|MadSci Network: Astronomy|
Here's a good FAQ on black holes, which should answer most of your questions.
The gravitational force at a black hole's event horizon will depend on the mass of the black hole. Strangely enough, the bigger the black hole, the less of a gravitational force! (Here's the explanation.)
The previous link also discusses the tidal forces someone would experience near a black hole -- those would be able to tear you apart if you got close enough to a medium-sized black hole.
You're right that black holes don't really act like a vacuum cleaner; objects have to lose their angular momentum before they can spiral into it. But once you've crossed the event horizon, there's no going back.
Try the links in the MadSci Library for more information on Astronomy.