By Matt Kyle | Staff Writer, Video by Kaity Kempf | Broadcast Reporter
Back in May, Waco Haunted House was put up for sale by its original owners, Danea and John Anderson, who had operated the haunt for 31 years. The property, located about 10 miles north of Baylor in Elm Mott, consists of two separate haunted houses and was advertised on Facebook as one of the “best known” haunted houses in America.
This past weekend, Waco Haunted House began its first season under new ownership and a new name: American Scare Grounds. But don’t let the name change fool you. Bobby Crane, the new owner and president of American Scare Grounds, said he wants to continue to build on the Andersons’ legacy.
“Thirty years is a heck of a long time,” Crane said. “I’m not taking away anything the Andersons did here for three decades; this was their baby, their pride and joy. I just want to continue to build on what they have done because you can equally see the passion out here.”
While he has made a series of alterations to both houses, Crane said he has mostly kept the exterior of the houses the same.
“I love what they have already done, as you can see the exterior hasn’t been changed much,” Crane said. “We were able to do quite a bit of alterations to both houses. A lot of people have come out here for years, and they’ll be able to notice quite a few differences.”
Maddy Lea plays the character of a “clown’s daughter” at American Scare Grounds. She performs on a stage in front of the haunted houses and creeps around guests as they line up to buy tickets. Lea said she has been an actress at various haunted houses for seven years and loves dressing up and scaring people.
“It’s just fun for me,” Lea said. “My favorite thing about working here is scaring people. That’s just one of my favorite things ever. It’s just fun, entertaining for everyone, plus it’s entertaining for me.”
Lea said that American Scare Grounds is special due to the passion and effort put into it by the staff.
“What makes this place so special is how much work they did for this place,” Lea said. “It’s really special to me. It’s really special to everyone.”
Crane said he instantly fell in love with “everything” about haunted houses when he went to his first one at age 14. He said he had been looking to get started with his own haunted house for two years, and when he first came out to see Waco Haunted House, he knew immediately that it was the one for him.
“This is the perfect place,” Crane said. “When I saw all this potential, with all the acreage, I just saw that it was all right here — the ability to do all these things that I wanted to do. For me, it’s not just a seasonal thing. It would actually be more of a year-round business.”
The season for American Scare Grounds will go until Halloween. The haunted houses are open from 7:30 p.m. to midnight on Fridays and Saturdays, except for Halloween weekend, when it will be open from Thursday to Sunday. The haunt is also open every Friday the 13th, and Crane said he plans to “add a little twist” to the haunted houses for holidays like Christmas and Valentine’s Day.
Crane said he hopes guests leave American Scare Grounds knowing they had a great and unique experience.
“There’s a lot of time and creativity that goes into this, and I really want people to identify that,” Crane said. “There’s a lot of great haunts out here, but I really want people to come out [to American Scare Grounds] and say, ‘That truly was a unique experience, and we want to come back out here and bring all our friends.’”