Work was never dull at the Brigantine Castle, a popular haunted house at which Egg Harbor Township resident Jim Pashley worked in the late 1970s and early '80s. For most of his professional life since, Pashley has been a builder - which, while lucrative, didn't compare to the satisfaction of his previous gig.
For the past five years, Pashley has worked tirelessly to make Fear Factory, a Mays Landing haunted house in the vein of the Brigantine Castle, a reality. Now, his dream is about to come to fruition, and he couldn't be happier.
"For 22 years, I've been a general contractor, building custom homes on the shore," said Pashley, who lives in the Bargaintown section of the township. "I'm finally getting to do something fun."
Pashley started laying the groundwork for Fear Factory five years ago in a location he owns off Harding Highway, but it was stalled by zoning difficulties. Two years ago, he and his partner reached an agreement on a lease at the Hamilton Mall Power Center, which is located behind the main mall, and for the past eight months, a crew has worked to get the facility open in time for the scaring season.
The Fear Factory invites visitors into the home and business of the fictitious Mays family, a deranged clan of Pashley's invention who lured hapless Jersey Shore tourists to a gruesome end in the 1960s. The haunt's 30,000-square-foot interior is split into two segments, Kill Grille and Mayhem Manor, each of which explores an aspect of the Mayses' deadly plot.
Pashley has filled the facility with state-of-the-art props and animatronics and has assembled a cast of more than 60 actors and actresses who will bring the horrifying story of the Mays family to life for visitors.
Money has been no object to Pashley and his partner, who said they have invested a high six-figure sum into the project. While some might balk at putting so much money into a haunted house, Pashley contends that the horror industry is a lucrative one, and that Fear Factory, which is in a highly accessible area and boasts ample parking, is set up for success.
"These things, once word gets out with them, they're extremely popular among all people," Pashley said. "Pretty much everybody likes to be scared, and they look forward to something, especially if it's done professionally."
The building, which has a massive skull above its entryway, is hard to miss, and has drawn a lot of interest from passersby.
John Alioto was visiting the mall one day when he noticed the building and stuck his head in the door. A Halloween enthusiast who spends hours decorating his Egg Harbor City home for the holiday each year, Alioto offered his services to Pashley as a consultant. He has been on-site for a month and a half now, he said, and not once has it felt like work.
"There's times I'll stay until 12, 3 in the morning, I'll watch the kids until five and then come here and do what I want to do," he said. "It's awesome. It's a lot of fun."
Pashley hopes to have Fear Factory ready this month, although he needs final approval from the township to open his doors. The facility will remain open through the first week in November, at which point he will shut down and begin planning a new attraction for next season, which will begin in June.
The road to getting Fear Factory hasn't been easy, but with the opening in sight, Pashley can't wait to give his visitors a scary good time.
"It'll be a first-class attraction," Pashley said. "People are going to travel from quite a distance to come to it, because it's going to be something special."
Tickets to each attraction, which last about 30 minutes each, are $15, or $26 for a combo pack. Season passes and speed passes also are available.
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For more information about Fear Factory and up-to-date information on its opening, see thefearfactorynj.com.