By Preston Gossett | Reporter, Video by Sarah Gill | Broadcast Reporter
Waco Haunted Houses, located off of I-35 in McLennan County, approaches its 30th consecutive year of haunts and scares.
Baylor students and local Wacoans alike have the options of two different full-sized haunted houses — the “Museum of Horrors” and the “Texas Chainsaw Nightmare” house. The “Museum of Horrors” is set up as an homage to the famous horror movie monsters — Pinhead, Jason and Freddy, just to name a few, while the other haunted house follows the story of the “Texas Chainsaw Massacre.”
Michael Vinzant, outdoor manager and head of promotions, has scared visitors at these haunted houses since he was nine years old, when he started out as a volunteer because his dad knew the owners. Growing up around it, he said one thing the employees like to do is make sure that when guests walk out they’re happy they took the time and spent the money to come.
“Something a lot of people forget is, yes, we’re a haunted house and we’re here to scare you, but at the end of the day this is all interactive theater,” Vinzant said. “You’re coming in and getting a show. That’s why we have two drastically different houses, to make you cry and scream and laugh at your friends when they scream.”
Waco Haunted Houses does a lot of charitable work, and most recently, their blood drive raised close to 60 units. People who donated received free admission to both houses and a free T-shirt. On Friday and Saturday, there will be concerts held at the houses with artists from a local record label to help push the Waco arts scene. The Baylor football team’s jersey reveal for the Halloween game against West Virginia was unveiled at the houses Monday morning as well.
“Most haunts nowadays are all animatronics and holograms, whereas we’re live people,” Vinzant said. “We’re genuinely here because we love it.”
Every year, the owners and employees try and switch little things up to keep the scares fresh. Eric Vonmessenger, tech manager, said each room has the capability to be retooled and repurposed depending on the scares.
“One year, one room might be ‘The Ring’ and another room might be completely encased in fog as a zombie maze,” Vonmessenger said. “Also, the actors in the rooms change how they jump out and scare pretty often.”
Some of the employees in the past have been in a part of Baylor’s theatre program. Jacob Trevino, manager of safety, said they would talk to professors about offering extra credit to theatre students that volunteered to scare for a couple of hours some nights. He also said anyone can come out for a night or two to volunteer and have fun going through the houses to scare the families and teenagers that come through looking for a fright.
Vinzant said that some of them are seasonal, and some are just one-time pop-up tents.
“This isn’t just about making a kid pee his pants or anything like that,” Vonmessenger said. “We’re all weirdos and oddballs, and we’re the ones that got kicked around in school; but here we’re accepted no matter who we are, what we dress like or what we look like.”