By Julie Lawrence Special to Published Nov 01, 2007 at 10:04 AM

Every October I say that I am going to get a crew of friends together and drive out to the boonies for the ultimate in haunted house experiences, and every year I don't. Maybe it's the hike to Hubertus that hinders me? Maybe it's the project of assembling a group of 20-somethings and their cars for a long ride on a Friday or Saturday night?

This year, I thankfully discovered (while compiling OnMilwaukee' haunted house guide) that the Mars Haunted House is located on 7th and Mitchell Street, a mere mile or so from my house. I knew I had to take advantage of its proximity, no matter how cheesy I thought it might be.

Halloween also happens to be my birthday, so I wisely played that card and managed to get a group of six to join me on this most wicked of weeknights.

Again, I'm not sure where, exactly, my skepticism came from, but there was just something about the "urban" haunted house on a main street that seemed slightly less creepy than a dilapidated old mansion out in the middle of nowhere.

Nevertheless, the Web site reeled me in and we went. We arrived just after 9 p.m. last night and I was happy to see a long line of people that trailed down Mitchell and around the corner, down 8th Street. It's not that I enjoy waiting, but there is something about hearing the screams coming from inside for a good 20 minutes that really amps the anticipation. Plus, there were a fair share of monsters, freaks and creeps in costume mingling throughout the line -- including one ultra-nasty "bloody tampon man."

As we neared the entrance, we paid our $10 each and headed up a dark staircase to the house. Overall, there was nothing particularly outrageous about this haunted house, but I feel that it was definitely worth my $10. For one thing, it was long -- we were in there for what felt like at least 15-20 minutes, wandering through about 30 different rooms -- which is one thing that so many places tend to skimp on.

Secondly, like the Web site boasted, there was indeed "ample darkness," which, for me, is way scarier than all the fake blood or a dead guy breathing down your neck. There is seriously nothing more terrifying than the unknown, and Mars worked that angle well.

So, while it's no Splatter Haus (nothing is, really) Mars Haunted House does a pretty decent job of spooking you without the car caravan out of the city. Obviously Halloween night was its final night, so mark this one down for next year.

Julie Lawrence Special to staff writer Julie Lawrence grew up in Wauwatosa and has lived her whole life in the Milwaukee area.

As any “word nerd” can attest, you never know when inspiration will strike, so from a very early age Julie has rarely been seen sans pen and little notebook. At the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee it seemed only natural that she major in journalism. When offered her an avenue to combine her writing and the city she knows and loves in late 2004, she knew it was meant to be. Around the office, she answers to a plethora of nicknames, including “Lar,” (short for “Larry,” which is short for “Lawrence”) as well as the mysteriously-sourced “Bill Murray.”