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Haunted house guru is an equal opportunity scarer

People run screaming when they find Federal Way resident Rob Buchta lurking in the dark — and that’s the way he likes it.

Buchta, 35, celebrates Halloween by dressing as one of a variety of morbid characters and haunting those who choose to visit him at a haunted house put on by SCARE Productions, a nonprofit for which he serves as vice president.

He also celebrates Oct. 31 with his birthday, oddly suiting for a man with an imagination so gory and frightful, his mind could be rated NC-17.

It is Halloween year-round in the Buchta household. Rob, his wife, Kat, and their two teenage daughters are all involved with planning the haunted house, a process that begins in February each year.

Rob does makeup, acting, actor coaching, set design, construction and various administrative duties. Kat is the co-head of makeup and serves on the set design committee. Raven, 14, and Kissaundra, 15, help with wardrobe and acting.

The girls have grown up in a world where zombies, vampires, evil clowns, witches and monsters under the bed come over for dinner. Their father is arguably the scariest of the bunch.

“They have a very grounded sense of what is

reality and what is fantasy,” Rob Buchta said. “They’re very rational about the fears that they face.”

Buchta’s fascination with scaring people began at a Halloween-themed party when he was 8 years old.

“My mom dressed me up as a vampire and I went around chasing girls and listening to them scream all night,” he said. “There was an exhilaration that is just so difficult to describe... There is power in it. There is fun in it.”

In 1995, Buchta found his home with SCARE Productions, a nonprofit theater company that at the time was putting on a show in Des Moines. He and the other volunteers became a tight-knit group, joined by their mutual love for all things morbid and frightful.

These days, Buchta dresses as two characters: “Krusty J. Bumbles III,” an evil clown of terror, and “Rob Zombie,” a ghoulish creature of the night. Both characters are products of his imagination, although the clown was partially inspired by the character in the movie “It.”

As a zombie this past Saturday, Buchta transformed from a pleasant, articulate man to a dark-eyed, grumbling fiend. He shuffled through the crowds of patrons and let out low growls, stalking his prey.

“You look out for people who don’t want to meet you eye-to-eye. If you look at them and they look away, that’s usually a pretty good indication that something’s wrong,” he said.

When he approaches, slowly and purposefully, his victims cower and scream. Sometimes they run.

“What you’re doing is you’re making somebody run and sometimes in complete and utter terror. You’re playing to their fears,” he said.

It isn’t always the young women who flee. Buchta recalls the time he watched a grown man use his girlfriend as a shield to protect himself.

“I’m an equal opportunity scarer,” he said. “The bigger they are, the harder they fall.”

Being hit with a “rational dose of fear” is actually beneficial for a person’s mental health, Buchta said.

“We like to sharpen our reflexes,” he said. “By subjecting ourselves to controlled fear, that would be one of the ways we do it.”

Contact Margo Horner: mhorner@fedwaymirror.com or (253) 925-5565.

The Nightmare at Beaver Lake haunted house, hosted by SCARE Productions and the Rotary Club of Sammamish, runs from 7 to 10 p.m. tonight, Oct. 31, at Beaver Lake Park in Sammamish, Wash. For more information, visit www.nightmareatbeaverlake.com.

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