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Haunted House Delivers Plenty of Chills

By Kassi Schmitt & Courtney Roberts, KERA News

Dallas, TX –

As little ghosts and goblins get ready for Halloween, a haunted house in Terrell is drawing crowds that thrive on being scared out of their wits. Haunted House magazine ranks Thrillvania as one the best in the country. KERA student reporters Kassi Schmitt and Courtney Roberts take us into the spirit-filled haunt. Courtney gets us started.

Before you see Thrillvania, you hear it.

The haunted amusement park lies down a long dirt road on an isolated lot in Terrell. It contains eight different attractions including an outdoor Trail of Torment where spooks come out of nowhere and a disorienting Maze of Chaos where strobe lights and special effects make it easy to get lost.

But the main attraction is the haunted Verdun Manor. It's a sagging two-story house that belches fire. You'd expect to find the Adams family here. It was built out of trailers by Disney Imagineers, a division of the Walt Disney Corporation that develops theme parks.

Legend has it that Baron Michael Verdun and his vampire wife built the house on Voodoo Bayou, then conducted experiments on those who ventured near, turning some into animal-human hybrids. Haunted Attraction Magazine Publisher John Kennedy says Verdun Mahor with its sophisticated effects inspires evil.

They've got great animatronics and animations, great acting, great makeup, great costumes and you'll see when the show starts they've got incredible pyrotechnics too. And you can feel the heat. It's just an incredible atmosphere- extremely dramatic.

And scarey So gathering up our courage, Courtney and I decided to take a tour.

So Courtney, how are you feeling right now?

I'm a little nervous going into the house.

We were spooked from the second we stepped inside. and the door slammed behind us.

It was so dark we had to feel our way through some stringy stuff hanging from the ceiling. It was pretty creepy. It made me shiver.

Then as you go around a bend you run right into a six foot green swamp monster. We were so focused on his glowing green eyes we didn't see his real life twin spring out of the trap door in the floor.

I was thinking, you probably haven't had a date in years.

I would describe the mansion's decorating scheme as part shabby Victorian, part mad scientist laboratory You've got your chainsaws and blood. You've got your typical torture chamber wrack. You've got your average eight-foot werewolf.

General Manager of Thrillvania Michael Malec said the critter used to be a full body suit worn by actors but it was too heavy for them to move.

Malec: We tried to make it look as real as possible. We went to a dental acrylic place to buy all the dentures. Those are all actual white dentures that you would buy if you needed teeth.

They certainly look real. Real scary.

We kept seeing signs that pleaded, go back. I thought, you've gotta be kidding. Do all that again?

After what seemed like an eternity-but was really about ten minutes-the doors of the haunted house swung open and we thought, ok, the nightmare is over.

But just as we were relaxing we felt the hair stand up on our necks. It was Freddy Kruger's little brother. He had his own gas powered chain saw and he was coming toward us.

Kassi was laughing but I'm not ashamed to say I took off. So did Megan Rodriguez from Denton who also took the tour.

The trail of terror, the maze of chaos and much more of the 50 acre haunt were still ahead. But at this point most everyone was already scared out of their wits.

Courtney: And ready for more.

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