WARNER ROBINS -- Halloween is still four weeks away, but people looking for a good scare don’t have to wait.
Most haunted houses start later this month, but at least three big ones open this weekend. Those include Nevermore Hills Haunted Trail at the Museum of Aviation, Perry Haunted Barn and Haunted Montrose.
Perry Haunted Barn opened last weekend, while Nevermore Hills and Haunted Montrose open Friday. Haunted Montrose is a professional haunted house while the other two are nonprofit. All three are open Fridays and Saturdays throughout the month, with Haunted Montrose also open on Sundays.
The nonprofits give volunteers a chance to unleash their inner diabolical genius for a good cause.
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Jenny Maas, who works for the museum, and Nicole Bissette, who works for the Georgia Aviation Hall of Fame, are part of the committee that meets throughout the year to design the haunted trail. The event, which continues each weekend throughout the month, benefits the museum and the hall of fame.
The trail, in the forest next to the museum, includes a walk through a home built in the 1850s that is overgrown with trees and is purported to actually be haunted, Maas said. Ghost hunters have come to investigate it.
As Maas and Bissette gave a tour of the trail Thursday, many volunteers were busy with the finishing touches. They said they make changes and add to it each year, and the work goes on almost all year.
“The idea development starts after we end,” Maas said.
They said “distraction and surprise” are the keys to creating a good scare. The first hour each night is “family friendly,” Maas said, with the show toned down for children.
Nevermore Hills began three years ago and drew about 1,200 people the first year. Last year it drew 1,900.
Jimmy Steffen, who founded Perry Haunted Barn, said he gets a lot of his ideas by going to a couple of conventions each year specifically for haunted house operators. The Perry Haunted Barn benefits Wounded Warriors and other charities.
About 70 volunteers are involved each night, and Steffen gives the participants training on the “dos and don’ts” of scaring people. They are not to jump out directly at children.
So what is it that people like about going to a haunted house?
“They want to be scared because you take them out of their element,” Steffen said. “They don’t know it, but we control them.”
The Perry Haunted Barn includes a separate attraction, the Attic, described as a “physical adventure through a dark maze.”
The 100-year-old barn has also been examined by paranormal investigators who have reported “findings.”
Part of designing a haunted house is creating a back story. For Nevermore Hills, the story is that a crazed military scientist who was booted out the service lived in the home on the trail and conducted unholy experiments there.
Maas said she thinks one lure of the trail is that it winds through a forest.
“I think just being in the woods at night is scary to people,” she said.
To contact writer Wayne Crenshaw, call 256-9725.
Haunted houses open this weekend
Nevermore Hills Haunted Trail, Museum of Aviation: Friday, 8-11 p.m. and Saturday, 7-11 p.m. The first hour is “family friendly.” Admission is $14 per person, and $12 for active-duty military members. For more information visit www.museumofaviation.org/Nevermore_Hills.php.
Perry Haunted Barn, 2235 U.S. 41 North, Perry - 7-11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Admission is $16 to the Haunted Barn, $9 to the Attic, and $24 for both. For more information visit www.perryhauntedbarn.com.
Haunted Montrose, 2nd Street, Montrose - 7-11 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 7-10 p.m. Sunday. For more information, visit www.hauntedmontrose.com.