Halloween: Texas House of Torment Not for the Conventional

PHOTO: Knackers the clown.
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If ghosts, mummies and all sorts of other spooky stuff are your preference, then perhaps the House of Torment in Austin, Texas, is not the haunted house for you. One way to describe what you'll see there is, well, weird.

It all takes place in an enclosed 20,000-square-foot facility. At "The Reckoning," the main attraction, visitors are whisked away to earth in its post-apocalyptic state. Nemesis, the commander of the starship The Reckoning, watched his world be consumed and is now duking it out with zombies and hoards of the undead in the battle for the last remnants of human civilization. Yes, both sides are battling for human flesh; your human flesh, to be precise.

The site is clearly popular with its fans. The House of Torment grossed more than $1 million last year in the one month that the attraction is open, according to the owners. Visitors pays $19.99 a ticket.

Jon Love, vice president of Harbinger Events Inc., which puts on the haunted house, said he thinks the park's eccentricities make it so successful. It regularly makes the yearly lists of the best haunted houses in America.

"We have innovative ideas," Love said. "Everything we do is over the top. That is apparent. Every inch is detailed."

In concurrence with the theme, visitors begin their night at a mock subway station where they are transported via train to various parts of the demolished city. There, they might be attacked by some of the undead and, if they need to get out their frustrations, can shoot actors playing zombies in the head with paintball guns.

"It's sort of like going through a video game, not a whole lot of places you can experience that," Love said.

This is the park's 15th anniversary. Love, along with president Daniel McCullough, started the park when they saw a need for Halloween in their town. They've now expanded the business to Phoenix and San Antonio, with business partners in Denver as well. The owners say that they are paying homage to Halloween.

"It's a celebration of horror," Love said.

And with every celebration comes a few laughs. Unsuspecting visitors might not know that the entire facility is wired back to a central control room, where their screams and subsequent laughs are all fodder for great entertainment for the House of Torment staff.

But if you're interested in retaliation, to get back at Love, a man who has been in the scaring business for 15 years, just turn off the lights.

"I get a little immune to the gore and destruction," he admitted, "but I still get afraid of the dark."

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