Screams, snacks and scares at Ferg Fright Mania

Screams, snacks and scares at Ferg Fright Mania

CW / Jake Stevens

Spider webs hung from the banisters and bloody handprints stained the floors of the Ferguson Student Center on Friday night as muted screams resounded through the halls. 

The Fright Mania Halloween Festival on Oct. 12 had all the hallmarks of a classic Halloween party, from a costume contest to bobbing for apples.

“They just kind of wanted to do a fall festival since it had never been done on campus before,” said Levin McNeal, event programmer for University Programs and a senior majoring in exercise science. “And this was our first time, so we thought, ‘Hey, why not give it a shot?’"

With an event this large that offered different activities, McNeal said the process took a little over two months to plan.

Students on the second floor trick-or-treated, ate pizza, enjoyed refreshments, danced to their favorite Halloween tunes and got airbrush tattoos.

“I like how they had a lot of different options and a lot of different food and drink options, as well as entertainment,” said Ashley Brown, a senior majoring in accounting.

Upstairs, however, the mood was more intense.

The Ferguson Center Ballroom on the third floor was transformed into a zombie laser tag arena and a haunted house. The latter was among the most anticipated attractions of the night, drawing a line of students that at times stretched from the ballroom entrance, through the hallway past the SOURCE office and all the way down the main staircase to the second floor.

Alexis Crawley, a junior majoring in criminal justice, said the event was a good setting, and she didn’t realize many people would attend.

“It was just nice to have something to do, especially while the football team is away,” Crawley said. “So people have something to have fun with for the weekend.”

Students waited approximately 45 minutes to walk through the haunted house. As groups of three or four shimmied through dark, narrow corridors, encountering a variety of horrific scenes, volunteers dressed in costumes and makeup jumped out causing screams and shrieks from students. Some costumed volunteers followed groups through the black passages, creeping up behind unsuspecting students and yelled or grabbed onto them.

Jalisa Rawlinson, office assistant for University Programs and a sophomore majoring in accounting, said the group had to remember that some students don’t celebrate Halloween, while others do.

“Two weeks was kind of crunch time to get everything settled down and finalize everything,” Rawlinson said. “We kinda had the fall festival for people that didn’t really celebrate Halloween and a haunted house for those who did celebrate Halloween.”

Laser tag was another popular and unique feature of Fright Mania. “Zombie hunters” strapped on sensors and armed themselves with red laser-firing guns and headed into the arena. Groups were split into two teams and instructed to stand in opposite corners of the arena.

When the referee said “go,” players scattered around the colorful obstacles, illuminated by black lights strategically placed around the ballroom. The team that scored the most points by firing their lasers into the opposing team’s sensors was declared the winner.

Meanwhile, more than 30 competitors took part in the costume contest held in the Ferg Theater. Characters from of all types were represented, from Left Shark of Super Bowl XLIX fame to princesses and superheroes.

Brown dressed up as the Comic Book Girlfriend and decorated her face in makeup that resembled pop art.

“Well I actually decided to do this costume because it didn’t require a lot of outside work or items,” Brown said. “I just had to get a makeup kit, and then, kind of put on some clothes that matched the theme… It was my first time doing this makeup, and it turned out pretty well.”

Queen Elsa from "Frozen" stood alongside Egyptian goddesses while Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy from "Spongebob Squarepants" were seen next to The Crimson Knight –– a student wearing a Crimson Tide flag as a cape and a Batman mask that had been painted red and adorned with a white script A logo.

The winner of the costume contest, an Ancient Forest Guardian, even took home a pair of tickets to see stand-up comedian DeRay Davis in Birmingham this December.

While the goal of University Programs' event was to appeal to students’ interests, McNeal said the group didn’t expect a large number of attendees.

“We were estimating about 600 people, and right about now we’re at 1300 or 1400,” McNeal said. “So we exceeded the numbers way beyond what we thought.”

After the event, University Programs stated on Twitter that the number of attendees exceeded 2000.

“We ran out of food a couple times, but we’ve all gone to Publix and bought everything Publix had,” Rawlinson said. “So Publix probably hates us right now, but it’s OK.”

Because of the positive response and the unexpected turnout, McNeal said she thinks the event should be bigger next year.

“Seeing it all come together like all of the hard work,” McNeal said. “And you can take a deep breath, and you’re like, ‘It happened. We did it.’ “

University Programs hosts a variety of events throughout the year. To find out more information, visit

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