Biz Beat

Spookadar specializes in things that go bump in the night

My voice mail light was on when I returned from reporting this column.

“This is probably a message you don’t get very often,” said David Mucci. “Maria left her ID in the coffin.”

Yup, that’s the first, and guessing, the last time I get that particular message.

Mucci and his wife, Stephanie, own Spookadar. The business on Sixth Street near Highway 99 in downtown Modesto is aimed at people who like things that go bump in the night. It’s a little bit store, little bit theme park. Mucci describes it as an oddity shop, with an escape room in the back and a coffin ride in the front. You read that correctly – a coffin ride.

And it started as a Halloween party.

“We have a big Halloween party every year,” said Mucci, a fine artist by trade. “This is just an extension of that.”

His wife, handily enough for what they are doing now, is a funeral director and embalmer.

Mucci has long been fascinated by the dark and unusual.

“When I was little, I had Halloween masks on the wall,” Mucci said. No posters of sports stars or rock legends for this guy.

He and his wife got the idea of opening up an escape room in Modesto. If you’re not familiar with these, they are rooms where you have a certain amount of time to decipher enough clues to solve a mystery and get out. They have been cropping up with some regularity in the area, including Escape Modesto and one at Laser Quest.

The Muccis knew they wanted their escape room to have a ghostly theme to match their website, The name comes from a mix of “spooky” and “radar,” and the website highlights haunted spots in the area. And they wanted their escape room to feel different from others.

“We thought, ‘Modesto doesn’t really have an oddities shop,’ ” Mucci said. So they stocked the front of the business with such diverse items as stuffed bats, Tarot cards and skulls.

However, Mucci said, there is a fine line between spooky and scary, and they aim for the former. Probably not a lot of truly dark oddity shops carry items such as Matchbox-car hearses.

But the real grabber is the coffin ride. And that’s why my brave colleague, Maria Figueroa, joined me at this particular assignment. She tried out the coffin ride, which can only be described as unique and fairly intense. At least, that’s how she described it because I sure wasn’t going to climb into a coffin.

The idea is to replicate the experience of being buried alive, with all the motions, sounds and smells – exhaust fumes from the hearse, dirt from the grave – associated with it. As part of the fun, a small camera is hooked to a monitor so the rider’s friends can watch him or her react live, so to speak.

Maria, for her part, did great. She called the experience “unique, creepy and fun.”

Mucci said he had experienced a similar ride and wanted to bring it to Modesto as a way to draw people to the escape room. I did manage to go in there. It’s pretty elaborate, though Mucci emphasizes it’s not a haunted house. “Nothing jumps out at you,” he said. Well, except perhaps the bright turquoise color on the walls when the lights are lit.

The room is made to resemble an abandoned, 1960s house that players stumble into during a thunderstorm. I won’t give more away, but they clearly went to a lot of trouble to make it look authentic.

The escape room is $25 per person. The coffin ride is $7, with $2 off for those who also do the escape room. Find Spookadar at 1220 Sixth St., Modesto. Call 209-425-7356. You also can find the business on Facebook.

ELSEWHERE AROUND THE BUSINESS BEAT: Want a free pair of shoes? Be among the first 100 people in line when Famous Footwear celebrates opening a new store at the Vintage Faire Mall in Modesto.

The 6,000-square-foot location opens Aug. 10, with a grand opening set Aug. 13, according to a news release that came in last week.

The grand opening, starting at 10 a.m. Aug. 13, will include the giveaway for the first 100 people over 18 years old in line. Drawings and DJ music also are planned.

Famous Footwear has more than 1,200 stores nationwide as well as an e-commerce site,, the company said in the news release. Brands carried include Nike, Vans, Converse, Sperry, Skechers, adidas, Naturalizer, Steve Madden, Madden Girl, Franco Sarto, New Balance, Roxy, Circus by Sam Edelman, and Carlos by Carlos Santana.

For more information, go to or