There's something twisted going on in Dave Helfrey's brain. The man spends the majority of his time thinking about the psychology of fear—and he's not in a Ph.D. program. His major influences? Rob Zombie and Pee-wee Herman. So it shouldn't come as a surprise that this 41-year-old freelance creative director is the debauched dude behind Portland's most popular Halloween haunted house: Baron Von Goolo's (vohn-GOO-low) Museum of Horrors & 8-Piece Bucket of Doom. It's one of three spooky events produced by his group, the 1031 Theatre, which is responsible for the freakiest attraction Portland's ever seen: FrightTown, a 40,000-square-foot smorgasbord of haunted houses currently buried in the bowels of the Rose Quarter's Memorial Coliseum.
What makes FrightTown so freaking cool—the Baron's Museum in particular—is that Helfrey's idea of pee-yer-pants scary isn't exactly your average Freddy Krueger gorefest (although his newest house, the Black Box, does have a more mainstream blood-'n'-guts element). Instead, Helfrey digs a little deeper into the subconscious, unearthing evil bunnies and social taboos as he goes. "I don't know anybody who's been killed with a chain saw," says Helfrey. "But dozens of people are scared of homosexuals." Ergo, Bronco Bobby was born: A 6-foot-6-inch wings-'n'-tutu-wearing football player with kewpie-doll makeup, who maniacally switches between acting like an effeminate fairy godmother and a brutally violent linebacker. One can see how the city's homophobe set might find this character unsettling (and how the rest of us might find their discomfort—and Bobby—a scream).
Goofy spookiness has been a theme for Helfrey for decades. (His design work often looks like acid-laced Saturday morning cartoons.) Thus, Helfrey and Von Goolo's crew of 60 ghouls approach fear with their tongue planted firmly in their cheek. Years ago, during a private Halloween bash in Los Angeles, he rigged up a scene that included puke-like cat food, Herb Alpert's Tijuana Brass and a floating chimpanzee corpse. "People would walk out and be completely confused," he says. "We weren't scaring people per se, but we were totally fucking with their brains."
And that's what the Museum of Horrors is about: the discomfort of being inside your oddest nightmare, whether it's evil clowns, surgery, being put in the spotlight, or running into Honeybuckets, a 500-pound guy with a diaper fetish. "In the best situation, when you meet someone who's 500 pounds, you're thrown off by that," Helfrey says. "Now, he's wearing a diaper and he's chasing you down the hall. No one's feeling comfortable."
Baron Von Goolo's Museum of Horrors & 8-Piece Bucket of Doom can be found at FrightTown, beneath the Memorial Coliseum at the Rose Quarter, 1401 N Wheeler Ave., www.frighttown.com . 7 pm nightly through Oct. 31. $20. All ages. For more events, see page 53.