This haunted house is so scary you might pee in your pants


In this haunted house, ghosts and ghouls sometimes elicit more than screams.

The Haunt in Atascadero keeps extra pants on hand for visitors who are so frightened that they lose control of their bodily functions.

Two people asked for the pants, said Sandi Andersen-Tarica, Haunt’s production manager.

And staff keep a list of those who got wet – at least 31 “avowed peers” in the past two years.

“Some people, when they know what’s going on, like to sign it as a sort of badge of honor,” Andersen-Tarica said. “And we have it on a sign that we will provide emergency pants on request.”

Nestled among the cafes and restaurants of downtown Atascadero, The Haunt is the only haunted house in San Luis Obispo County, drawing around 4,000 visitors each year.

This year – its sixth – the theme is Grimm Reaper’s Scary Tales Volume II.

“You can’t use the same fear every time,” said Creig P. Sherburne, a volunteer who plays multiple roles for the Haunt, including the Butcher. “There are different gags and… a different rhythm for each piece. Some are a little more psychological, others are blood and guts. Some are cheap and easy jump alarms, others are elaborate alarms.

The founder of The Haunt, Chris Towers, is no fan of horror movies. But he stages haunted houses from high school.

Towers, an engineer whose daily job is to work in a nuclear power plant, builds some of the sets, props and effects himself.

“The Haunt” turned out to be so scary that visitors are offered replacement pants if needed.

(Creig P. Sherburne)

“Maybe it’s just this itch of wanting to build and fabricate,” Towers said. “Building a shed in your house is one thing, but now you have something that needs to move with lights and sound and interact. “

And that must scare people.

“Half of it is just trying to figure out how people are going to react to it,” he said.

Like Sherburne, the sixty or so actors, makeup artists, decorators, and other Haunt staff members volunteer.

The income, estimated at $ 35,000 to $ 40,000 per year, is fed back into the program, Towers said.

There isn’t much left after paying rent of about $ 30,000 a year.

Initially, Towers invested around $ 15,000 of its own money into the project each year. With the popularity of The Haunt, this amount has decreased.

Scenes from "The lair" in Atascadero.

Scenes from “The Haunt” in Atascadero.

(Creig P. Sherburne)

“My fingers crossed, this will be our second year in a row where it’s breakeven, so I have nothing to put in,” he said.

The Haunt is so scary that children under 12 are discouraged to attend.

Capacity is limited due to COVID-19, therefore, visitors are advised to buy tickets in advance. Temperatures will be taken at the door, masks are mandatory and physical distancing rules will be respected inside.

The shows continue from Thursday to Sunday from 6.30 p.m.

Those who want a behind-the-scenes look can sign up for ‘lights on’ tours to observe the details of each room and activate some of the effects.


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