PLEASANTON -- Most right-thinking humans do their best to avoid zombies, but hundreds of adrenaline-seeking potential victims will head into their lair on July 11-12, when "The Great Horror Campout" comes to the Alameda County Fairgrounds.

For 12 hours, from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. each night, an expected 800 adventure addicts and fright fans will battle the undead in a macabre marathon scavenger hunt featuring detached digits and severed heads. The event is on the leading edge of a new form of entertainment -- extended live horror attractions that give participants a chance to act out their fantasies as never before.

"Horror as a genre is the number-one movie genre in the world," said Melissa Carbone, president and CEO of Ten Thirty One Productions, the Los Angeles-based company that produces the event. "People loved to be scared in a safe environment; there's an adrenaline rush similar to going down a massive rollercoaster. There's a rush, an adrenaline, to surviving that, and with horror it's the same thing ... You can't bottle it; the only way is to seek out something that terrifies you."

Participants at the campout come prepared with everything from sleeping bags to changes of clothing. They're assigned tents for the night, and given "dossiers" with tips for surviving the zombie hordes. From there, campers can tailor their experience to their own comfort level. Novices might opt only for a campfire marshmallow roast, a zombie makeup lesson, a life-size game of "Operation" (in a lifelike "body") and horror movie screenings, for example; while thrill-seekers choose a more extreme experience, including participating in the "Hellhunt," a sort of monstrous scavenger hunt.

"They might be jumping into a swimming hole trying to find (items), or become caged, trapped or kidnapped," Carbone said. "You may have to bathe in the blood of a Pope Lick (an arachnid-like creature) or engage in a sacrificial ritual. At the end of the night, if we've done our job right, people should be going home bloody, dirty, muddy and wet."

Multiple events are presented throughout the night, populated by 100 actors transformed into an army of creatures. Despite the gory concept, strict attention is paid to safety, Carbone added.

"At no time is anyone ever in any real danger," she said.

After its Pleasanton stint, the zombie invasion will go on to perform in Sacramento, Portland, Seattle, San Diego and San Bernadino.

The experience attracts a range of people excited to experience what they've only read about or seen on the screen, Carbone said.

"The thing they really love, that's catching on like wildfire, is that it's literally putting yourself in a slasher film," she said. "There's nothing that exists . . . where you can actually sever heads, break ribs, swim through a nighttime swimming hole with leeches all over you -- that is so safe but so much fun. There is so much cerebral game play and hands-on action for you to get the entire experience.

"The main point is that we want people to understand that this isn't just for the extreme horror enthusiast," she said. "At its very core it's just fun."

ZOMBIE FUN
The Great Horror Campout will be held at the Alameda County Fairgrounds in Pleasanton on
July 11-12. For details, visit http://greathorrorcampout.com. Tickets range in price from $99 to $139 Campers must be age 18 or older.