Monday, October 11, 2010

The Haunting Grounds

The Haunting Grounds…a home haunt in Scotia, NY ran by a life-long Halloween fanatic with the perfect house to set the mood. I’m SO jealous of that house! In looking at the 2010 projects on their Facebook page, I can see that this year is going to be a fantastic one! Check out the attention to detail in everything displayed in this haunt!

CZ: I already know that Halloween is the most awesome holiday out there but my readers may not, so can you give us your opinion why it is?
THG: Halloween has always been my favorite holiday, maybe because it was my first holiday, or maybe because it was so close to my birthday. Having been born just a few days shy of Halloween, I've always associated the two as a part of each other. My mother was even kind enough to, at my request, replace the traditional Birthday Cake with a Pumpkin Pie (or two). It’s almost as though Halloween is my belated birthday party every year. That aside, it's a great time to free yourself from all of the social rules and expectations of everyday life. A vast majority of us live most of our lives dressing, looking and behaving in a manner that society tells us is proper. Halloween gives us an opportunity to cut loose from that whom society thinks we should be, and allows us to become whatever we want. It's a time when it’s okay, or even cool to be weird, and even the socially unacceptable can feel accepted. The anonymity of donning a mask or dressing up also gives us a degree of confidence that some of us may not have under normal circumstances.

Fear is also one of the factors that makes Halloween great. That safe type of fear created by haunted houses and home haunts gives us a rush of adrenaline that we don’t often get to experience otherwise. It's what draws us to visit these places, and it's what has created, and still is creating so many memories for so many people every year. I think back to my time as a child, and I can remember more events pertaining to Halloween than of all of the other holidays combined. I think this holds true for a lot of others as well, and that is why I enjoy putting this much effort into the holiday; I'm making memories for our future generations.

CZ: When did you start “haunting”?
THG: My interest in decorating for Halloween started as an early teenager. As my little sister and I grew older, my mother would begin to put less and less focus on decorating for Halloween (and more and more on Christmas), and by the time I had reached my teenage years, my mother’s arsenal of Halloween Decor had dwindled down to none but what might fit within a shoebox. Certainly I could not let my favorite holiday all but perish from my home, so at about 15 years old, I took matters into my own hands. Armed with only a plastic skull, a strobe light and enough scrap wood to build a house, I began to explore my artistic muses. Over the next few years, I would set up creepy displays in our front porch picture window, usually consisting of a rag bearing skeleton creeping amongst a few plywood tombstones. It was all very simple, but it was great fun. I continued my picture window haunt until the age of 21 when I finally moved out of my parent’s house. For the next 14 years, life in apartment buildings and 2-story flats made decorating impractical, and entry-level jobs made it unaffordable. Halloween consisted of little more than a few jack-o-lanterns on our front porch. In 2006, I started decorating again, but it wasn’t until 2008 that I did anything substantial. In December of 2008, my wife and I bought our first home, and last October, "The Haunting Grounds" was born.

CZ: Creepiest man behind the mask – Michael Myers or Jason?
THG: I was always a fan of the Elm Street series, but given that Freddy Kruger doesn't don a mask, I'm going to have to go with Michael Myers. Jason definitely has the intimidation factor in his corner, but his demeanor is more menacing than creepy. Michael on the other hand, the way he works that William Shatner mask is just downright eerie.

CZ: What is your favorite prop/decoration and why?
THG: I really love all of my Halloween props, but if I had to choose what I like the best, I guess I would have to say I'm most fond of the groundbreaker corpses. This year’s Gravedigger prop is the one that I am most proud of, so I guess that might qualify as my favorite for now.

CZ: You must have one absolute favorite memory about your haunt - tell us what it is.
THG: I have very little to draw from in respect to my haunt. 2008 was my first big year, and it was fun, but nothing really stood out. 2009 was a very big let-down. I had spent 3 months preparing for the first haunt in our new home, and it was all cut short due to high winds and heavy rains. I hope that, 3 months from now, I can say that this year holds some potential for a favorite memory.

My all time favorite Halloween memory came when I worked as an actor for a local Haunted House, but that's a whole other story.

CZ: What’s the ultimate Halloween candy?
THG: This one's easy... Kit Kat... Hands down.

CZ: How much time goes into your haunt each year?
THG: I spend hundreds of hours making props all year long. Once Halloween is over, I start planning for next year’s props. I don’t like to be rushed through a project, so I prefer to get an early start. I'll start working on new props over the winter, which allows me to plug along at my own pace. Last year, I set excessively high goals for myself and ended up spending every free minute I had, for 3 straight months, working on props. The last week before Halloween, I take time off from work to set up my display. As my prop collection grows, I'm sure I will need to spend less time on it.

CZ: From whom or what do you draw your inspiration?
THG: I draw inspiration from a variety of sources; movies, books, the work of other home haunters, and even my own twisted imagination. My return to haunting, and a lot of my earlier propwork was largely influenced by the work of a few very gifted individuals; SpookyBlue, Pumpkin Rot, Scott Stoll (Stolloween), and John Wolfe (Season of Shadows). I still frequent their sites to look for new ideas and to keep the "Halloween Bug" alive in the off season. I also get a lot of inspiration from my visits to the local Halloween stores and haunted houses, but I would have to say that my biggest inspiration comes from all of the talented members of the two forums I frequent, and

CZ: Morticia Addams or Lily Munster?
THG: I grew up watching The Munsters, but remember very little about the show besides Fred Gwynn’s quirky behavior as Herman Munster. I haven’t seen an episode of The Munsters in many years, and I never really got into The Addams Family, so I’m afraid I don’t have much of an opinion on that one.

CZ: Is your family supportive of your haunting obsession or do they think you’re insane?
THG: My kids are great, they all love Halloween, and for the most part, they all love helping out with the props and decorating (when it doesn’t interfere with their video games). My wife knows I’m a bit over the top, but she is also very supportive, and often very encouraging. Most of the time, she compliments my props and the hard work I put into them, and can often be found showing off photos of my works to her friends at work and on her Facebook. This however, is not always the case. The problem occurs when I allow my projects to interfere with my everyday responsibilities, which tends to happen far more often than it should. It is then that she becomes less accepting, and more critical of the time I spend on Halloween projects and our haunt. In essence, my family is very supportive, but they know I’m insane.

CZ: What does the future hold for your haunt?
THG: Over the next few years, I expect our haunt will continue to grow by leaps and bounds. I hope that within a few years, I can begin to reduce the amount of time spent building props drastically. From there, who knows? I’ve always enjoyed helping others, so I would like to use my haunt to that benefit. I was thinking of starting out small, most likely looking for food donations to help the local food pantry. If that is successful, I may look for other opportunities as well. The ultimate goal would be to grow and turn my haunt into a local charity based haunted house, but that's long off.

In addition to our Halloween props, I also plan to do a lot of work on our website, which I feel is an important part of the haunt. It’s the way I keep my haunt alive all year round. I use the site to share progress on our new props, photos of past haunts and various other Halloween related tidbits.

CZ: Any links you’d like included?


  1. Wow! wish my yard looked like that. Cool post.

    Victoria ♥

  2. Great interview CZ! I love the corpse rising from the grave!