Haunted house fan has a flair for scares

Rosedale woman has run event for 14 years

Maryland Journal

October 22, 2007|By Julie Scharper | Julie Scharper,Sun reporter

In a former hair salon in a strip mall in Dundalk, a woman is screaming.

It's not the bats, the grunting zombie or the faceless, blood-spattered nurses that make her holler. Kim Yates is yelling because some numbskull sat on what appears to be a pile of intestines.

"This place is a mess," says Yates, shaking her wild mass of dark brown curls.

Mark Roby, a 32-year-old contractor, licks fake blood from his fingers and looks at her thoughtfully.

"It's supposed to be," he says.

Many people say they love Halloween - they carve a pumpkin, stretch some spider webs across a bush and maybe stir up a pitcher of witch's brew. But few seem to take the holiday as seriously as Yates.

This is a woman whose home is decorated with ghouls and mummies in every season, someone who drives a hearse and who, a few years ago, was even jailed for her Halloween celebration.

Since then, she has moved her annual haunted house, Kim's Krypt, from her brick Rosedale home to a number of rented spaces. A group of friends - contractors, office managers, high school students - have followed her for years, working feverishly to build a creepy labyrinth to Yates' exacting standards.

"Everything has to be perfect," says Yates. "The music, the lights, the voices - everything has to come together in just the right way."

In the Dundalk storefront, tucked between a discount clothing store and a chiropractor's office, the team has worked nearly every afternoon since early September, sawing and hammering walls, stringing skeletons, building caskets and rigging countless tricks. They've swept out real dead rats and thrown down rubber ones. They have splashed gallon after gallon of fake blood.

It's a labor of love, they say. A ghoulish, gory kind of love.

"We do this because we're sicko in the brain," 30-year-old Jason Wenger says in a quiet voice.

Although Kim's Krypt opened to the public the first weekend in October, Wenger and several other volunteers showed up one recent afternoon to tweak the displays, replacing a defective fog machine and adding more blades to a saw hanging ominously from the ceiling.

Wenger, a journeyman electrician with long blond curls, has helped out with the haunted house since he was a teenager and ran through the yard of Yates' Rosedale home, chasing visitors with a chainsaw.

Yates created the spooky scenes in her brick home for nearly a decade until 2002, the year that, as she puts it, "the neighbors got their panties in a bunch." Yates wound up shelling out $10,000 in fines and spending two nights in jail for charges that were later dropped.

"It was a nightmare for me, not because of the fines and the jail, but because I couldn't do the haunted house," she says. "I get goose bumps now when I think of it."

Since then, Kim's Krypt has risen, like mist at midnight, at several locations. One year, she built a spooky maze in Ripken Stadium. For the past three years, the event was held at the Rosedale VFW, but it got bumped this year for a line dancing group, Yates says.

The newest location, a cavernous, dilapidated space, has given Yates and her crew even more opportunities to be creative.

They've built a series of 15 rooms, each with different ghastly ambience. To start, there's the doctor's chambers where deformed parts float in jars and hideous metal implements hang on a wall. John Krysiak Jr., an 18-year-old recent high school graduate, is chief mad doctor here.

"I'm the first scarer," he says, a note of pride in his voice.

Further in, Rita Weidinger, 25, a manager at King's Liquors, holds court in a parlor strung with cobwebs. Guests will see her eating a heart and keeping a wary eye on a woman chained to the wall.

She often hears visitors in a nearby room - where the doors lock from the outside and a giant saw descends from the ceiling - pounding on the walls for help. Palm-sized dents, both small and big, dot the black walls.

Elsewhere, her boyfriend Mark Wenger, 24, his brother Jason and their buddy, Roby, play a trio of creepy country boys who appear to smash a hand with a wooden plank until blood squirts across the room.

In a small, chilly room in the back of the building, a girl in a long nightgown lies on a bed, her head spinning, as a priest mumbles prayers, in a scene inspired by the movie The Exorcist. Chairs slide across the room, a picture rocks from side to side and a night table drawer opens and closes - as long as the person hidden in the crawl space remembers to pull the strings.

Volunteers say that pulling off the tricks requires a staggering amount of engineering, planning and practice.

"To me, it's about having an idea, designing it, directing it and getting a response," says Jerry West, 39, a contractor who estimates that he's volunteered nearly 12 hours a day for the past several weeks creating the exhibits.

As volunteers touch up the last few details, Yates whirls through the rooms, pointing out a gravedigger who has lost his hand and a shower curtain streaked with too much blood.

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