COVENTRY TWP.: There’s scary, and then there’s gory.
The folks at Tadmor Shrine know there’s a difference. That’s why they operate a kid-friendly haunted house without the blood and guts that are staples of many Halloween haunts.
That’s not to say the attraction is without frights. The haunted house promises enough ghosts, skeletons and spooky surprises to provide a certain fear factor.
But it’s all in fun, insisted Don Corbett, a Shriner who is in charge of promoting the haunted house.
“The kids scream and they holler and they have a good time,” he said.
The haunted house, which opens this weekend, is geared to children 12 or younger. It includes such attractions as a ride in the Shriners’ Krazy Kops wagon, a storyteller who spins tales from a Cinderella coach, a juggler and a hayride through a spooky enchanted forest.
There’s also a small shop and a food court where families can fuel up on treats like hot dogs and giant cookies, and visitors will be entered into a drawing for a bicycle.
This is the sixth year for the haunted house, which started as a way to raise money for the Shrine center. While the group raises funds and does volunteer work to support the 22 Shriners Hospitals for Children and their patients, Corbett is careful to point out that the proceeds from the haunted house go to the center, not the hospitals.
The fundraiser became necessary because membership in the shrine had fallen from about 6,000 in the 1960s to around 1,500, and the group needed money to keep its meeting place operating, he said.
That’s when the late Bud McMahan stepped in.
McMahan, a Wadsworth builder and a member of the shrine, envisioned enclosing a picnic shelter on the center’s property and turning it into a maze of haunted rooms. There were plenty of other haunted houses around, but the members realized few were designed for younger kids, Corbett said.
McMahan and his fellow members of the Legion of Honor — a group of veterans within the shrine — took on the project initially. Seventeen people loaned $500 each to pay for the initial work, and the haunted house was born.
“It was actually one of his dreams,” said McMahan’s son Chris, who with his brother, Terry, has taken over leadership of the haunted house since their father died in 2008. Chris McMahan is the husband of Kim Hone-McMahan, a Beacon Journal reporter.
Chris McMahan recalled helping his father with the layout of the enchanted forest, the last part of the haunted house his dad was involved with. “He went around with his hand on trees, and I went around behind him with a chain saw,” McMahan said with a smile.
One of Bud McMahan’s designs was the pumpkin-shaped entrance, where a wizard talks to the visitors while the pumpkin rotates on a motorized platform before it discharges them into the haunted house. The entrance is used year after year, but the displays inside have changed significantly this year — and it’s all disassembled and stored after Halloween.
Among this year’s themes are a haunted shipwreck, a swamp monster room and a mad scientist’s operating room, but we’re not going to spoil the surprise by revealing details. One year, the haunted house had a spider room, but that was eliminated because “it scared the heck out of the kids,” Chris McMahan said.
What’s not scary are the safety precautions the Shriners take. All the interior walls are coated with fireproof paint, and the building has emergency lighting, lighted exits and fire alarms, Corbett pointed out.
The haunted house is a significant undertaking for the Shriners, but it’s also a lot of fun, Chris McMahan said. Not only does it help keep the doors of the shrine center open, but it also provides a fun diversion for the community.
It’s a labor of love, he said.
Well, maybe a little fear, too.
Mary Beth Breckenridge can be reached at 330-996-3756 or firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also become a fan on Facebook at http://tinyurl.com/mbbreck, follow her on Twitter @MBBreckenridge and read her blog at www.ohio.com/blogs/mary-beth.