Fright At The Fort carries on without founder ‘Halloween King’ Leon Seymour this year
PROSPECT— In the many years I’ve written about Leon Seymour, the eccentric, passionate executive director of Friends of Fort Knox, whose sole pleasure for the last 18 years was planning for and putting on Fright at the Fort, one of the best Halloween events in the state every October, this year will be bittersweet, as Seymour passed away this past May. A Stephen King-themed event was something he’d always wanted to see realized.
And starting October 13, it will happen. Dean L. Martin, the new executive director said that before his death, Seymour obtained permission from author Stephen King to put on an event with characters from some of his greatest works.
“We got permission to use the intellectual property of his books and characters, which is very important, because like most authors, he wants the courtesy of being asked when an organization puts on an event in his name,” said Martin. “I’ve heard he almost never refuses and graciously supports local communities.”
Staff and “Fright” fans alike will all have Seymour in their minds this year.
“I barely have to do any marketing or advertising because Leon worked so hard to build this event up nationally,” said Martin. “I’m standing on the shoulders of a giant. I have also always loved Halloween. We used to set up our house for Halloween for my kids and the neighborhood kids, so this will give me the freedom to do what I’ve always wanted to do on a scale 10 times as big.”
Martin has only had little more than six weeks to prepare. Having served as a pilot in the military and with a background in health care administration, he said he’s up to the task for this year’s “Fright” event.
“With my training, I have skills in logistics, operations, facilities management and event planning and this year, it’s even more of a challenge, because so many volunteers are coming out of the woodwork for this Stephen King theme,” he said. “We have super fans and theater groups who already know certain characters and want to play them, but are only available on certain nights, so it’s a bit like corralling cats to try to get the best show every night.”
The super fans are not the only ones excited for this year. Rumors have been swirling online that King and/or his family might be present at the event due to the fact that King’s radio station 100.3 WKIT will be broadcasting live on one of the nights, but Martin downplays that notion.
“We have no confirmation of that,” he said. “The name of this year’s event is ‘The King of Horror’ and I think some people got confused when they hear that the King of Horror was going to be at Fort Knox this year.”
“Every year, we change the theme and change up the sets, props, designs and rooms,” he said. This year, they’ll feature elements from 15 of King’s most iconic novels and short stories. And with Maine as a character itself in many of these novels, it’s going to feel very meta.
Let’s just say they’re going for the “IT Factor.”
The area before the entrance to the Fort will feature a number of family-friendly inflatables, including Pennywise from IT.
“We try to keep the outside more G-Rated and entertaining for the crowds,” said Martin. “Our policy is that this is not an event for kids younger than eight, because there are some scary elements, such as a chainsaw-welding madman, which of course the chain is off the saw, but also the characters do a lot of jump scares. So, you just have to know your child best and if he or she is easily frightened, you might not want to take them. That said, I spoke with a 22-year-old woman who has been coming to Fright since she was five and now she always goes through twice each year with her grandmother.”
Once participants go through, there is only one way in and one way out. Snaking through claustrophobic dimly lit corridors, the entire Fright Walk is about 20 minutes.
John Darling of Darling’s automotive dealerships, has given the event 30 cases of props and Animatronics.
“It’s on scale to be the biggest one that Fort Knox has ever had,” said Martin. “We can’t recreate the exact detail for the King purists. For example, the colors of the bed sheets in Misery may not be the same, but it will feel very much like the way you imagine a Stephen King set of hallways and rooms to look like.”
As their biggest fundraising event of the year, ticket sales from Fright at the Fort all go toward Fort Knox’s operations, conversation and preservation costs throughout the year. In the past, crowds coming through have surpassed 10,000 people.
The dates for Fright at the Fort are October 13, 19, 20, 26, 27, from 5:30 to 9 p.m. Tickets sold at the door are $10 for adults and $5 for ages under 12. Advance Express Tickets $13 adults, $7 for under 12. Express Tickets allow brave Fright Fans to skip the line to begin their tour through the mind of the King of Horror and experience a Fright at the Fort that would make Seymour proud.
Kay Stephens can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org