The Mystery Playhouse of Terror

Those desiring a good scare can check out the haunted house on North Monroe


The Mystery Playhouse of Terror
Those desiring a good scare can check out the haunted house on North Monroe
Mike Lortz
Issue date: 10/31/02 Section: Lifestyles, FSView

The Mystery Playhouse of Terror frightens people for charity. Photo by: Katherine Ruddy

The long lost art of the haunted house is alive and well in Tallahassee. The Mystery Playhouse of Terror, located in the old Brooklyn Pasta Factory at 2576 North Monroe St., is designed to bring a bit of fright into this year's Halloween.

Conceived and designed by Kurt Kuersteiner, an adjunct professor at Tallahassee Community College, the Mystery Playhouse of Terror has been in operation since 1999.

"I went to work in Harrisburg, Penn. and there were a ton of haunted houses up there, and attendance was great, but (the houses) weren't as good as I thought they could be," Kuersteiner said. "So when I came back home, I figured I'd bring the concept here but do it a lot better."

The Mystery Playhouse of Terror may just be better as it features a wide array of scares. There are areas such as Hell's Kitchen, Dr. Frankenstein's Lab, an electrocution chamber, a black magic show, and the "Hell-e-vator," a 13-floor drop to the depths of terror inspired by a freight elevator in the FSU Chemistry Department.

Although most of the characters are original, there are appearances by Dracula's bride, Beetlejuice, and the usual mix of ghouls, zombies and un-or-near dead that come alive during the Halloween season.

Although the former restaurant is supposedly haunted in its own right, with several fires having broken out and people claiming to hear strange sounds and unknown voices, over the years Kuersteiner and his small crew have transformed the over 6,000 square-foot area into a house of horrors, sparing few expenses.

"We've done four years of three months a year hard labor and spent close to $40,000, most of which I've gotten back," Kuersteiner said. "Some people spend their money having big parties; we spend our money doing this."

The Mystery Playhouse of Terror not only makes money for its organizers; it also benefits the local community. Twenty percent of all ticket sales on a given night are given to the organization that assists in the performances for the night.

This year, several groups, such as V89 Student Radio, Kappa Kappa Gamma and the Tallahassee Film Society are helping out. The FSU College Republicans and College Democrats also put aside their political differences to assist and put a bipartisan scare in Tallahassee.

"Like most people, I admire the work these local groups do and want to see them succeed," Kuersteiner said. "But it's always easier to contribute money when they give you something fun in return."

The volunteers do a lot of the work but most believe it is worth it.

"It's really fun, a bit tedious at times, but we're doing it for charity," said sophomore Tracy Arkin, member of Kappa Kappa Gamma.

When volunteers arrive at the Mystery Playhouse of Terror, they are assigned performance roles throughout the house. This often results in them getting dressed and made up, using props and getting used to performing.

"I get to be the girl that gets cut in half," Arkin said. "During the volunteering part, the magician picks me and he cuts me in half and then he leaves me there to die."

Unfortunately, this is the last year for the Mystery Playhouse of Terror. The building, owned by Sparky Sparkman, a former accounting professor at FSU, is being sold.

Kuersteiner commented on hearing the news of the impending sale.

"I am disappointed, but I can't be disappointed at him (Sparkman) because he allowed us to have it for four years," Kuersteiner said. "It's a sweet regret."

But the volunteers are happy to have had the opportunity while it lasted.

"I'm sure they will be moving on to bigger and better things," Arkin said.

So for a real scare this Halloween, visit the Mystery Playhouse of Terror.

"It may be our last year, but it will also be our best," Kuersteiner said.

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