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Bringing horror to life

For the past 10 years, Ashley Hurley has been haunting and scaring at Zywiec's Haunting Experience in Cottage Grove.

"Making people scream is my favorite thing," she said.

Hurley, who now acts as the Haunting Experience manager, learned to scare from her father, who was also a haunter.

"My dad was actually the first person to take me through Zywiec's," Hurley said. "I loved it and from there on out, I loved everything about Halloween."

Now in its 21st year, Zywiec's has grown to become one of the best haunted houses in Minnesota. On any given night, there can be several hundred visitors.

"Everybody likes being scared," Hurley said. "Everybody is afraid of the element of not knowing anything."

Zywiec's Haunting Experience includes a 3D house, a haunted mansion and a haunted hayride.

The 30-plus haunters who are the spirit of the Haunting Experience start their night off by getting their faces airbrushed. The haunters are everything from ghosts, to skeletons, to witches, to ghouls to clowns.

East Ridge High School senior Slate Barry, who has been working at the Haunting Experience for the past three years, said his favorite part about working at the Haunting Experience is getting his face painted.

"It's really fun getting dressed up," he said.

Barry, of Newport, plays a haunting hillbilly.

"It's just fun scaring people," he said. "It's interesting to see what kind of reactions you get out of people."

Cottage Grove resident Dave Brooks said you couldn't pay him to walk through a haunted house.

Brooks has been working at the Haunting Experience for the past six years.

"I scare extremely easily, so I refuse to go to haunted houses," he said. "It's really fun to be on the other side."

For Breanna Tuthill, a senior at Park High School, working at the Haunting Experience has ruined some of the magic of the haunted house.

"I used to come here before I worked here and I used to get really freaked out," she said. "But now it's totally different. Now that I'm actually in a haunted house; it's still scary, but I know where everything is."

Hurley said she likes to check out other haunted houses to get some ideas for the Haunting Experience.

"It really opens you up to different ideas," she said. "Even though I know how they do it, they still scare you."

Zywiec's Haunting Experience, at 10900 East Point Douglas Road, in Cottage Grove, runs Oct. 20 to 23, and 27 to 31; weeknights from dusk to 10 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from dusk to 11 p.m. The cost is $18 per person, $1 off with food shelf donations.

More information can be found at

Area Halloween events

- Deadview Cemetery, a haunted cemetery, is located at 8839 96th St., in Cottage Grove; Oct. 21 to 23 and 28 to 31; Thursdays from 6 to 10 p.m., Fridays, Saturdays and Halloween from 7 to11 p.m. Tickets are $6, or $1 off with a food shelf donation. Children under 12 must be accompanied by an adult. For details, visit

- Fright Farm Haunted House, sponsored by the Ramsey County Sheriff's Department takes place at the Ramsey County Extension Services Barn, 2020 White Bear Ave. in Maplewood; Oct. 22 to 24 and 29 to 31; Friday and Saturday from 7 to 9 p.m. Tickets are $5 and all proceeds will be donated to Ramsey County D.A.R.E. For details, visit

- Nightmare Grove is located at 9042 Upper 81st St., in Cottage Grove, Oct. 30 to 31, beginning at 7 p.m. The cost is a $2 donation to the food shelf.

For details, visit

- The Monster Bash Fun Night and Parade is sponsored by Cottage Grove Strawberry Fest at the VFW Post 8752 Red Barn, 9260 East Point Douglas Road, in Cottage Grove, Oct. 29 and 30. The dinner, dance, silent auction and costume contest begins at 5 p.m. on Friday. The parade begins at 10 a.m. on Saturday. For details, go to

- Monster Mash, sponsored by District 833 Early Childhood Family Education, will take place at Woodbury High School, 2665 Woodlane Drive, from 6 to 8 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 29. Admission is $3 per person or $9 per family in advance and $1 more at the door.

For details, visit

Amber Kispert-Smith

Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.

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