Welcome To Scream Acres Ct...
PUTTING THE 'FUN' IN 'FUNERAL'!
Upon entering the massive building in the old industrial park, it’s somewhat disconcerting to see the entrance to a huge funeral home. The body of a hanged man twitches above the boarded up front door and ghostly spirits appear and disappear in a front window. Through the layer of fog that drifts throughout the building, a coffin is seen to be thrashing wildly in an alcove to the right. In sharp contrast to the macabre goings-on are scenes of people having a good time-taking pictures in a ‘zombie panel’, playing video games, dropping quarters into a variety of arcade machines, dressing up with provided props for ‘haunt pictures’, and checking out bizarre little creatures in a gift shop. All of this can be seen in the lobby of Scream Acres Ct, the new Covington based haunt that seems to be putting the ‘Fun’ into ‘Funeral’!
Scream Acres is the dream project of 18 year old Ryan Thierauf. Ryan’s been haunting since he was eight, creating elaborate yard haunts that slowly got bigger and bigger, swallowing up more and more of his family’s property. Last season he decided to make the transition to becoming a professional, but ran into problems with local officials who decided the event had gotten too big and pulled the plug on it. The season wasn’t a complete loss-he was able to spend some time working at the Dent Schoolhouse and observe their creative and business model, and provided décor and scares for Scallywag Tag’s Halloween laser tag events. “Even though the season didn’t turn out as we had hoped, we were grateful to Scallywag for giving us the opportunity to put on a show”, says Ryan.
Of course, this only delayed the dream. In July Ryan finalized a deal on the old Johnny’s Toys warehouse in Covington and began the daunting task of putting together a haunt from the ground up in a 20,000 square foot warehouse in a little under two months. As you can see by the ‘in progress’ photo above, there was a tremendous amount of work involved just getting the walls and mazes set up. There were a lot of fifteen hour days in the blazing summer heat, with many overnight stays at the haunt involved in getting things ready. Ryan credits Matt Glass (who’s currently staffing the entrance to the haunt) with doing the lion’s share of the build and getting everything ready on time. And finish it they did, getting the Castle Hill Funeral Home, The Funhouse In 3-D, and Blackout ready for their September 13th opening. Scream Acres uses a slightly different approach than most events-rather than separate the three events, they’re all part of the same tour, entered one after the other. Ryan explains that this was done for several reasons, the primary one being that they didn’t want to make hauntgoers wait in line three times. It makes for an interesting experience as each section of the tour has a completely different feel-Castle Hill is a more detailed haunt with scripted performances and gore, the Funhouse is all about the eye-popping 3-D (3-D glasses are provided) and frenzied Klown antics, and Blackout is a dark maze with a more subdued and sinister atmosphere.
The Funhouse in 3-D. It features some extremely well done 3-D artwork that comes to vibrant life with the glasses. It makes many of the Klowns extremely hard to spot as many wear outfits that blend in with the designs on the wall. It’s a surreal sight to see a part of the wall detach itself, flip over, and go bounding away! They’re an energetic bunch that come and go quickly, one minute being your bestest enemy and the next your worstest pal. And then there’s the legendary flying Klown…
Blackout is a small black maze that relies on the ability of its actors to keep hauntgoers groping around in circles. We found it to be the creepiest part of the haunt with whispers coming from all angles and corners. We also had one of the actors following directly behind us the entire time-one of the most effective nerve-wracking techniques a haunt actor can use. You never know what that crazy guy right behind might have in mind…but you can bet it won’t be good! Upon finally finding the exit, an unseen actress chilled our blood by whispering in our ear, “I’ll miss you…”. Brrrrrrrrrrr!!!!! And as you leave the building it looks like the tour isn’t quite over, as there’s a small building straight ahead…The actress delivering the speech has an insane grin and gives a flawless delivery, punctuating it with pauses and emphasis in all the right spots. She’s constantly moving throughout the speech, circling behind hauntgoers and making them wonder just what she’s up to. The same actress appears several times along the tour’s path, and it’s amazing how she seems to be able to enter the room unseen to pop out from under a table or appear from the opposite direction of a hall. Most impressively, she at one point scales the walls like a spider! Another actress strides the length of the hallway in an inverted ‘V’ position, an incredibly creepy effect that our photo at the top of the page doesn’t do justice to. We’ve already mentioned the upside-down kamouflage klowns. As one staffer comments, “Many of them are trained in dance and that really comes in handy with the physical stuff”. They’re a multi-talented bunch that turned in memorable performances.
One of the young actors, Hana Duncan, is currently staffing the event’s 'sideshow', the ‘Buried Alive’ coffin ride simulator. Featuring a crisp, sharp looking vampiric makeup job, she also at various times acts inside the event and helps apply makeup to other actors. The coffin ride can either be taken by itself or purchased as part of a combo ticket with the main haunt. Upon entering the coffin, the lid is slammed shut and the dearly departed are treated to the sounds and shakes of the last ride…the trip from the funeral home to the cemetery. The coffin bounces and shakes as it simulates being dropped by the idiot gravediggers, slides around the back of the hearse on rough roads, and is thrown into an open grave. You’ll also be treated to gravedigger humor as the pair crack jokes throughout the ride. Hana says that while no one has freaked out inside the blackness of the coffin yet, there have been several people who had tickets for it that looked at its yawning mouth and refused to enter!at Quaker Steak & Lube, handing out flyers while providing a taste of Scream Acres for the diners there. Perry’s an enthusiastic haunt ambassador and loves nothing more than being the cause of…well, let’s just say, unanticipated and sudden bowel movements. Ryan’s going to be mounting a scoreboard over the weekend on the Funeral Home’s façade for Perry to keep track of the ‘accidents’.
And as Matt tells us, Perry’s also the resident expert on the ghosts that are said to have taken up residence in the building. Now, while it might seem far-fetched that there would be ghosts in an old warehouse, Perry explains that they might be from the time when the old Latonia horse race track was located on the grounds. “They’re not sure exactly where the track was located-if it wasn’t here, it was right on the border. There seem to be three spirits-two men and a woman. They’ve been heard in the garage, the living room, and the bedroom of the Funeral Home”, he expounds. The sounds of horses running have also been a regular occurrence. Matt says that a psychic recently visited the event and independently came up with the same conclusions Perry did!
While many kids feel that their parents don’t understand them, this doesn’t appear to be the case with Ryan. His mother, Kimmie Thierauf, has been an active participant in his haunting career from day one. She’s currently taking photos in the Scream Acres gift shop. Not only can you have a souvenir photo taken at Scream Acres with the Funeral Home as a background, but they provide a big variety of props for you to use-AND turn you into a semi-transparent ghost to boot! The HOD!!! draped ourselves with several lengths of chain and sported a machete along with a large bloody rat (your basic ‘F13 7’ look) and the photo turned out great! Kimmie also provides many of the cute and unique items being sold in the gift shop-her contributions are under the ‘Ghoulish Googlies’ banner of ‘Kimmie’s Clay Kreations’. You can also find items from other local artists such as can o’lanterns and voodoo dolls. We picked up a little nurse voodoo doll for our wife to hang on her cell phone. Ryan also told us his mom painted all the detail in the 3-D Funhouse. We had commented to him earlier that it looked like he had contracted a pro to come in and do the 3D work, so his mom is quite the creative lady.
Scream Acres has garnered its share of attention, being the subject of two features on TV’s WKRC Channel 12 and WLWT Channel 5 and appearing on radio station WLW. We’ve already mentioned some of the promotional appearances, and the event is running ads in CityBeat magazine and on radio station 96 Rock. Unlike a lot of first year events that neglect their advertising budget, Scream Acres was committed to getting the word out and making sure local hauntgoers knew about their haunt.
Since the event will be occupying the old warehouse year-round, they’ve looked into using it for other purposes in the off-season. While there are no firm plans yet, they’ve considered making it into an airsoft arena as well as holding a macabre Christmas themed event. The latter would be somewhat of a first in the area. The Dent Schoolhouse at one time (in the days before the current group of owners) held a straight Christmas themed event on their second floor using an elaborate display they acquired from a local department store. The old Night of Fright had considered trying out a “Nightmare Before Christmas” type event but it never materialized. Perhaps Tristate haunters can look forward to a ‘Black Christmas’ this Yuletide season!
The event also made the wise decision to not try building a huge haunt that they wouldn’t have time to properly finish in the two month time frame. This accomplished two things-it meant that the areas of the haunt that were built were well done with a good amount of detail, and also leaves them plenty of room to expand. Looking at the façade of the event, it appears it takes up the entire back of the warehouse, but there are large areas still open. Ryan’s already made plans to add a hospital area for next season (making it a ‘second building’ with its own façade) as well as expanding the 3D Funhouse all the way to the back. There’s also a lot of space in the lobby that could be used in the future, and as Ryan reminds us, “We also have a lot of land out back that we can use”. For now, much of the unused space is filled with arcade machines and games (including the excellent ALIENS shooter) to give hauntgoers additional distractions.
Ryan’s rise to becoming a professional haunter-long time elaborate yard haunt, acquisition of a year round building, aided by parent-sounds quite a bit like another local haunter success story. That of course would be Josh Wells and Bud Stross up at Dent, who followed much the same path. One hopes that Ryan finds as much success as they did! With Dr. Boron’s attempts to put the ‘Fun’ into ‘Funeral’ by carving his trademark smiles, Scream Acres Ct is having an impressive first season, and with an entire year to work on the event, should have an even more amazing 2014!
2013 EVENT INFORMATION