The rain stopped and gloomy twilight heralded the coming night, as hundreds of guests waited to enter the grounds of the Civil War-era granite fort overlooking the Penobscot River.

Dressed in a hooded, lemon-yellow slicker, holding the string of a blood-red helium-filled balloon, George “Georgie” Denbrough, the little brother of Bill Denbrough, waited to grab and guide the first 12 people into the labyrinth of pitch-black tunnels and frigid walkways through the cold heart of the purportedly haunted Fort Knox. At the Saturday night grand opening of the Stephen King-themed Fright at the Fort, volunteer high school student guides from Searsport District Middle and High School, and Bucksport High School, wore rain slickers and carried the Pennywise red balloons, based on the 2017 remake of the movie, “It.”

Leon Seymour, the former executive director of Fort Knox and the founder of Fright at the Fort, who died in May, handled all of the arrangements needed to obtain permission from King to portray characters from his novels and stories at the event. For 18 years, Seymour had organized and promoted Fright at the Fort, according to Dean L. Martin, the current executive director. Martin added that it had been Seymour's dream to host a King-themed event.

“It's our annual event and it raises more than 80 percent of our fundraising revenue,” Martin said. “It allows us to do capital improvement projects like the one that is upcoming, a new roof over Two-Step Alley, which has a six-figure architect's estimate attached.”

This is the fifth year that Toby Kroening, a Searsport senior, has volunteered for the popular event. In two past events, he was a spook character.

“I like tour-guiding the best,” Kroening said. “I'm really excited to do it this year because I like doing spooky things in October.”

Lily Stratton, a Searsport sophomore, said this is the second event she served as a guide. The King-themed experience "is amazing," she added.

“People are saying they are having a lot more fun this year than last year,” Stratton said. “There's a lot more people here for opening night than last year.”

After meeting their guide, guests are escorted toward the entrance of the Pet Semetary. As they turn a blind corner, they are confronted by a maniac wielding a roaring chainsaw. During the journey, visitors come upon “All work and no play makes Jack (Torrance from The Shining) a very dull boy,” with a character carrying a very sharp ax. Ahead is the Overlook Hotel's hedge maze; and, don't be surprised by an encounter with a large, rabid Saint Bernard, named Cujo.

“It was good,” Felix and Rhonda Thibbodeau, of Etna, said as they left the event. “It's our first time. You could tell the props were from some of his (King's) movies and books. They (the actors) got us a few times; and, their costumes were awesome—they had great costumes.”

Never fear, Stephen King fans, the event continues 5:30 to 9 p.m., Oct. 19, 20, 26 and 27. Tickets at the gate are $10 for adults and $5 for ages under 12. Advance Express Tickets, which allow holders to avoid standing in line, are available on line for $13 adults, $7 for under 12.