A horde of the undead milled around the haunted grounds of the Asylum House.
Dressed in blood-stained clothes, with rotting flesh falling off their faces, the zombies, ghosts and other monsters relaxed before the night’s big performance.
In a few hours, the horde would hide in the dark recesses of the haunted house, chase after unsuspecting victims and generally wreak terror. But until then, they chatted, joked and laughed with each other, oblivious to their horrifying appearances.
“Halloween is that one time of the year when you can be whoever you want to be, and no one will say that you’re weird or stupid. You can express yourself,” said Patrick Greathouse, owner of Asylum House. “Our actors embrace that.”
READY FOR A GOOD SCARE?
The Asylum House
When: 7 p.m. to midnight every Friday and Saturday through Oct. 27; 7 to 10 p.m. today, Sunday, Oct. 25 and Oct. 28 to 31.
Where: 2198 S. State Road 37, Greenwood
Cost: $20 for the haunted house, $10 for children under 10; zombie paintball is $15.
Mike Kaiser’s Poor Farm haunted corn maze
When: Non-frightening maze 7 p.m. to dark; haunted maze dark to 11:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday through October.
Where: 1650 N. County Road 800E, Franklin
Cost: $10 general admission, free for children 5 and under.
Edinburgh Haunted House
When: 8 to 11 p.m. every Friday and Saturday through Oct. 27
Where: 100 E. Main Cross St., Edinburgh
Cedar Rock Haunted Trail
When: 8 p.m. to midnight every Friday and Saturday through Oct. 27
Where: 3384 S. Conservation Club Road, Morgantown
Cost: $13 for adults, $10 for kids
When: 7 p.m. to midnight every Friday and Saturday through Oct. 27; 7 to 10 p.m. today and Oct. 24 and 25.
Where: 7525 S. Acton Road, Indianapolis
Haunted Angelus House
When: 6:30 p.m. to midnight every Friday and Saturday through Oct. 27; 6:30 to 10 p.m. Sunday and Oct. 28 to 31
Where: 8829 E. Washington St., Indianapolis
Cost: $16 for single run through the house; $24 for unlimited use for one night
When: 7 p.m. to midnight every Friday and Saturday through Oct. 27; 7 to 10 p.m. today, Oct. 21 to 25 and Oct. 28 to 31.
Where: 2525 N. Shadeland Ave., Indianapolis
Cost: Combo tickets, $27 for adults and $20 for children; single attraction tickets $19 for adults and $12 for children.
Indy Scream Park
When: 7 p.m. to midnight Friday and Saturdays through Oct. 27, and Oct. 31; 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. Thursdays and Sundays through Oct. 28.
Where: 5211 S. New Columbus Road, Anderson
Cost: $22 general admission Thursdays and Sundays; $27 general admission Fridays, Saturdays and Halloween; VIP front-of-the-line access is $35 on Thursdays and Sundays and $40 Fridays, Saturdays and Halloween.
This Halloween season, thousands of people will flock to area haunted houses in search of a good scare. They’ll huddle in groups as they tentatively make their way through the darkened hallways, jumping at any movement and screaming as ghouls rush at them.
But behind the creepy music, bloody monster makeup and macabre settings are armies of performers, set builders and lighting specialists who keep the scares coming all October long. Hours of work goes into making sure that visitors have the scariest night possible.
“We’re constantly tweaking and fixing things. If we see something wrong, we’ll upgrade it even more. We don’t just put it up and let it be,” Greathouse said.
Loud gunshots come from around the back of the main Asylum House complex in the Center Grove area. Greathouse stands on a 1950-era U.S. Army Jeep with a mounted machine gun in the back. The prop is part of the haunt’s alien invasion section, and work had to be done making the battle between soldiers and extraterrestrials more believable.
In the down time before the haunted house opens for the weekend, Greathouse and his team spend hours recalibrating and adjusting different areas of the haunted complex.
Empty spray cans of black paint are scattered around the field, along with spare lighting fixtures, spools of wire and scrap wood. Workers used a circular saw to cut pieces for new sections of walkway and touched up gray and black paint on new areas of the house.
Greathouse has been working in haunts around Indianapolis for nearly 20 years. He’s developed a keen eye for the flow and details that make a successful event.
After opening on Oct. 5, organizers realized they needed more lights in strategic places. Workers were wiring the new fixtures throughout the week, adding in new twists to the maze and redecorating part of the cemetery.
“I liken it to being an artist. Like a sculptor, when you get your hands in the clay, things start changing,” Greathouse said.
Visitors to the Asylum House will weave their way through seven themed areas. They’ll enter through a run-down cemetery, then weave their way through a maze filled with torture-loving dungeon masters, a spinning vortex and a sewer where rats gnaw on body parts.
At Screamin’ Holler, people will find swamp monsters, a backwoods butcher shop and a campy cannibal cookout. The Alien Invasion puts them in the middle of a fight between the military and beings escaped from an UFO.
One of the unique aspects of the house is an Alice in Wonderland-themed section with a horror twist. Guests will encounter the Red Queen, played by local actress Mindy Steele, beneath the shadow of a life-sized guillotine and stockade.
“It’s a very different acting experience. I’ve done plays and independent films and things like that. But here you get to scare people. You get right up in their face and see their reactions,” said Steele, a Franklin resident.
‘My best scare is your mind’
Mike Kaiser started putting together his haunt in June. His Mike Kaiser’s Poor Farm haunted corn maze has been a Franklin Halloween tradition for 13 years.
Every inception of the maze has a back story. This year’s theme is tied in to the drought that threatened to stop the corn maze before it even started. The use of a growth maximizer called Chemical X reanimated dead bodies buried deep in the ground.
The maze uses a mix of costumed volunteers, gruesome props and the natural fright of a cornfield at night to terrorize visitors.
“My best scare is your mind,” Kaiser said.
This year’s maze had to be cut in early June to get the pattern set. Kaiser mowed the field every two weeks, then hoped for enough rain to make it tall enough to play in.
The props and other devious creations were moved into the maze in late August.
Kaiser relies almost entirely on volunteer workers to help staff and make the maze work. On a weekend close to Halloween, nearly 60 people will take part, from collecting tickets to dressing up as ghouls and jumping out of the corn to shock people.
The hours of work they put in help make the haunted maze viable.
“They come out for the fun, but it wouldn’t be possible to do this or keep it cheap without their work,” Kaiser said.
Depending on the night, between 60 and 90 actors will take part in the Asylum House. They arrive up to two hours before the first visitors show up to put on makeup, get into costume and practice their routines.
Greathouse and his cohorts have been working on setting up Asylum House since July. The structures are mostly handmade. Spray-painted foam makes ideal tombstones and demon sculptures. Plywood panels and lumber frames make quick and easy walls.
The props that they couldn’t make themselves have been acquired over 17 years at trade shows and swaps.
The maze has been crafted inside six semitrailers connected by walkways. Previously, the house was at German Park, but Greathouse is in the process of buying land in the Center Grove area where this year’s haunt is located. Doing so will allow him to build more permanent structures.
“We’ve taken a kind of carnival set-up, with the trailers. But there’s not much else we can do,” he said.
John Clayes designed the entrance to the cemetery crypt. He carved menacing skeletons into the facade and built the rest out of plywood and plastic foam.
“It’s a little worse for the wear after six years, but it’s still good,” he said. “I keep coming up with new procedures to work with it all the time.”
Clayes built many of the effects throughout Asylum House, including a foreboding stretch of asphalt overgrown with weeds they call the Lost Highway. His vintage-style billboards, old-time gas station and rusted cage contraption make the back story of a runaway Hoosier Devil Ape more realistic.
Asylum House functions with the skill of people such as Clayes, as well as Greathouse’s go-to casting directors and artists Tim and Al Eager. Brian Lucas is the all-around fix-it guy, helping to create many of the mechanical gadgets, animated displays and other electrical features of the house.
“Over the years, I’ve met a slew of people who have come in and helped out and worked here. We couldn’t do it without them,” he said. “We have a lot of dedicated people who come around. Have a lot of families who work here and are in for the love of the craft.”