PANAMA CITY — The zombie apocalypse has arrived in downtown Panama City, and the public is invited to sample the end of the world.
Jessica Pennington, president of the Panama City Jaycees, led a tour of the organization’s annual Haunted House this week, including scenes of undead infestation in classrooms, hospital corridors, dark mazes and a recreation of Harrison Avenue in ruins. This year’s theme: “Your World is Dead.”
In the hospital, a doctor fought to revive an infected man while the dead began to awaken around him. In the school room, little zombie children played with the remains of their teacher. And along the avenue, a flesh-eating creature chowed down on something in front of a sign for Tom’s Hot Dogs — something with too many fingers to be mistaken for a hot dog.
“I was terrified the first time I came here,” Pennington said. “The dark, the people screaming. But it’s a whole different experience when you’re creating it.”
This is the fifth year Pennington, 23, has participated in building the maze of ghastly scenes for the haunted house and her second year in charge of the project. The Gulf Coast State College student said she was hooked after she got a chance to design her first room along the path.
The Haunted House is open every Friday and Saturday night through October, with additional nights on Oct. 25 and 31. (Click here to see a video tour of the Haunted House.)
The Panama City Jaycees was chartered in 1946, and have helped thousands of needy children celebrate Christmas through the annual Christmas Shopping Tour, which along with the annual downtown Christmas Parade celebrated its 63rd anniversary last year.
Cody Davenport, 21, plays the “Hillbilly with a Chainsaw” in the haunted house; he battles zombies to allow visitors a chance to escape. This is his fourth time participating in the event.
“I think it’s really cool to do it because I get to give back to the community,” he said, cradling his chainsaw and sounding much more soft-spoken than his outfit and persona might indicate. “We do the shopping tour, which is really awesome. I love to take the little kids shopping.”
The Jaycees Haunted House raises thousands of dollars each year for local organizations, including the Boys and Girls Club, Children’s Home Society, Panama City Marine Institute and the Humane Society.
“The whole organization is about learning leadership through community service,” Pennington said. “You’re gaining professional experience you will need for being successful in your future career. And for me, I love watching everybody grow and develop and take on leadership roles I used to do.”
JAYCEES HAUNTED HOUSE
- When: 7:30 p.m.-until, Oct. 19-20, 25-27, 31
- Where: 222 E. Beach Drive, Panama City (above the Panama City Marine Institute)
- Cost: $7 ages 18 and younger; $10 ages 19 and older; group rates available
- Why: Benefits local charities
- Details: 763-8282