Kayla Chelman-Riehl /Nevada Sagebrush

Actors  prepare for the evening’s performances  on Friday, Oct.3, the  opening  night for Slaughter House. The haunted  house  prides itself on the volunteers that make up  the entirety of its actors and makeup artists.

By Alexa Solis

A fiendish laugh echoed through the corridors of the Reno Aces Ballpark. As the sun dipped below the trees, ghouls, ghosts and zombies prepared for a night of fright. They began to move into Slaughter House, a 9-year-old haunted house and the self-proclaimed largest haunted house in Northern Nevada.

Excitement permeated the air as groups of volunteers huddled around each other waiting for the haunt to begin. Practicing their shrieks and creeping tactics, the actors were ready.  Slaughter House prides itself on its strong volunteer base.

“It’s a wonderful thing to do, and not to mention, this also shows the passion that a lot of people have for the haunt,” said Kyle Crawford, an actor and builder at Slaughter House for the past seven years. “The other cool thing about this place is that … we’re all one happy family.”

Students at the University of Nevada, Reno are also involved. Joss Alphonso, a makeup artist and actor, brought the members of his fraternity Phi Delta Theta to help unnerve the house’s many visitors.

“I’ve worked with the Slaughter House for five years, and I decided to bring us all down and scare it up,” Alphonso said.  “We came down because we wanted to help. I love the haunt, I love Eli [the owner], I love everything about this place.”

Slaughter House is not just something to do on the weekend, but it is also a place for local actors and haunt enthusiasts to gain some insight into what it takes to be truly frightening.

“It’s a great venue for actors to get their feet wet in the acting field. We treat this house like a live performance,” Crawford said.  “When people come into your room, you scare them. When you get the reaction that you want, that means you’re doing a great job. If not, then it pushes yourself to know why it didn’t work, and you figure out how to make it better so you don’t get that reaction again.”

As actors began to spill out of hair and makeup covered in ghastly gashes and blood, they made their way to racks of costumes. The air was charged with anticipation as they transitioned from humans into all forms of the grotesque.

The actors are placed in rooms throughout the haunted house based on their look and dress created by the makeup artists. They then go through what is referred to as “scare school” by everyone at Slaughter House. There they learn basic emergency procedure, how to scare people in the right direction and the other tips and tricks for creating a frightening but safe environment for visitors.

Previously at The Meadowood Mall and Rise Nightclub, it is now located at the Reno Aces Ballpark. The change in scenery not only led to a more family-oriented experience for its visitors, but it is also a push to gain greater community outreach.

“Our new partnership with the Aces is pretty exciting,” said Eli Kerr, owner of Fright Fest Productions. “We’re the first major event to come in [to the stadium] that’s not baseball related. We’re probably at the best location for it to be at. Everyone loves the ballpark and it’s known to be a family-friendly place.”

It takes anywhere from 120 to 150 workers and volunteers during the haunting season to make the house run smoothly, and the number has only grown since switching venues. Since the baseball park is multi-level and larger than any previous venue, there was a greater need to hire security, operational and managerial staff.

“We came in here months ago, and measured everything and plotted out how we wanted to use the space we were given,” Kerr said.  “Then that goes into a computer, and then we basically lay out the design based on the materials that we have and everything is done on computers. That process happens months prior. And then we come in with our semis and start building the structure.“

The management of Slaughter House makes a point of giving back to the Reno community.

“Every year it’s just gotten bigger and better, and it [has] become sort of a business,” Kerr said.  “We service a community. We’ve given a lot of food to the food bank, and this year our new charity is The Children in Transition Program through the Washoe County School District, and so they’re getting a portion of our proceeds.”

As Kerr stood in the mess of monsters that were eagerly waiting to take their positions, he folded his arms and gave an appreciative glance at his surroundings. He prides himself on continuing a service to his hometown.

“Everyone here is local,” Kerr said.  “All the volunteers and stuff are local people. I grew up in this area myself. This town and this city has done a lot for me and my career over the years and this event provides not only a fun event for the family to do and something cool in October, but it’s also our people.”

Alexa Solis can be reached at asolis@sagebrush.unr.edu.