Good scare on the cheap

Resting upon a hilltop overlooking St. Rita School for the Deaf is the site of a very believable haunted house. Other soon-to-be-scared folks and I waited in line for nearly an hour on Friday for our admission into the creepy 19th-century manor, while anticipation continued to build for the frights to come.

Immediately upon entering the house, you are faced with horror movie favorite Freddy Krueger, who provides an unsettling welcome and you are soon greeted by the victims of his famous slasher hands. Other famous stars of the slasher genre join Freddy in welcoming you to their house of horror.

For many, however, the real terror is not of the Freddy Krueger or Michael Myers variety. It is something primal, something deep, a barely acknowledged hidden fear in the hearts of many, it is — dare I say it — the room of crazed clowns.

They invite you to play, they jump out of boxes, they just plain freak you out. Now before you think I’ve taken Stephen King much too seriously, I challenge you to not be scared of the tiny clown who hops from the box. I’m still shaking and my dreams may never be the same. (Did I say dreams? I meant nightmares, deep, sweat-drenched, gut wrenching nightmares.) Seriously. Clowns are scary.

Not all the frights are movie-based. There are plenty of traditional ghosts and goblins to provide the customary thrills and chills one expects from a haunted house. The witches here are not of the Eastwick variety — warts, cauldrons and broomsticks are all there, with not a single game of Quidditch in sight. Flesh-eating monsters, torture chambers, executions and thirsty ghouls lead from a bridge into the spinning vortex of evil, which is actually pretty challenging to navigate.

“My favorite part was the spinning pipe,” said a fellow haunted house visitor Ronnie Alexander. “It made me feel like I was spinning instead of the wall.”

Modern terrors are included in the fright fest. No 21st-century house of terror can be complete without a nuclear waste site, and this house doesn’t disappoint. Also, it is a comment on the modern monster that he, much like his human counterpart, uses a cell phone to communicate with his friends. While modern, not all visitors found this particularly frightening.

“It kind of ruined the mood when I walked in and found the monsters texting,” said visitor Christopher Smith. “They are not quite as scary when they have to put their cell phones down to jump out and say boo.”

It seemed that many of the monsters did not understand the concept of personal space and they proved this by standing way too close for way too long.

“The monsters would get really, really close to you, which I didn’t find so much scary as it was awkward,” Smith added.

From the basement, you head back up stairs to a few more shocks and scares, and then out of the house across an old swinging bridge and into a cemetery with a few surprises of its own. It takes only about ten minutes to make your way through the entirety of the house.

This annual haunted house is in its 35th year and is in an ideal location. The house was constructed as the original School for the Deaf in the late 1800s and was transformed into a boys’ dormitory in the early 1900s, which helps provide an eerie feeling for visitors.

All of the proceeds go directly to the school to help their students gain hearing equipment and speech classes.

“I’m glad that I went,” Smith said. “Though it wasn’t crazy-scary, it was a lot of fun and I had a really good time and it was for a good cause.”

“I liked that it was different then the last time that I came,” Alexander said. “Some haunted houses do the exact same thing over and over again and it gets boring.”

The St. Rita School for the Deaf’s Haunted House is located on the school grounds at 1720 Glendale Milford Road in Evendale and opens at 7 p.m. Thursday through Sunday, and is open until Oct. 31. Tickets are $10. For information or directions call the St. Rita School for the Deaf at 513-771-7600.

Story by Matthew Brewer