Haunted Castle gets a jump on Halloween

As the day’s get shorter, the nights get longer and scarier.
We’ve reached October, and ghosts and goblins are stirring at the Haunted Castle, which opened Thursday on Highway 178 between Skyline and Mooreville. It’s been a long time coming.
“Pretty much since the last week of July, we’ve been working on this,” said Josh Harris, a 26-year-old Thaxton resident.
Harris and his dad, Barney Harris, along with a team of committed friends have created haunted houses in Thaxton and Hurricane over the years. Now, they’re putting their horror-inducing experience to use for another spooky season.
“I did it last year because they asked me if I wanted to scare people,” said Clay Willard, 26, of Thaxton. “Scaring people is pretty cool.”
Transformation
The Haunted Castle, located across from Knight’s Fish and Steak and just west of Lee County Road 1310, was a nightclub several years ago.
“We put up a sign that said, ‘Castle,’ and people thought it was going to be a nightclub,” Harris said. “They were relieved it was going to be a haunted house. They didn’t want another bar.”
When work started in July, the building was filled with trash, old car parts and the remnants of squatters.
“We didn’t get power until mid-August,” said David Herdahl, 26, of Thaxton, “so we didn’t have a fan or lights. Yeah, we got hot.”
With the cleaning done, the crew found themselves in a unique situation. Usually, they built haunted houses in actual houses. With an open floor plan, they built their own walls, and created passage ways for a more efficient distribution of terror.
“It’s fun to see their reactions,” Herdahl said. “Even if they’re not scared, they think it looks cool.”
You’ll find rooms that turn into mazes, strobe lights that play with your perspective and a real-life coffin filled with a fake skeleton.
“We stay away from the blood and gore,” Harris said, “but we’ll scare you.”
Herdahl’s mother has volunteered her time to turn the metal building into a place dripping with manufactured dread. She said the transformation is almost complete.
“This place at night, when you’re all by yourself, is creepy,” Lisa Herdahl said. “I was here and I heard things falling and creaking. I knew there was no one in here. Still.”

An investment
Harris and his dad have put about $5,000 into the project. The bill would’ve been higher, but companies donated items and provided others at reduced cost.
“If we have any profits, we’d like to pay some of the guys who worked so hard. We also provide meals to the volunteers who work each night,” Harris said. “We really want to build a nest egg for next year.”
Concession sales will benefit Lebohner Children’s Hospital, and donations will be taken for Habitat for Humanity.
The Haunted Castle is open for fearful business, but the crew will continue perfecting their night of frights until Halloween.
“In the past, we never had a week where we didn’t have more people than we had the previous week. They saw us and brought their friends the next time,” Harris said. “That’s what we want, just to keep it building and building.
“It’s something going on. It’s something to do this time of year.”

Contact M. Scott Morris at (662) 678-1589 or scott.morris@djournal.com.

Catch the spirit
If you want your fall- or Halloween-themed event listed in the Daily Journal, send it to planner@djournal.com, and feel free to post items at NEMS360.com
Here’s a collection of October fun from around Northeast Mississippi:
• Haunted Castle: 6 p.m. until Oct. 2-3, 8-10, 15-17, 22-24, 29-31, 3201 Hwy. 178, between Skyline and Mooreville. Concessions available. $10/per person, $8/with military I.D., $8/Thursdays with student I.D. (662) 296-9075, 296-1751, 871-2220.
• Korn Kountry Corn Maze: Oct. 2-31, Wise Family Farm, Shady Grove community, Pontotoc County. Closed Monday and Tuesday; open Wednesday and Thursday for groups; open 6-11 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m.-11 p.m. Saturday, 2 to 9 p.m. Sunday. Also open Oct. 29. Oct. 17 is Festival Day, noon-11 p.m. $8/Shady Grove Field of Screams, $6/Railroad maze ride, $14/Field of Screams and camp fire, $12/Railroad maze ride and camp fire. No entry fee to farm. www.wisefarmer.com.
• Spider Hunt: 8 p.m. Oct. 10, Strawberry Planes Audubon Center, 285 Plains Road, Holly Springs. Ole Miss graduate student Jason Ryndock will lead a spider walk. Bring flashlight. Children must be accompanied by an adult. Reservations recommended. (662) 252-1155.
• Judgment House: 5 to 9 p.m. Oct. 11 and 18; 6 to 9 p.m. Oct. 12, 14-15, corner of Church and Jefferson streets, Tupelo. Presented by Tupelo’s First Baptist Church and Mt. Sinai Baptist Church. “Walk-ins” welcome, but online reservations recommended. Free. www.fbctupelo.org.
• North Haven Haunted House: 7 p.m. until Oct. 16-17, 23-24, 30-31; 7 to 10 p.m. Oct. 28-29, County Road 115, off Hwy. 15, north of New Albany. $5. Proceeds benefit North Haven and Myrtle fire departments. (662) 266-7077.
• Pontotoc 4-H Haunted House: 7 to 10 p.m. Oct. 22 and 29; 7 to midnight Oct. 23-24, 30-31, 2739 Hwy. 342 (Black Zion Road), Old Cooper House near Cooper’s Crossing Road, Pontotoc. $5. Proceeds help send Pontotoc 4-H kids to national contests.
• Tupelo Community Theatre’s Haunted Theatre: 7 to 11 p.m. Oct. 23-24, 30-31; 7 to 10 p.m. Oct. 28, The Lyric Theatre, Broadway Street, Tupelo. Not recommended for kids under 12. $10. (662) 213-6611, 844-1935. Extra: TCT is seeking scary volunteers. A meeting will be 5:30 p.m. Monday at the Lyric.

M. Scott Morris/NEMS Daily Journal