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Beware The Haunting on the Blue Ghost

To begin a journey into the bowels of the USS Lexington’s The Haunting on the Blue Ghost, guests first have to walk beneath the sinister grin of this ghastly goblin. He might be the least scary thing on board, including the bubbles. Photo by Suzanne Freeman

A demon warns guests not to enter, yet they walk under his widespread arms and wicked smile in fearful anticipation. The tight, hot hallways beyond are painted black or streaked with blood. Vampires, werewolves, zombies and devils lurk in dark corners as guests brush bugs and spiders webs from their faces while walking through horrifying scenes of guts and gore. Welcome to The Haunting on the Blue Ghost on board the USS Lexington in Corpus Christi.

Slated for the last four weekends in October, The Haunting of the Blue Ghost, will be open 7-11 p.m. each Friday and Saturday from Oct. 9 through Halloween, Oct. 31. The event will also make a free guest appearance at Realm’s Con in the American Bank Center on Oct. 2-3 as well.

The annual haunting of an already haunted ship raises more than hackles and goosebumps. The $20 entrance fee benefits a variety of local charities, including the Wounded Warrior Project, all part of a master plan by creator Jose “Abie” Arrisola and his son-in-law, Aaron Moreno.

“We are here doing this to help people,” Arrisola said. “All our actors are volunteers, and most of them are raising money for their organizations. One hundred percent of their profits stays with them.”

For a project that started as a frontyard Halloween decoration, The Haunting on the Blue Ghost has come a long way in both presentation and fundraising opportunities. Each of the 50-60 actors who volunteer every October are given five $20 tickets to sell for each night they work. They keep $10 for their organization, while the other half is split between Arrisola and the Lexington, which pays employees to help with check-in. Arrisola further contributes his portion to the Wounded Warrior Project and, for the first time this year, breast cancer research.

“It’s a hobby for us,” Arrisola said. “If you want to raise money for your loved ones, for whatever reason, let us help you do that.”

Arrisola’s unusual hobby began as a way to entertain a young daughter for Halloween. He was soon entertaining the whole neighborhood, so much so, that TV stations filmed his ever-growing haunted displays for their nightly news. His daughter grew up and married Moreno, who got into the spirit right away.

“When Aaron came into our lives, he decided it would be a better idea for him to lay down in place of the mannequins in the yard for trick-or-treat,” Arrisola said. “I would tell the kids he was fake, and they would touch him and say, ‘He feels real.’ Then, as they were leaving, he would pop up. It was all in good fun.”

Aaron and the rest of the family continued to urge Arrisola to make it bigger each year. Soon, it took up the whole backyard.

“We were talking about going even bigger when one of the kids suggested we put it on the Lexington,” said Arrisola, who has been conducting confined space training for firefighters and refinery workers on board the ship for 20 years. “They [Lexington officials] know how I operate in terms of safety of my clients, so they knew it would be safe.”

A quick daylight tour of the two floors of terror demonstrate the care taken with safety concerns. Doorways sport safety lights, holding rooms are air-conditioned, all actors are equipped with radios and flashlights, CPR-trained volunteers are placed strategically throughout and a system to instantly light the entire layout for evacuation has been set up. Fortunately, none of those precautions have ever been necessary, Arrisola said, adding that even the ghosts who live on the ship year-round help with safety.

“I had some guests say that someone dressed as a sailor walked behind them to keep them from being afraid,” Arrisola said. “I told them I don’t allow any of the volunteers to dress as sailors. There were no sailors in uniform on the ship at the time.”

Although he is more into the manufactured horrors, Arrisola has a respect for the ghosts he said he knows for certain occupy the ship.

“I always invite the sailors, the ghosts, to come play, but I ask them to be nice,” he said. “I’ve never had a violent occurrence.”

What does occur, he said, are instances of fans, radios and even an electric drill operating without being plugged into a power source. Others have claimed to feel blasts of air in places without air-conditioning, fans or windows. Bottles have been known to roll from one side of a room to the other on a solidly anchored ship that no longer undulates with the waves.

“All my family members have experienced something, even those who don’t believe,” Arrisola said. “I always say, ‘Don’t look too deep into it and let it go.’”

For Arrisol and Moreno, it’s all part of the entertainment they have worked so hard to produce the past four years. Both have full-time jobs and put in extra hours overnight and on weekends building and promoting the Haunting on the Blue Ghost. Owner of Salt Water Graphics, Moreno designed the logo and the Facebook and web page for the event while being on call to an oil field business 24 hours. He and his wife have four children ages 9 months to 6 years.

Moreno is currently working on a new touch of terror for the haunted ship: an animated electric chair that goes into action as each guest passes by. A lifelike dummy bangs his head against the back of a chair as lights flash and the sounds of electrocution and smoke fill the area. Two projects a bit more fun involve UV bubbles and a black light followed by a moving floor.

The entire haunted experience takes about 20 minutes, Moreno said, and gets more popular each year. Tickets can be purchased in advance through volunteers or by contacting Castle of Terror Productions at (361) 248-TCOT (8268) or The USS Lexington is located at 2914 N. Shoreline Blvd. on North Beach in Corpus Christi.


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