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CHECK IT OUT HALLOWEEN FUN

Normally nice places have turned naughty for a few weeks. Forts are frightening. Shopping malls are haunted. The woods are wicked.

It's Halloween. Time to go out of our way to get scared silly. Or just to have some Halloween fun.

And here are some places to do it:

The Van Horn Mansion welcomes its guests, but also guarantees some uninvited characters. It is open between 6:30 and 10:30 tonight, Friday and Sunday. Reservations required (434-8005). Cost is $6.50 per adult; $5 for children 12 and under.

Directions: Take Route 78 North to Newfane. Keep going (about three miles) to a big red brick building on the right side of the road.

Each year dentists Paul Weiss and Walter Zimdahl set up a haunted house in the basement of the East Amherst Medical Building, 1150 Youngs Road, Williamsville. They charge admission and then share the proceeds with a charitable group. This year the money will go to Camp Good Days and Special Times, which supports children who have cancer.

Visitors will see a swamplike setting, a la "Creature From the Black Lagoon," with lurking creatures; a laboratory with Frankenstein's monster; a cemetery; a funeral home, and perhaps an appearance by the most famous resident of the Bates Hotel. This fourth annual event will be held from 6 to 9 p.m. Friday and 1 to 7 p.m. Saturday. Admission is $3 for adults and $2 for children. It's not recommended for children under 7.

Scary stories will be told in the cemetery.

The Lackawanna Public Library invites some Lackawanna residents to read stories of their choosing to get everyone in the mood for Halloween. It starts at 7 p.m. Wednesday in Howard's Cemetery, located behind the library, which is at 560 Ridge Road, Lackawanna. Refreshments in the library will follow the storytelling. There is no charge.

Here's a historic haunting. Old Fort Niagara allows brave visitors into the darkened fortress, where they will come face to face with spirits from the past. The only light inside the ancient stone building will be cast by a few candles and lanterns.

Reservations are required. Spaces are available this evening, Sunday and Nov. 1 (Saturday is sold out). Cost is $6 adults, $4 for children
between 8 and 12 (it's not recommended for children under 8). Those under 18 must be accompanied by an adult.) Call 745-7611.

Halloween Homecoming Action has the UB Bulls playing the Hofstra Flying Dutchmen at 1:30 p.m. Saturday on the North Campus. There will be free cider and doughnuts, a haunted castle bounce house, face painting, masks and candy. Ticket information at 645-6666.

The Lockport Haunted Cave, a perfect spot for this sort of thing, gets even more creepy with its annual haunting. This year the 3,000-foot-long cave will be the setting for a ghost story. Admission is by reservation only. (Cost is $15 per person; not recommended for under age 7.) Call 888-SPOOK ME. Entrance and ticket office is at 21 Main St., Lockport.

The Farm, on Route 19 between Warsaw and Wyoming's Gaslight Village, features a haunted house, a costume parade, refreshments and prizes at 3 p.m. Saturday. There's also a petting zoo, nature trails and country farm displays and sales.

Martin's Fantasy Island, 2400 Grand Island Blvd., Grand Island, is a spooktacular place these days. There's a ghost train featuring chills and thrills and a haunted maze.

Hours through Oct. 30 are 6 to 10 p.m. weekdays and 5 to 10 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, weather permitting.

Pre-sale price (call 773-7591) is $9.95 per person and includes use of the rides and Halloween attractions. Other prices are available for those who want to partake of only a portion of the activities.

At the Buffalo Zoo, the annual Zooper Pumpkin Patch is under way with weekend pumpkin painting. On Saturday and Sunday there will be demonstrations on things that go bump in the night at 1:30 and 2:30 p.m. Also, on Sunday, Spooky Spider Costume day, children in costumes will receive a treat at the gate. Admission is charged.

Terror in the Woods is threatened at the Donald F. Miller Park, 1601 Sweeney St., North Tonawanda. Hours are from 6 to 10 tonight, Friday and Saturday and 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. next Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Reservations are suggested (743-8033) with an entrance fee of $5. One more suggestion: "Wear a comfortable pair of shoes: You'll need them to run."

Ghost Walk '97 is an hourlong, one-mile tour of haunted and mystical sites in downtown Buffalo. It begins at 8 p.m. Friday and Tuesday at the Third Room of the Calumet Building on Chippewa Street. Cost is $5.

McKinley Mall will hold a Halloween parade from 6 to 8 p.m. Oct. 31. Children 12 and under are welcome with an accompanying adult. Also, there's a Scare Away Hunger food drive that continues from noon to 3 p.m. Saturdays in October. Children can feed canned goods to a ghost and a pumpkin.

If you like the feeling of being scared, and lost, get yourself to the Haunted Catacombs VIII at Dick's Plaza, 3637 Union Road, Cheektowaga.

"Within 10 seconds you feel as if you are in the middle of another world," a spokesman said. And you'll be lost in the environs of a graveyard, a mirror maze, Dracula's parlor, an evil forest and Jack the Ripper Alley. Parental guidance is recommended.

Hours are from 6 to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 6 to 11 p.m. Friday; noon to 11 p.m. Saturday, and noon to 8 p.m. Sunday and from 7:30 p.m. to 1 a.m. Halloween.

Adults $7; children $5 (under 10 years old). Proceeds benefit the Variety Club. Call 68-GHOUL.

Summit Park Mall and the Salvation Army will hold a haunted house through Oct. 31 at the mall. Hours are from 6 to 9 p.m. Tuesdays through Friday; noon to 9 p.m. Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. Cost is $3 adults; $2 for children under 12. Trick-or-treat will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. Oct. 31.