The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

They want to see you scream

To some, October brings anticipation for the one weekend where pirates, vampires, cowboys, serial killers and Harry Potter characters roam free to wreak havoc: Halloween.

But for haunted house owners and staff, this month means big business — a series of ghoulish nights devoted solely to their October passion: scaring your pants off.


Located on the 20,000 square feet of the State Fair grounds, Hauntfest isn’t your average haunted house. According to owner Taj Jordan, Hauntfest is entirely rebuilt and matched to a new theme each year.

This year’s theme is “Hollywood Halloween.” For the house, Jordan said he and his “scream team” recreated thirteen old horror movie scenes, placing the monsters or demons from the movies into the haunt itself.

Hauntfest is more entertaining than just a regular haunted house, though, according to Jordan.

“While we are going to scare the pants off of you, you’re going to have a lot of fun doing it,” he said.

Jordan said customers of Hauntfest don’t wait in lines, but instead take a number. While waiting to be called, they can enjoy snacks, drinks and the music of a live DJ with plenty of space to dance and socialize, or go for a spin on “The Last Ride.”

New to Hauntfest this year, “The Last Ride” is a simulator where passengers climb into a coffin and experience the sights, smells and movements of the corpse’s journey from the funeral home to its burial in the ground.

People come to haunted houses looking for thrills. According to Jordan, the Hauntfest crew’s strategy to satisfy the thrill-seekers is to provide a theme or scene the customers can identify with.

“We want to touch your past emotionally,” Jordan said. “We’re looking to tap into something that traditionally might’ve scared you at some point when you were young.”

Jordan said producing a successful haunted house is comparable to producing a play.

“Everybody has a very specific role to play in the act, and every room is a new scene,” he said.

Jordan said the haunted house business is most fulfilling when you can create a new idea, piece it together, step back and “watch people have the time of their lives.”

Hauntfest is located on the State Fair grounds: 1200 S. 84th St., West Allis. Tickets can be purchased online or at the box office for $15. For directions and a $2-off coupon, visit or call 414-282-4386.

Mars Haunted House

While most haunted houses have fake ghosts and ghouls, the Mars Haunted House purports to be the home of a real ghost story.

Their website tells the tale: In 1943, the house belonged to the Milton family. One night in early October, Mr. Milton came home highly intoxicated, threatened his wife with a loaded shotgun and accidentally shot one of his children. He then shot and killed the remainder of his family of six before killing himself.

John Klein, manager of Mars, said the house has been verified by paranormal groups who found activity in September of both 2009 and 2010. According to Klein, the group’s psychic was able to have conversations with the dead Milton children.

For eighteen years, Mars has turned this “truly haunted” house into what we consider the “traditional” haunted house. What began as a series of pitch-black mazes with strobe lights is now a complex house with nearly 30 rooms, Klein said.

According to Klein and his brother Matt Berg, who helps design and build the house, the haunt this year is “100 percent different from last year.”

The Mars house features two distinct themes: fantasy and gore. Berg said the fantasies of the first theme take place in a medieval setting, after which customers then travel through a “vortex” that sends them screaming into the gory, bloody, “modern” theme of the haunt.

Klein said October is the one month out of the year where people have a place to go in anticipation of their fears. He said the excitement that comes from scaring and “pranking” people is what calls him to the business.

“We’re known for our face-to-face encounters,” Berg said. “We love to get real close to you.”

According to Klein, the customers’ reactions to such “encounters” serve as the biggest indicator of what they really want to see. He said they listen for comments inside the house and take any feedback they can in order to improve for the next year.

Putting that feedback into action starts right in November and lasts until the day before opening night, Berg said in an e-mail to the Tribune.

“It’s really a ride. … This is what we do — it’s our love and passion.” Berg said. “We do it to see people scream.”

Mars Haunted House is located at 734 W. Mitchell St. Tickets are $12. For directions, visit or call 414-384-7491.

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