A Titanic twist on Halloween

If you're looking for a haunted house to visit this Halloween, you can probably find one in your neighborhood.

If you're also looking for a history lesson and a savvy tour for art connoisseurs, the Pageant of the Masters will be happy to oblige.

Actually, "Masters" isn't quite right. For the nights of Oct. 25, 26, 27 and 31, the grounds at 650 Laguna Canyon Road will convert to the Pageant of the Monsters, an occasional event that the Festival of Arts rolls out to put a sophisticated spin on the season's horror festivities.

Instead of the standard converted garage with fake cobwebs and dry ice, the Pageant will offer a tour of a sunken luxury liner — inspired by, oh, you know which one — with actors made up as ghosts at the bottom of the ocean. Guests will make their way through the Irvine Bowl, workshop rooms and backstage area, which will be converted to the ship's ballroom, cinema, elevator, pool room and more.

"A couple years ago, we did a set of the Titanic memorial, and I think that's where I started," said Pageant director Diane Challis Davy. "I started with, 'Well, OK, so what if we themed the whole haunted house to a sinking ship?'"

That Titanic memorial, a replica of the one in Southampton, England, will appear on the walking tour. Previously, it appeared in the Pageant's summer show, "The Genius," and it will join other repurposed sets involving the ocean liner (which, in a slight tweak of history, the Pageant has named the Queen Titania).

This year marks the fourth Monsters event at the Festival of Arts, which first held it in 1996 after Challis Davy came on board. The show recurred the following year and again in 2007.

The idea, Challis Davy said, arose partly from a desire to be resourceful.

"At the end of my first Pageant show, we had so many beautiful sets that we were going to have to destroy and tear apart and throw away," she said. "I thought, 'Oh, we could recycle these sets into a haunted house.' As a kid, I loved Halloween, so I urged other people to join me in almost kind of a volunteer effort to put together a haunted maze, and it was a lot of fun that first year."

In addition to the Queen Titania, the event will include live music, fortune-telling, crafts and more. Those whose tastes run closer to "Shaun of the Dead" or "Alien Encounters" than "Titanic" can also enjoy actors in zombie regalia wandering the grounds and surgeons conducting an alien autopsy.

Among the undead: Sharbie Higuchi, the marketing and public relations director for the Festival of Arts, who expects to have at least one young fan in the crowd.

"My son is 12 years old, and he's a big fan of 'The Walking Dead,'" she said. "It's always on in our house, and he thinks it's pretty cool that Mom's going to be a zombie."

If You Go

What: Pageant of the Monsters

Where: Festival of Arts, 650 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach

When: 6 to 9:30 p.m. Oct. 25, 26, 27 and 31

Cost: $15 for adults, $10 for children 12 and under (not recommended for children under 5)

Information: (800) 487-3378 or http://www.pageanttickets.com

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