NiteTalk: Halloween King Craig McInnis Wants to Freak You Out

For nearly a decade now, scores of Halloween freaks have been trekking up to the South Florida Fairgrounds in order to have the bejesus scared out of them. Niteside went to check out the spooky scene.

What's Fright Nights all about? Our main goal is to give our patrons a good time and, more importantly, a good scare, with an extra heaping side of Halloween spirit. It all started with one haunted house under an outdoor tent in 2001 and has grown to three haunted houses, three scare zones, live entertainment, and a Thrilling Midway.

What's the main attraction? To me Fright Nights is all about the Haunted Houses, and we are proud to present three completely redesigned indoor haunts with over 16,000 square feet of scares. "Malpractice" is a makeshift hospital set up in an old warehouse where the twisted Dr. Gooch runs a staff of maniacs who perform gruesome experiments on their "patients." "Freakers" is a trip back to childhood fears where all of the things that used to scare the younger you come to life. And "Next of Kin" is a crazy backwoods cult whose motto is "join or die." Each year we tweak and retool our haunts to keep things fresh and surprise those who visit Fright Nights annually. We pay close attention to detail and design to ensure that everyone who enters has a brief moment of "am I going to get out of here in one piece?"

But that's not all, is it? We are also proud to present three all new scare zones scattered around the perimeter of the event where patrons walk through interactive sets with plenty of creeps lurking in the shadows. Our Midway boasts lots of rides, games, prizes, refreshing beverages and delicious fair foods. We also welcome "The Creature," a giant beast whose open mouth is the entrance to the world of terror found as patrons walk into the depths of its belly. Live entertainment can be found on our local stage where the area's finest talent will be playing their musical hearts out; or you might encounter our Fire Dancers somewhere amongst the freaks and geeks on the Midway.

How'd you come to be involved?
My wife and I started about seven years ago as scare actors working in one of the houses. Both being artists ourselves, we started doing our own makeup which led to doing other actors' makeup. I also chipped in on set design and scenic painting. As a couple of seasons passed and positions became available "up the ladder," we gladly stepped in and took on the added responsibilities.

What's your position anyway?
I am Creative Director and my wife Raquel is Makeup Coordinator. I am in charge of making sure that the sets/ houses/ lighting look right. I create most of the marketing materials and help to flesh out the characters, rooms and wardrobe. I will take this opportunity to mention my right hand man and Operations Manager, Alex Rodriguez, because without him and our dedicated crew there would be no Fright Nights.

Why do you think Halloween continues to have incredible allure for every age group? I have always thought of Halloween as the one holiday that mass marketing cannot ruin. In fact it helps it to grow and become well-rounded. Everyone loves a good adrenaline rush from a scare and I think we are secretly interested in the more macabre side of life. Halloween gives us a chance to explore that side, unwind and let loose.

Have any idea of what you're gonna be on Halloween -- or is it top secret?
I will be the same thing I always am -- my sarcastic alter ego, Eggman, a veteran rodeo clown and part time short order cook. Eggman spends his time at Fright Nights heckling the Midway or roaming through ALL of the haunted Houses and scare zones, getting scares and terrorizing people. For those who can't stand clowns ... I will find you.

While we're here, we should mention that scaring folks is just one of the many things you do. Wanna fill us in on some of the others? I spend my days as a freelance artist. I am an Illustrator / Muralist / Cartoonist / Graphic Artist / Set Designer / Musician / F/X Makeup artist and simple prop builder. I do work for event companies, ad agencies and many private clients and businesses.

Is there a place where we might soon see some of that work?
I am lucky enough to have some work scattered around South Florida: David K Salon in West Palm Beach, Bones Resurrection Tattoos in Ft. Lauderdale, Theatrics Costume Shop in Lake Worth, Howley's for their monthly art shows and many live art events sponsored by WeMerge magazine.

What else is coming up for Craig McInnis?
I am gearing up to launch my own business this season with a couple of associates. I will also continue to create imagery for myself and for clients, as that is the gift I have been given. I constantly write and perform music in a solo format and with my band Speaking Volumes. All in all I have a great life and I plan to just keep plowing forward and striving for quality with my own endeavors and Fright Nights.

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