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Horror show coming to Al. Ringling Theatre

September 30, 2016 GMT

On Saturday, the rumors will become true: The Al. Ringling Theatre will be haunted.

Locals have long whispered that the downtown Baraboo theater remains inhabited by the man who built it, despite Al. Ringling’s death a century ago. In that spirit, a Baraboo native is staging a horror show to benefit the historic playhouse.

Rich Peterson is the campy mind behind “Bordello of Horror,” a weekly Madison-based television show. Its madcap cast produces sketches that serve as an opening act for classic horror movies.

“Lots of people just watch for our bits,” said Peterson, a 1984 Baraboo High School graduate.

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On Saturday, they’ll perform live on the Ringling stage before introducing the Lon Chaney film “Spider Baby.” Entertainment will include comedy sketches, a game show and assorted shenanigans led by emcee Dr. Ivan Cryptosis. Proceeds from $10 ticket sales will benefit the theater.

Peterson said he participated in a seance at the theater office while in high school, and is eager to return. “This is the first time we’ve ever done anything live,” Peterson said. “I think everybody’s a little nervous, but we’ll pull it off.”

The cast’s performance is part of a night full of activities. Baraboo Burger Co. is planning drink specials, including a cocktail called the “Freak Show,” before the theater doors open at 6:30 p.m. After the 7:30 p.m. show, the festivities will move to Pumphouse Bar and Grill off Highway 123. The free “after party” will feature a costume contest and a performance by local rock band Deadlok. (Costumes won’t be allowed inside the refurbished theater.)

“We wanted to make it a good time for everybody,” Peterson said. “We’ve got some cool stuff lined up.”

Horror is a sideline for Peterson, who works by day as a pizza maker. Years ago, he worked at Roberto’s Italian Café on South Boulevard. Peterson formerly worked as a music promoter, but left that cutthroat business in 2007 to establish a horror film festival.

That experience led him to help create “Bordello of Horror,” which is celebrating its 100th episode and its third year on the air. Thanks to viewers who watch the show online at www.horrorhost.net, “Bordello of Horror” has more than 4,000 viewers. “We’ve gotten a lot of viewers across the United States that way,” Peterson said, noting that the show led to appearances at national horror conventions. “Now everybody knows us.”

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He recruited longtime friend and fellow Baraboo native Jamie Mason to join the show last year. The 1988 BHS graduate plays Mistress Malicious, who mixes potent potions, offers household tips and feeds people to her pet plant. “You can’t help but like her, but she’s absolutely insane,” Mason said.

The cast writes its own scary and kooky sketches, then films four episodes at a time. Peterson handles the editing. He also plays a character called Freakshow. “It’s all for the love of it,” Peterson said. Saturday’s show will be filmed for broadcast.

He doesn’t return to his hometown often, but Peterson said he’s happy to support the Ringling Theatre – and to make sure it’s haunted, at least for one night. “There’s a huge buzz about this show,” he said.

Mason put off Peterson’s recruiting efforts for a few years but is pleased she gave in. “It’s been a fun experience,” she said, adding that Saturday’s audience is in for some surprises. “It’s going to be highly entertaining.”

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