HIGHLAND | Boarded-up windows and a front yard littered with tombstones lead to a winding maze through a haunted hospital ward.
The man behind the ghoulish scene is Casey King, 19, of Highland, who transforms his family’s home every Halloween into King’s Krypt Haunt.
The haunted house opened in 2009 and has steadily grown to attracting 450 people last year. This year the house is open for an expanded six days, and King said he plans to donate a portion of the proceeds to the Humane Society.
“Halloween, it’s not just a holiday,” King said. “It’s a way to be creative because there’s so much you can do with it. It’s not like every other holiday when it’s a day thing and then it’s over.”
When he was a boy, King and his family always decorated the house for Halloween by making tombstones out of plastic that his dad brought home and stuffing clothes to create dummies.
“As I got older, I saw the things we were making and thought they were really corny and just lame,” King said. “So when I was about 16, we started buying decorations, and it got really expensive.”
The haunt began to take shape when King looked into his neighbor’s yard and saw the same expensive decorations. To be original, King, now a fine arts student at Columbia College in Chicago, took his artistic talents to task and started making his own decorations.
His first project was carving and painting a massive wall to cover the house’s porch. He made the wall in 2008, the same year torrential rain flooded the region.
“I remember we had five days off of school because of it. I remember my friends out bagging sand, and I was in my garage making this wall,” King said. “Halloween came around and a lot of people liked it.”
The next school year King made a layout for the haunted house and spent the summer building wall panels he reuses as a base for his decorations every year. King and his family’s efforts were met with 400 visitors for the one night in 2009 that the haunted house was open.
“My dad is an idea guy … he’s definitely contributed to me having this big mind,” King said. “Because if he has an idea, he’s not afraid to put it out there, and at this point, I’m not either.”
The father and son travel to St. Louis every year for a haunted house trade show.
“Eventually we’ll own a building, like an old house or warehouse, and we’ll have our own haunt,” King’s father, Tim King, said. “Right now it’s fine in the backyard, but we’re growing out of it very quickly.”
Along with King’s Krypt Haunt, a second haunted house in Highland – The Dark Circus – is donating a portion of its proceeds to the Humane Society.
The house, run by Jonathon Wheatley, 20, of Highland, begins to take shape in September of every year. Wheatley picked the circus theme because “everyone is afraid of clowns.”
“I just like scaring people,” Wheatley said. “I don’t like to be scared personally. I know it’s a contradiction. I just enjoy it.”