Blood-curdling screams, the terrifying grind of a chain saw and the cackle of madness is sweeping through the darkened recesses of Malvern’s Main Street like a fog of dread.
Ghouls, goblins, ghosts, mad scientists, unhinged killers and masked murderers run amok.
And Malvern Area Betterment Association (MABA) President Spencer Terry wouldn’t have it any other way.
It may just be a haunted house staged for eight nights this Halloween season, but for Terry, a professional haunt builder and organizer of the “Gateway of Chaos,” the haunted house taking up residence in Malvern is a culmination of community involvement and good, old fashioned scare-your-pants-off fun.
MABA, a non-profit group of individuals and businesses aiming to put people and money back into the community, is sponsoring the “Gateway of Chaos.” MABA already sponsors June's “Maui in Malvern,” this fall's En Plein Air festival and the Festival of Trees now going into its 15th year this December. The event is a collaboration of MABA members and sponsors, East Mills High School and a dedicated group of community volunteers and donors.
The 4,000-foot haunt located at 315 Main Street in Malvern in the rear of Bowley's Bistro. It will be open every Saturday in October from 8 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. The cost of admission is $5 and a majority of the proceeds will go toward fulfilling MABA’s mission to further sponsor cultural and family events in Malvern. Terry's hoping visitors to the haunted house will stop in other Malvern businesses as part of their visit.
Terry said nearly $30,000 has already been spent to construct the haunted house.
“Literally every square inch is being decorated, has a prop nearby and we're utilizing as many lighting effects as possible,” he said. “That ($30,000) sounds like a lot of money but that goes pretty fast. But at the same time, some of these props we’re using, if you were to buy them online or at a prop store, cost anywhere from $500 to $800. So some of the props are expensive. But this is something we’re committed to as a community and it’s a pretty neat thing.”
Most of the themes are a combination of classic scary scenarios, the rooms blending together. There’s a spooky nursery that exits into a closet filled with monsters and then into a bloody chamber room. A formal mansion-like hallway with paintings, candelabras and chandeliers coated in spider webs. A horrifying Dr. Gore room, a glowing room and a cemetery.
Some rooms are “static rooms” with strobe lights, sound, fog machines and props and no actors; other rooms will be filled with actors playing parts and playing on fears.
While the haunt is aimed at families, it is not recommended for children under 7.
“There’s a little bit
depending on how you like to be scared,” said Terry. “The philosophy I teach is looking at the psychology
and philosophy of scaring people and scaring tactics based on (personal) fears. So we manipulate senses into thinking what they think they're seeing, what they think they're hearing to what they think they're feeling. We really want to manipulate the senses to create the scene we need.”
In all, the haunted house has more than 35 volunteers, most from Malvern but a few come from Glenwood, Tabor and even Omaha. They do everything from design and construction to acting out the parts of ghouls and monsters in the haunt. They range in age from 11 to 69. Some volunteers have worked in community theater, others have never acted before in their lives. So far, volunteers have contributed more than 1,300 hours in design, construction and prop construction.
“We're going to utilize every diversity we have,” Terry said of his dedicated volunteers.
Terry has worked in non-profits the last nine years and before that he worked in public relations and the hotel industry. In between all that, he said, and as far back as he can remember, he's loved scaring people.
“I can remember being 5-years-old and sneaking up on people during Halloween. By the time I was seven I told my parents I didn't want to go trick-or-treating anymore and I stayed home and scared people,” he said.
Terry has nearly 20 years experience working in haunted houses since his teens.
The idea for a community haunted house with the help of MABA sprang from Terry and wife, Kimberly's own haunted house they staged in their home the previous two years on Halloween night with a few hundred dollars and props collected over the years. Last Halloween over 150 people came through their haunt.
“What was interesting to us was we were only planning to let kids come through but we had a lot of adults that wanted to come through,” Terry said. “That was good for us to see. It showed us the community was looking for something fun, something family oriented and really something they didn't have to drive all the way to Omaha for.”