read builds with every step down the darkened corridor.
Screams and moans come from the darkness. Flashing lights cast ominous shadows on the wall. Something is going to jump out at you — it’s a matter of when, not if.
And yet, people line up every October for a chance to be scared senseless.
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Haunted houses, corn mazes and other attractions are a big draw during this spooky time of year. Yet even though they are only open for about a month leading into Halloween, putting these haunts together takes months of planning and hours of execution.
A house of horrors doesn’t just come together on its own, said Jim Hampton, organizer of the FriteLodge in Acton.
“We tear down and start new every year, and that’s why we’re able to make improvements. We start from scratch each year,” he said. “There’s a lot that goes into it. Its pretty deep.”
For fright fans in Johnson County, options abound depending on how you want to be terrified.
The Mike Kaiser Poor Farm haunted corn maze in Franklin unleashes nightmare visions into a labyrinth of rustling corn stalks. The Nightmare on Edgewood features four different areas of terror, including a carnival, a haunted movie house, an escape room and a sense-shattering insanity room.
Hanna Haunted Acres offers a maze, hayride and haunts such as the Carn-evil, Outbreak and Field of Fiends.
But one of the most unique is the FriteLodge. The annual event serves as a fundraiser of the Pleasant Masonic Lodge No. 134 in Acton. With the money that’s made from late September until Halloween, the lodge can put back into efforts such as Franklin Township’s Christmas fund for needy families, milk and cookies with Santa Claus and Acton’s Easter egg hunt.
“It’s really a community fundraiser, because the proceeds all go back to the community,” Hampton said. “Our Masonic lodge is rooted deep in the community, and we take a lot of pride in it.”
This is the ninth year for the FriteLodge. About 1,000 hours of work go into devising the haunt. Planning starts in January, when Hampton and his team start envisioning the horrors they want to include in the haunted lodge.
“It probably takes six hours alone just putting together a floor plan, so you can get from Point A to Point B,” Hampton said.
They go to the TransWorld Halloween and Attractions show, a national conference for haunt purveyors conducted every March in St. Louis.
With the ideas that they find, they build a detailed scheme for their factory of fear.
A light-and-sound expert helps sync up the visual and audio effects throughout the haunt. A wireless DMX lights and sound system allows him to control different effects — such as a clap of thunder or a scream — from a soundboard, matched with a pulse-racing shift in the lighting.
Hampton and his team start building the props and aspects of the haunted house over the summer. The modular walls, displays and scenes all need to be constructed in a way that it can be put up and torn down quickly, but still be stable.
“I’ve been a union construction worker for 28 years. This is a different type of construction than you will do anywhere else,” Hampton said.
They have to secure a permit from the state and go through a rigorous inspection.
On each night the haunted lodge is open, it takes about 50 volunteers to make it happen, Hampton said. Actors, many of whom have been with the FriteLodge for years, have rehearsed and practiced their horrifying routines.
“We’ve had a lot of our main actors for all nine years. They were 16 or 17 when they started, and now they’re in their 20s, and they still come back,” Hampton said. “Anybody can build a haunt. But these people make it what it is, with the energy they bring.”
Other people are needed to manage parking, sell tickets and handle the concession stand.
Each room has to have a trigger, either a light or a sound, so the actors know that someone’s coming, Hampton said. On that cue, they’re ready to deliver the scare that visitors crave.
“Once these actors figure out what scares you, and what works in a room, they’re on it,” Hampton said. “And we get people to come back for more.”
Where: 7525 Acton Road, Indianapolis
Hours: 7 p.m. to midnight Fridays and Saturdays through Oct. 28
Mike Kaiser Poor Farm Haunted Corn Maze
Where: 1650 N. CR 800E, Franklin
Hours: Dark to 11:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays through Oct. 28; non-fright attractions run from dusk to dark.
Cost: $10, $5 for non-fright, and free for children 5 and under
The Nightmare on Edgewood
Where: 6004 Camden Ave., Indianapolis
Hours: 7 to 10 p.m. today, Oct. 29 and 31, and Nov. 3 and 4; 7 p.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday and Oct. 27 and 28.
Cost: $25, or $40 for VIP admission
Hanna Haunted Acres
Where: 7323 E. Hanna St., Indianapolis
Hours: 7 to 10 p.m. today, Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Oct. 26, 29, 30, 31 and Nov. 3 and 4; 7 p.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday and Oct. 27 and 28.
Cost: Varies by attraction and day; see website for details.
Haunted Angelus House
Where: 8829 E. Washington St., Indianapolis
Hours: 7 to 10 p.m. today, Sunday, Oct. 25, 26, 30 and 31; 7 p.m. to 1 a.m. Friday, Saturday, Oct. 27 and 28
Shireman Homestead The Haunting
Where: 7060 W. CR 200N, Columbus
Hours: 8 to 11 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Oct. 27 to 31; a kid-friendly version will be held from 4 to 6 p.m.
Cost: $12 for the main haunt, $5 for the children’s haunt.