KENT: Welcome to Morbid Estates.
It is a creepy place where you can get a nice Halloween scare, but also help build a home for a family.
Morbid Estates is the brainchild of lifelong Halloween enthusiast Dave Shonk, who lives in Stow.
Some of the proceeds from the $18 admission to the haunted house will support Habitat for Humanity of Portage County. The attraction in a former grocery building on South Water Street has three walk-through areas: the Borley Brothers Funeral Home, the Infestation and the Estate.
“I was a horror nerd, even as a kid,” said Shonk, 22, a University of Akron student.
Shonk’s partners in terror include his girlfriend, Nicolle Lukezic, 22, of Akron, and Chad Collins, 22, of Cuyahoga Falls. Collins is the assistant manager of Habitat’s ReStore in Kent and has been a friend of Shonk since they attended Holy Family School in Stow.
Before Tom Cunningham died four years ago, he gave and sold some of his Halloween gear to Shonk. Cunningham was known for his decorations at his home on Broad Boulevard in Cuyahoga Falls. Shonk visited Cunningham’s display when he was kid.
“I was a weird kid,” said Shonk, who decorated his parents’ Stow home for years and even constructed a Haunted Cornfield in Suffield Township a few years ago. The display at his parents’ home was so popular that city officials had to ask him to tone it down.
The three venues that make up Morbid Estates are in a portion of a plaza that is home to Save-a-Lot store and take up 10,000 square feet.
The funeral home, named after a supposedly haunted estate in England called the Borley Rectory, includes creepy bodies in coffins, an embalming room, a crematorium and more.
Shonk said Infestation is designed to look like what a house might look like after the apocalypse.
The Estate is Shonk’s version of a classic haunted house.
Brian Reitz, executive director of Habitat of Humanity of Portage County, said his group partnered with Shonk after he volunteered at the ReStore in Kent “and during some down time, talked about his passion for haunted houses and referenced the old Jaycee charity haunted houses.”
“Habitat thought it could be a great way to incorporate donated items from the ReStore, raise some awareness to Habitat and the mission and raise some funds along the way.” Habitat is an ecumenical Christian housing ministry.
The Portage County group expects to complete three houses this year that will bring its total of new houses to 60.
“It has certainly been odd adding zombies and bloody arms to the vocabulary around the office, but it’s exciting to be part of such creativity with the Morbid Estates team,” Reitz said.
A Habitat home costs about $50,000, Reitz said, and that while the Morbid Estates’ goal of raising enough for one house this year may not be reached, “once word spreads about the quality of the work, I can see it [Morbid Estates] being a tremendous success.”
Shonk said much of the materials used to create Morbid Estates came from the ReStore, including some sections of church pews.
“It goes hand in hand with the stuff that is thrown away,” he said. “Why not repurpose it?”
Shonk said up to 40 people including paid actors and volunteers make up the crew at Morbid Estates.
His goal is to open the haunted house for other dates during the year, like around the Christmas holiday and Valentines Day.
“I like building on a large scale,” Shonk said.
His set, which has the feel of a Hollywood movie set, includes clowns. Lots of clowns.
“People want clowns but they won’t come to your haunted house because there are clowns,” Shonk joked.
Shonk said he is all about the detail he puts into the design of the Halloween experience.
“It is a labor of love,” he said.
Morbid Estates at 1416 S. Water St. in Kent and is open from 7 p.m. to midnight tonight and Saturday night and Oct. 31 and Nov. 1.
For more on Habitat for Humanity of Portage County go to www.habitatofportage.org.
Jim Carney can be reached at 330-996-3576 or firstname.lastname@example.org.