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'Madd Hatters' offer spooky fun with a purpose

YAKIMA - Two haunted houses under one roof is daunting enough, but the Madd Hatters Haunt now underway in Yakima aims to do something more.

Proceeds from the event will help 10 Yakima Valley charities. The amount each charity receives is based on their time spent volunteering to run the haunted houses located at 210 N. Fifth Ave. in Yakima, the Old Dollar Store building.

Barb Petrea is one of the organizers of Madd Hatters Haunt, and she says Lower Valley non-profit causes benefitting from the event include children on a baseball team and local residents fighting cancer. She said other groups include FFA and military families.

The event takes its name and theme from a very real medical issue in the 18th century, when hatmakers used mercury salts to make felt for fancy hats. Eventually the mercury affected the hat makers' nervous systems, causing uncontrollable twitches and tremors, making them appear demented.

Picking up on the historic reality, Petrea and company have established the annual Madd Hatters Haunt, which invites visitors through the corridors of an imaginary hat making company to witness the haunted souls within.

Petrea said she decided on a mad hatter theme because her father, who died after a battle with cancer, dressed up as the character when she had a story-book themed wedding ceremony.

As for the second D in the word Madd, Petrea says it represents d for Dad.

The first of two haunts at the Old Dollar Store allows you to visit some of the patients and experience their pain. The second haunt, with the theme phobias, has several different varieties of fear that haunt those people "with somewhat normal brain waves."

The Madd Hatters Haunt is not recommended for small children. Those with heart problems or are pregnant are asked not to enter the haunts. In addition, artificial fog used in the haunts may cause a reaction to those with asthma or have other conditions that cause them to be sensitive to the environment around them.

The Madd Hatters Haunt is open Sunday through Thursday from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m., Saturday and Sunday from 6 p.m. to midnight. It is open every day now through Halloween on Sunday, Oct. 31.

The price is $7 for one haunt and $10 for both haunts. Information is also available at maddhattershaunt.com.

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