Last call for Mortis Manor: grand finale kicks off Tuesday at Nevada County Fairgrounds
Know & Go
What: Terror at the Feargrounds
When: 6-9 p.m. Oct. 28-31
Where: Nevada County Fairgrounds
For info: Tickets are $18 for general admission at the event. Advance sale tickets are discounted at $15, and can be purchased at drmortis.com, Raley’s in Grass Valley, SPD Markets, from Nevada Union High School Drama Students, or from the Mortis Manor Hearse.
Parking is free.
The frights are on for one more go-round, as Dr. Mortis will present Terror at the Feargrounds for the last time.
Mortis’ retirement tour will begin on Tuesday and will run each day from 6-9 p.m. through Halloween night at the Nevada County Fairgrounds. The souls that are brave enough to attend the event will have three haunted houses to choose from; Mortis Manor, House of Horrors, and Zombie Hunt.
Chris Navo, who operates as Mortis’ alter-ego, says that he’s going all out in his grand finale.
“The coolest thing about having your last year is that it’s liberating in the fact that all of those things you have been meaning to get to we’re doing this year. We’re actually bringing back some props and things that had been retired and we’re bringing new stuff that I’ve been wanting to do for years and years,” he said. “So all sorts of things I’ve brought off the shelves and old goodies that I haven’t used in five or six years. It’s still going to be a jam-packed full haunted house; I think we’ve got 57 rooms … (and) somewhere in the neighborhood of 60 or 70 actors. It’s going to be a blast.”
Navo cites issues with rules and regulations, as well as the ability to spend more time with his family, as reasons why he decided to phase out his haunted houses. Although he usually receives approval to begin building in the fairgrounds in the spring, allowing him to work on the project all summer, he says he had to wait until the end of September this year, casting doubt on whether Dr. Mortis would even happen this year.
“Unfortunately, (since I wasn’t) getting approval until the end of September, I wasn’t going to build until I had a place to build it at. So actually, this last summer I had free time for the first time in 20 years,” Navo said. “I started thinking more and more about the free time I was able to get with my family and it just made it more appealing that it was probably time to retire.
“We’ve been doing this for almost 20 years, and all good things have to come to an end eventually,” he continued. “To me, I would rather go out while we were still popular and let everyone know this was our final year, versus finding out after the fact that we got canceled and couldn’t put one on. There’s nothing negative. I’d rather go out when we’re all healthy, happy and everything like that.”
As for a potential return in the future, Navo doesn’t think that’s likely. All the decorations and supplies used in the production will go on sale, and what isn’t purchased will be distributed to other haunted houses in Northern California, Navo says. While he will continue to use the Dr. Mortis name, as he also builds props and consults with other haunted houses, a Mortis Manor comeback isn’t in the cards.
“(I won’t bring back the haunted house) personally, just because of the amount of work. This gets designed and planned starting in February. We actually submitted our application for approval back in April, so that shows you how many months ahead of time this comes, which no one is really thinking about except for me. But if the right person purchased all of the stuff, the name isn’t for sale but everything else, I’d be more than happy to consult with them and give them tips on how to do it. So there might be behind-the-scenes stuff where I might be here and there, but I do so many other productions and helping people throughout the year that I’ll be doing my own thing,” he said.
Though Navo seems ready to move on, he says he’ll miss the community that helped turn a window display he had set up two decades ago into a major event in Nevada County.
“I’m going to miss all of the different relationships that we’ve had since the inception. (There have been) somewhere in the neighborhood of 300 or 400 different (Nevada Union Drama) students that have been actors and actresses in this, and we have somewhere between 1,000 and 3,000 people every year. So you figure over the course of time we’ve had 30,000 to 50,000 people. We’ve raised somewhere between $75,000 to $80,000, up to this point, for different charities. So all the way around, I’m going to miss the whole experience,” said Navo.
“I had no idea (it would get this big), but this community is amazing and I am so blessed to be in it. When I have needed something, someone has stepped forward, whether that’s a business or a person. Really, it’s the combination of all of us; everyone in Nevada County that’s helped since its inception creating this and making it so big. When I started, there was a decoration in a window and I had quite a few people standing outside looking at how cool it was. I would never have expected it to turn into the largest, longest running haunted house in Nevada County,” he added.
Spencer Kellar is an intern with The Union. He can be reached at NCPCINternC@theunion.com.
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