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      Autumn brings chills and thrills to Cedar Point

      Zombies waiting for makeup / Brian Schwartz

      Screams are an everyday occurrence at Cedar Point in the summer. People scream as they fly down the hills and through the turns of Cedar Point's many roller coasters. They scream as they are launched into the air or plunged to earth on its many up and down rides, and they scream with delight whilst being spun around uncontrollably hundreds of feet in the air. But as summer turns to autumn, screams of a different sort fill Cedar Point.

      HalloWeekends makes its return to Cedar Point for a 15th season on Friday, September 16 and this year provides some new thrills and chills for fans of the macabre.

      The media was affforded a sneak preview Thursday night of some of the attractions -- G.A. Boeckling's Eerie Estate, Screamworks, and its new themed fright zone, Blood on the Bayou. All promise frights, scares, and a few laughs in between.

      When entering G.A. Boeckling's Eerie Estate, housed in an old Cedar Point administrative building, one is immediately struck by the time and effort invested in creating the feel of an authentic haunted house. There are no painted stage flats or prop furniture. The fixtures are authentically old, if not antique. The haunting decor sets an wonderfully creepy feeling without lapsing into camp.

      Members of the media were given a behind the scenes peak at the makeup, costume, and staging area for HalloWeekend. There, on weekend evenings from September 16 through October 30, more than 300 actors and performers are costumed, made up, and coached prior to the show. A professional haunted house expert is on hand to coach the actors in providing frightening performances night after night.

      Two fright zones were opened for media attendees. Screamworks, along the Frontier Trail, is a holdover from earlier years. A wall of fog, backlit with bright orange light puts you on alert for the scares that lie ahead. Inside Screamworks, you will find Mr. Giggles, who capers about, riding a Cedar Point garbage can and laughing demonically. Other ghouls and zombies zoom about the dark, foggy trail, coming at you from all sides while your eyes are diverted to the spooky scenery that lies about. Screamworks is designed to make you jump and scream with terror. The dexterous performers zip in and out of the crowds, appearing from and disappearing into the thick fog.

      New for this year is Blood on the Bayou which is situated in the lagoon area of the park. The Bloody Bayou is an offbeat mix of Hoodoo, paramilitary horror, and traditional chills. As you walk into the thick fog, your eyes are blinded by flashing blue lights, making you feel as if you're living a Rob Zombie movie. Authentic looking piked skulls line the way as you walk past a demented butcher battling his slaughtered animals and a young mother eager to show you her two headed baby. Paramilitary types are there to threaten you with death should you choose to continue down the path through the foggy bayou. Creepy music keeps your ears from detecting the ghouls and zombies until they're right on top of you, waiting to pounce. There is a definite cheese factor in the Blood on the Bayou, but it's creepy fun.

      Blood on the Bayou is intense and scary. One should exercise caution before taking small children into this fright zone.

      There are thrills to be had for youngsters who visit HalloWeekends. A hay bale maze is set up near the Blue Streak and there are several shows, attractions and children's activities in the Camp Snoopy region of the park.

      Cedar Point Director of Public Relations Robin Innes, issued this warning: "Please don't wake the sleeping giant on the main midway. He is a real grump when you disturb him!"

      The animatronic monster that greets visitors on the midway is also a new addition that is eerily lifelike and entertaining.

      HalloWeekends run from 6:00 p.m. until midnight on Friday, noon to midnight on Saturdays, and noon to 9:00 p.m. on Sunday. Admission rates vary per day and per height. For more information, log onto