East End Haunted Barn to open this weekend
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The owners of one of Charleston's newest businesses have a simple goal: scaring their clientele.
The Haunted Barn, formerly of Winfield, is set to open this weekend on Charleston's East End.
"When people come through you want to make them feel like they're actually in the Texas Chainsaw Massacre movie," Josh Harper, one of the Haunted Barn's four owners, said. "You want them to think they actually have to survive to get out of here."
Harper, 28, a Charleston Police officer, and Lee Jordan, owner of Lee's Studio of Dance, started the Haunted Barn for friends and family in a barn in Lee's father's property in Winfield. It grew from there.
"You never really know that you like it until you actually do it," Harper said. "Then we started doing it and I was like, man, I really like doing this.
"Over the years, I've done research and we've gotten better," he said. "I'd rather do this than anything else. Unfortunately it doesn't work that way."
Cameron Goode, a college student, and David Bowles, an employee of West Virginia American Water, became partners this year.
The business had outgrown the 5,000-square-foot barn, which had also been damaged during the June 29 derecho, Bowles said.
The new location is a century-old warehouse at 426 Beauregard St. The structure first served as an administrative building for Coca-Cola Bottling and later was a SportMart warehouse, they said.
"We got here two and a half months ago and it was nothing but an open building," Bowles said. "As far as we know we haven't woken up any real spooks yet."
The new space has two floors. The upper floor, where the haunted scenes are, is twice as large as the barn.
"We're looking at 10,000 square feet upstairs," Harper said, "which makes us the largest haunted house in West Virginia -- haunted house, not haunted attraction but haunted house."
Much of the Haunted Barn is set up with scenes from Texas Chainsaw Massacre movies but there are other villains, clowns and zombies too.
While some haunted houses tell their visitors upfront that the actors won't touch them, owners of the Haunted Barn make no such promise.
"I've been to haunts all over the place -- out of town, in town, out of state, and that's the first thing they tell you ... and immediately the act is blown," Jordan said.
Jordan and the others prefer a slightly different approach.
"It's controlled touching," Harper said. "It's nothing [like] we're going to come out and tackle you to the ground."
"You go in a haunted house and you know nothing's going to touch you, then it ruins the whole effect of it," Harper added. "You know the person with the chainsaw isn't going to get near you because they're not supposed to. Our people will."
They take a similar approach to the props including the chainsaw in the haunted house. There's no cutting chain, of course.
"It's all safe, there's nothing that can hurt or harm," Bowles explains of the prop. "With it running, you just take it down the side of someone's leg and you get a whole different response than just standing there [with the chainsaw running]."
In one room, several white shrouded bodies hang from the ceiling. A full-size electronic zombie stands leaning over a trashcan. With the flip of a switch he comes to life, water spews from his mouth and into the can in front of him. He makes loud vomiting sounds.
In another room, a woman will stand, impaled by a table with her organs hanging out. As visitors walk by, she'll grab for them.
After the haunt, for a little extra money, visitors can take a coffin ride.
"It's not really a ride," Harper explains. "More or less it just moves around. It's a buried alive simulator. It's the only one in the state."
Visitors climb into the wooden coffin, which shakes and blows airbursts and various scents at its guest, simulating the person being put into the ground.
Another addition is the Monster Maze, which will have monsters from the Haunted House chasing visitors.
The waiting area of the warehouse will feature live bands and a space to sell T-shirts and souvenirs.
Bowles is handling makeup and making masks for the actors. It takes 35 to 40 volunteers to run the scenes.
"Up until last year we were buying everything off the shelf and having to settle with what another artist had come up with," Bowles said. "So now me and two other guys sculpt and make our own custom [masks].
"This is a hobby for me; it's a good release, almost therapeutic."
The owners hope to use the space for special events other than Halloween -- New Years Eve for instance.
In renting the warehouse, the owners took on $90,000 in debt over three years, Bowles said.
Harper said the move was a big one, but needed, in their quest to have a nationally recognized haunted house.
"We want to be on the Travel Channel -- that's where we want to be," Harper said.
"That's the level we want to be at: To say you have one of the best in the country and be from Charleston, West Virginia, would be an amazing thing.
"I think it'd be a great thing for the city of Charleston and West Virginia."
Reach Lori Kersey at email@example.com or 304-348-1240.
If you go
General admission to the Haunted Barn, located at 426 Beauregard St., is $10. VIP tickets are $20. VIP tickets include a coffin ride, Monster Maze and haunt. Tickets to the coffin ride and Monster Maze are also sold separately
Hours are Fridays 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. and Saturdays 7 p.m. to 12 a.m. The Haunted Barn will be open Oct. 6, 12, 13, 19, 20, 26, 27 and Nov. 3.
On Oct. 6, a dollar of every admission will benefit the families of fallen West Virginia State Troopers Eric Workman and Marshall Bailey.
Visitors may park in the lot at The Plaza East shopping center. For more information, call (304)389-1203 or visit www.thehauntedbarn.us.