Nationally acclaimed haunted house enterprise, Fear Overload Scream Park in San Leandro, hopes to scare its customers away this year by making their Halloween attraction so unpleasantly scary that visitors are sure to be screaming — for more.
Bayfield Mall of San Leandro is again host to the company’s annual 20,000 square foot attraction, offering two brand-new haunted houses, “Abusement Park,” and “Ward 9.” But this event is no family outing. Anyone under 16 is strongly cautioned against attending the attraction due to its incorporation of disturbing material, graphic scenes, and extremely startling moments.
“We want it to be so scary it’s not even enjoyable,” said Nathan Polanco, producer of Fear Overload Scream Park. “We’re not going for families.”
Guests purchasing a ticket to the event will be granted access to both haunted houses, where they will guide themselves through a dark labyrinth of various rooms, encountering things like dummies resembling severed corpses, and actors dressed as zombies lurking behind blood-stained furniture or waiting in unzipped body bags, bolting upright to startle guests when they least expect it. One room requires guests to paw their way through barriers of shower curtains strewn with blood lit by strobe lights, only to be spooked by a ghoul lurking behind the final curtain.
“The shower curtain room with the strobe lights was the scariest moment for me,” said Janice Rabe, a Mills junior who attended the haunted houses last week. “You know something or someone is in there but you don’t know when they’ll pop up.”
The houses this year limit visiting groups to six or less at a time and provide only a single flashlight to navigate through the pitch-black set. Palanco explained that flashlights enhance the terrifying experience by giving visitors only glimpses of the gruesome sets through tunnel vision, making them feel extra vulnerable in the darkness around them.
“We have some of the most detailed sets in California, and people get completely immersed in it,” Polanco said, likening the experience to being in a horror movie. “It’s an absolutely horrifying environment.”
Another competitive edge to the local company is their diverse talent pool. According to Polanco, the company conducts a very selective audition process for actors, hiring almost exclusively dancers, athletes, and contortionists. Of the 100 or so actors who auditioned, only 35 were hired.
“All the actors who jumped out at you were really scary,” said Keegan Amit, a Mills junior who accompanied Rabe to the attraction and was impressed by the special effects make-up the actors wore. “Most of the fear was waiting and figuring [out] which dummy was going to be real.”
Another Haunted House goer, Tanzeel Anwar, explained his experience of having multiple costumed actors engage with him inside the attraction, many of which startle guests or simply lurk formidably behind them.
“Ten to fifteen actors will interact with you,” said the 22-year-old Daly City resident, who made a 40-minute drive just to attend Fear Overload’s event. “I’ve already seen one girl back out of the house because she had gotten too scared. She was falling on the floor and screaming.”
“It’s the best,” said Faizal Anwar, Tanzeel’s brother. “It brings the best out of you.”
Perhaps that is why the brothers are back for their second year in a row.
“I came last year, and this year my expectations are pretty high,” Tanzeel Anwar said, his group finally at the front of the line, and anxiously awaiting their turn. “I guess I am just an adrenaline junky.”
Fear Overload Scream Park is located approximately 8 miles from Mills, at Bayfair Center, 1555 East 14th in San Leandro, and will be open daily starting Oct. 23 – Nov. 2. Check www.fearoverload.com/hours  as times vary. Tickets range from $19.50 for pre-ordered tickets, to $35 for a V.I.P line-hopper ticket at the door.