Your fear is Lynette Brown's fun.
She feeds on frights.
Get your loved ones in front of her Deathworkz crew and she'll scare them, too.
But beneath the monstrous makeup, faux fangs and creepy contacts she's been known to wear, the Modesto wife and mother of three looks to be a genuinely nice woman.
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That's reflected in the motto of the Deathworkz haunt she founded in 1999: "Scaring is Caring." It's a variation of the "We scare because we care" used in Disney/Pixar's beloved "Monsters Inc."
"I grew up watching 'Creature Features' with my brother," Brown said of her long love of the spooky. "Back in 1982, my brother and I did a mini-haunt. He sat inside a box, with a mask on, and I held a box of candy."
When the unsuspecting trick-or-treaters would reach the porch, her brother would jump up to startle them. "The laughs we got, it was an incredible experience. That's when the Halloween haunting bug bit me."
It was a deep bite, producing a lifelong fever for the macabre that's spread to family and friends. For 15 years, she and husband Chris ran a free haunt at their home on St. Charles Place in Modesto.
They would spend between $3,000 and $5,000 — and at least once up to $8,000 — to create the walk-through attraction, Brown said. Themes would change each year, the cast grew to dozens of volunteers, and lines could stretch for hundreds of feet.
But last year, just before its planned opening, the city of Modesto shut down the haunt, citing resident complaints and safety code violations.
The Deathworkz gang already had been performing professional events, but the closure of the home haunt led Brown and company to move fully into pro haunting. That includes a three-day Deathworkz Haunt Halloween Festival beginning Oct. 27 at the Stanislaus County Fairground in Turlock.
On how much the silver lining of going pro has cut through the dark cloud of being shut down, Brown said, "It’s still kind of fresh for me. The thing we're having a hard time with is not being able to offer it for free anymore. We got to see kids grow up and go off to college. People get married and bring their kids back. Married couples bring each other for date night. It was really heartfelt for us, and when we were shut down, it really hurt. There was a lot of satisfaction in our hearts for bringing fun to other people and to families."
Deathworkz still will bring the fun, and on an even bigger scale with its Halloween Festival. The event will include two haunted mazes, one themed "Backroads" and the other "Nyctophobia" — fear of the dark.
Over the three days, five bands based from Sacramento to Turlock will perform. From their names and descriptions, they sound no less for the faint of heart than anything one would expect from an outfit called Deathworkz: Nothing But Losers (metal punk, thrash horror), Sworn to the Black (groove/thrash/death), Discordia (dark symphonic metal), Stormfall (melodic metal) and Bed Heads (indie grunge).
Festival food vendors will be serving up such fare as voodoo doll cookies, severed monster fingers (deep-fried Snickers), zombie brain funnel cake, "gnawchos" and boo-ritos.
Back to those haunted mazes. In a nutshell, "Backroads" puts you in the shoes of friends who run out of gas on a backroad and find their way into a town whose residents are "very, very different ... and not in a good way," Brown said.
As for "Nyctophobia," she said, "There are things in the haunt where if you have a fear of the dark, this is really going to trigger something. It's an adrenaline rush. You know you're not going to die — there’s your reality check — but it's always fun to tap into those little fears."
So, just how scary are the haunts? Any age recommendations or restrictions?
"We don't like assigning ages, because in our 16 years of operation, we've seen 6-year-olds and 8-year-olds handle them better than adults," Brown said. Thinking on it a moment, she added, "Nyctophobia I wouldn't suggest for little kids, maybe 12 and up. Parents know best what children can handle."
Brown, who's worked as a systems and network administrator and a contract administrator, now is all about Deathworkz. Sort of like a demented Mrs. Claus, she's always working with her closest dark elves. Her oldest son is a fine sculptor and helps with character creation, she said.
"Each year at the end of October or beginning of November, I tell him what my thoughts are and we talk about what we want to see the next year," she said. She's even more ahead of the game right now. "I have next year planned out already — we started two months ago."
IF YOU GO ...
Deathworkz Halloween Festival
Oct. 27-29, Stanislaus County Fairground; 5-11 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 5-9 p.m. Sunday
Festival general admission $5, Backroads or Nyctophobia haunt $12 (includes general admission), both haunts $20.