A Factory of Fears

Recognizing your need for hair-raising thrills and mind-tingling chills — at least as terrifying as the clans of orange-and-blue and red-and-black-adorned zombies who terrorize the city after the Florida-Georgia game — the Jacksonville Historical Society is planning an event that’s right up your dark alley: the Halloween Party at the Casket Factory.

This decidedly creepy spot adjacent to Old St. Luke’s Hospital will feature three separate areas of Halloween madness crafted to invoke equal parts delight and fright. After all, what could be more deliciously terrifying than a costumed crowd of 500 Jacksonvillians imbibing and carousing around an actual

19th-century casket factory? The thought brings new meaning to the phrase “house of horrors.”

Costumed adults 21 and older will enjoy a scream-worthy series of entertainment

Oct. 26, including live music, tasty snacks from 15 local restaurants, a Labyrinth of Terror and beverages (including adult libations). At the Witching Hour (midnight), one lucky winner of The Totally Amazing Costume Contest will walk away with prizes valued at a cool $1,000.

The party — a fundraiser to benefit restoration and repairs of Old St. Luke’s Hospital — promises a cornucopia of Halloween fun the likes of which the city has never seen.

“Our goal is to have the biggest and most outrageous Halloween party of the century,” said Jacksonville Historical Society board member and Riverside Arts Market cofounder Wayne Wood, the grand maestro behind the party.

The three-story hulk of brick, circa 1882, had been long abandoned when it was purchased along with the hospital by the society last year. Architecturally, it is a study in utility; square and unadorned, it resembles a meat-packing house of old, which, come to think of it, is a rather fair description of its original function. Having served the hospital’s less-fortunate patients through the yellow fever outbreak of 1888 and the Great Fire of 1901, it stands as a morbid reminder of the darker side of the city’s history. Even its image on Google Maps is creepy.

The party is designed around the theme of the Casket Factory. To wit, the evil geniuses behind the event have concocted a backstory to flesh out the idea.

“The most popular legend about the Casket Factory is that the spirit of a long-dead local mortician haunts the building. A strange, tall, cadaverous gentleman named Grimson Boxgood owned a funeral parlor Downtown in the 1920s and prided himself on offering only the best, most beautiful caskets for his clients. It was said that he was obsessed with exquisite burial containers for the deceased, and he was a frequent visitor of the Casket Factory in 
its heyday. …

Eventually the Casket Factory closed. The doors were locked, and many of the windows were bricked solid. Soon thereafter, Grimson Boxgood disappeared. No one knew what happened to him.”

The third floor of the factory will host musical acts Folk is People and Mama Blue. With no less than 5,000 square feet of space, there is enough room for the cast of “Thriller” to challenge vampire Village People and the undead Spice Girls to a dance-off. (Please steal our costume ideas.) There will also be lounging areas, food and drinks aplenty.

For the brave and morbidly curious, the second floor will house a Labyrinth of Terror, a series of spine-tingling rooms of 
varying themes.

“Do not go on the second floor unless you want to be scared,” Wood warned.

Visitors can feast their eyes on a “night gallery” of spooky art and a 3-D blacklight room that might be difficult to escape. Other rooms will feature hair-raising theatrical performances, coffins manufactured onsite and scary steamer trunks decked out by local Steampunk artist Jim Smith. Step into still another room if you can stomach a lesson on 19th-century embalming techniques from an actual mortician, who will have on hand a few of the more horrifying tools of the trade.

If you need some fresh air after that lesson on aspirating and injecting cavity fluid, step outside for drinks and entertainment — rumor has it there may be professional fire dancing as well as live music — under a circus tent. The faint of heart can keep their chicken dancing to the circus tent and third floor if they’re nervous about wetting that sexy Jabba the Hutt costume.