By Hannah Schipper
Kirk Davis has been in the haunted house business since he was 8 years old and decorating his garage for shows. Later, he did haunted houses in Montgomery County and as fundraisers. Now, he runs one of the scariest places to visit around Halloween: Nightmare Manor on Route 80 in Ijamsville.
This is a nightmare in four parts.
“It’s a play that you walk through,” Davis said, with 45 to 50 actors, a house, a maze and a corn field all full of said actors and terrifying props.
Needless to say, a lot of work goes into setting everything up. The props include handmade items and animatronics, which are robots that move in a realistic fashion. All of the props are designed to be frightening—but in a deliciously creepy way.
“We have to have emergency exits everywhere,” Davis explained. There are trap doors for actors to jump through, and hidden ways of getting out if anything happens to go wrong. All of the actors are talented and enthusiastic about their jobs, he added.
Each actor has a character they play in the house. According to this haunted house legend, an unsolved murder in the house has left it eternally haunted by restless spirits of the dead, bent on vengeance.
This murder occurred on the same night that a huge fire charred the inside of the house. Most of the Legget family was inside the house and perished when it burned, but Seth Legget was found hanging in the backyard from a tree. Seth was reputed to have been an abusive man with many enemies. It is no surprise that the property is said to be haunted to this day.
Each year, the story goes, the tormented, lingering souls whose lives were lost in this horrific tragedy rise from their hidden fortress of death and unleash their centuries-old fury on unlucky visitors. Davis claimed the red on the walls was paint, but visitors to Nightmare Manor will know better.
Some props are found items like a beehive. Others are wall frames with moving pictures and skeletons. Decorations are elaborate and take a long time to set up.
“There are things that we buy, like haunted house props,” Davis said when describing the decoration process, “but we make most of the others.”
Paper mache and paint are transformed into dismembered body parts, vats of slime, vampires and all manner of frightful fare. Even on a sunny Saturday afternoon the weekend before it opens, Nightmare Manor is impressively scary.
Nightmare Manor opens for a second Halloween season on Friday, Sept. 26, and it is open weekends through Nov. 1. It is located at 10240 Fingerboard Road, Ijamsville. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit www.nightmare-manor.com.