our tents and we looked like we belonged with those guys. They're able to work all year round and I can't do that. A lot of people come out here and think we have big funding. We would love to have a permanent location but you just can't justify spending that amount of money on a property when you're only open for four weeks of a year."

With years of dedication to scaring those brave enough to enter the grounds of Pirates of Emerson, visitors can count on a hair-raising experience. Children 13 and under must be accompanied by an adult. High heels are not recommended; bare feet are not allowed. Please, no pets, service dogs or indoor photography. Credit cards, checks, and ATM cards are not accepted at the ticket window; however, you can order your tickets online at This show is wheelchair accessible.

Pirates of Emerson
Through the month of October
Closed October 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 11, 12, 13, 14, 18, 19
7:05 p.m. - 10 p.m. (open some nights until 11 p.m. and midnight)
Alameda County Fairgrounds
Corner of Bernal and Valley Ave., Pleasanton
(510) 657-2121

General Admission $20, Speed Pass $30
Parking fee $8

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