Melissa Hovan, who was pictured in full costume with an article on Thursday about the Vampire Manor haunted house, is not earning school credit for her work with the project sponsored by the Charles County Dive Rescue squad. Students who volunteer for the project are eligible to receive public service credits required for high school graduation. However, Hovan already has accumulated all the credits she needs for that purpose. (Published 10/31/1999)

Waldorf teenagers April Arbaugh, Ashley Savoy and Stephanie Spears huddled together in line last week, waiting to enter Vampire Manor, a 75-year-old two-story home that is unsettlingly reminiscent of the Bates Motel from "Psycho."

Vampire Manor--located off Route 301 just south of Bel Alton Road--is a haunted house operated each Halloween season by Charles County Dive Rescue. Nestled among stark oak trees and other spooky-looking landscape, the house already has been scaring folks for a couple of weeks and opens at 7:30 tonight through Sunday. Admission is $8 for adults and $4 for children under 12, with proceeds to fund the rescue group's operations.

The three teenagers at the front of the line last Thursday evening admitted they were "a little scared," but were managing to keep their cool. After all, there were boys in the growing line of Southern Marylanders awaiting what they hoped would be an adrenaline-filled tour of terror. Eventually, a masked guide arrived, checked tickets and whisked the girls away as each pushed another to the head of the line. Then the gate closed and they were gone.

For 20 minutes, there was no sign of the trio. Moans and shrill screams occasionally pierced the cold air, frightening the next folks in line. The whir of a distant chain saw cut through the night, followed by more screams. This time, closer.

But these shrieks weren't emanating from some tortured soul holed up in the evil house in the woods. It was Arbaugh, Savoy and Spears bursting through Vampire Manor's exit, gasping and flushed and, by all appearances, terrified. "Ohmigosh, ohmigosh, ohmigosh," they blubbered.

Still trembling, Spears took a breath, tossed her blond braids and exclaimed: "Let's go again!"

That's the kind of reaction that makes William "Skeeter" Porter very happy. Porter, Dive Rescue's chief, is proud of the work his squad puts into the house, purchased this summer with money saved from a decade-long tradition as Southern Maryland's scariest Halloween attraction. A good October at the spook house can rake in up to 80 percent of Company 13's operating costs. Vampire Manor is, well, the lifeblood of the rescue team, which runs without county funding.

"After 11 years, it's a challenge to come up with new stunts and tricks," Porter said, standing outside the house as a Dive Rescue dummy swung from a noose on a nearby tree.

But even longtime fans were impressed with this year's freak show lineup, which includes deranged housewife "Momma," graveyard fiends, werewolfs, ghouls and goblins of all varieties.

"Best it's ever been, Skeeter!" called Kathleen Caywood, a La Plata resident who has attended every year, as she led her two children to the car after a trip inside. For the first two years of the fund-raiser, Caywood herself burst out of a coffin as a volunteer.

Now, the undead are mainly local middle and high school students who get to putty their faces and rip their clothes in exchange for public service volunteer points necessary in schools these days. Some students like their alter egos so much they return year after year, becoming "naturals" at scaring the daylights out of visitors.

"I know exactly who to go after," confided 17-year-old Matt Irby, a Bryans Road resident in charge of one of the scariest stops in the tour. "It's just fun. I mean, you don't really get to scare people with a chain saw too often."

Macabre Menu: Choose Your Chills

From the sweet--hayrides, pumpkins, candy--to the sinister--ghouls, goblins, ghosts--there are plenty of ways to celebrate Halloween in Southern Maryland this year.

Joining traditional costume parties and haunted houses are a Monster Mash cruise at the Calvert Marine Museum and supernatural legends at Sotterley. Here's a guide to Halloween fun for all ages:

Today

* Halloween Costume Contest at 7 p.m. at the Southern Community Center in Lusby. Judges will determine the most creative costumes for all ages. Free. 410-586-1101.

* Hobo Dinner, 6:30-8:30 p.m. at Northeast Community Center in Chesapeake Beach. This annual Halloween bash will include dinner, games and a costume contest. $4. 410-257-2554.

* Vampire Manor haunted house at 7:30 p.m. at the corner of Route 301 and Irving Road in Bel Alton. The Charles County Dive Rescue's annual fund-raising event will be open every night through Sunday. $8, adults; $4, children under 12. 301-934-3047.

Friday

* Haunted Stage, 6-7:30 p.m. at Charles County Community College in La Plata. Tour the haunted stage and receive a special treat. $5. 301-934-7828.

Saturday

* Tales for a Haunted Trail, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. at Annmarie Garden on Dowell Road in Solomons. More than 60 local businesses and outreach programs will offer candy and treats at booths along a trail. Ghost stories, mournful melodies and hayrides also offered. Free. 410-326-4640.

* Harry Potter Halloween Party at 11 a.m. at the St. Mary's County Memorial Library's Lexington Park branch. This event is for children through age 12. Come in costume and enjoy stories, games, crafts and refreshments. Free. 301-863-8188. There is also a costume party at 10 a.m. at the Charlotte Hall branch. Free. 301-884-2211.

* Pumpkin Patch Fund-Raiser, 10 a.m.-7 p.m. at Lakeside Church, 2900 Smallwood Dr., Waldorf. Features include story time, children's games, costume contest and a vote for the most festive, "non-scary" decorated car trunk. Free; donations for youth group welcome. 301-870-8707.

* Ghost Tales, noon-4 p.m. at the historic Port Tobacco courthouse. The one-room schoolhouse will be open and the ghostly legend of Blue Dog will be told hourly. Free. 301-934-4313.

* Ghosts of Sotterley, 5:30-10 p.m. at Sotterley Plantation in Hollywood. Live music, food, cider, bonfire, storytelling, hayrides and trick-or-treating are included. $5, adults; $1, children 12 and under. $3 for the annual ghost tour. 1-800-681-0850.

* VFW Post 10081 and Ladies Auxiliary Halloween Dance, 9 p.m.-1 a.m. at the Post, Route 301 in Bel Alton. Live music provided by Out of Order and there will be a costume contest. Free. 301-934-8271.

Sunday

* Hallelujah Eve at 6:30 p.m. at the Rock Church of Southern Maryland in St. Leonard. This alternative to trick-or-treating will feature hayrides, games and entertainment. Free. 410-586-1272.

* Monster Mash Cruise aboard the Wm. B. Tennison at 4:30 p.m. at the Calvert Marine Museum in Solomons. This event is geared toward children and families, with prizes going to scariest, cutest and funniest costumes. Children must be accompanied by an adult. $5, adults; $3, children 5-12; free, children under 3. 410-326-2042.

* Radiology department will X-ray Halloween candy until 9 p.m. at Civista Medical Center, 701 E. Charles St. in La Plata. Radiology is at the rear of the hospital, accessible through the emergency room lobby entrance. Free. 301-609-4394.

* St. Charles Towne Center Trick-or-Treat Parade, 3-6 p.m. at the center in Waldorf. There will be appearances by Crime Dog McGruff on Halloween safety and drug and crime prevention. Free. 301-870-6996.

CAPTION: In one hair-raising scene at Vampire Manor, a chained Rachel Shaw screams for help as George Roys prepares to "sacrifice" her.

CAPTION: A skeleton gives Waldorf's Gail Spears, center, and daughter Stephanie Spears, 14, the scare of their night at Vampire Manor in Bel Alton.

CAPTION: Ghoulish community service: Melissa Hovan, 18, will earn school credit for her startling turn as Satan at Vampire Manor.

CAPTION: At Bel Alton's Vampire Manor, April Arbaugh, 14, backs away in fear from a crazed monster.