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MASTERS OF FEAR: House of Horror becomes major fundraiser for Scottsburg Volunteer Fire Department

  • 4 min to read

Are you afraid of the dark? Or are you a brave muchacho who ain’t afraid of no ghosts? Are you willing to test that theory? James Gordon, Eric Morris and Casey Owen of the Scottsburg House of Horror sure hope so.

The three masters of fear look forward to a challenge each year as they take on the daunting task of scaring the brave souls who dare to enter the 1800s house next to the Scottsburg Volunteer Fire Department that has left grown men running with fear.

Just looking from the outside in, would-be visitors to this old ghostly haunt begin to build up a sense of apprehension.

The fire department bought the old haunted house around 1995 with the idea if they ever needed any money, they could sell the land, but Gordon said the idea of scaring civilians had begun about a decade earlier.

In the 1980s, Gordon said fire department members used their Halloween carnival as a chance to host a haunted house.

Over time, the House of Horror grew to what it has become today scaring hundreds of people each night over a span of three weekends each fall.

With each person paying an entry fee of $10, the fire department’s profit has ranged from $10,000 to $12,000 yearly after spending no more than roughly $2,000 and with the help of donations as well.

And now, the men have realized they can make enough in two nights to cover their expenses with the remaining nights amounting to “sole profit.”

It started off as a fundraiser for their senior citizen dinner they provide for free, but now it’s become the main fundraiser for the fire department.

But it’s not all about the money, they say.

It’s the thrill of scaring that one person who says they aren’t afraid or going full force on someone’s wife after their husband has encouraged the workers to “scare the bejeezus out of her.”

With 22 stations created in and outside of the two-story house, the men have their hands full coming up with the best ideas to entice fear.

Gordon credits his father, Ricky, with having the connections for gathering volunteers and ideas each year. The house usually takes about 30 helpers minimum, but Wilson said 50 is more idealistic.

The key players, including the three mentioned above plus Daniel Crews, Jason Satterfield, John Roark and Ricky, usually begin on the house in mid to late July to see what kind of shape the house is in.

They repair anything needed and determine what isn’t reconcilable.

Then the real thrill begins.

Wilson said they try to keep nothing in the house no more than two to three years at a time to keep the element of surprise and to make sure those who come each year truly get their money’s worth.

Gordon said they even have given free tickets to some who have said it didn’t live up to their expectations. They also hold several contests on their social media pages, mostly Facebook, to give away free tickets.

Pulling from the minds of all the key players, firefighters, volunteers and more, they find a way to change up each room mixing elements of distortion, darkness and tricking the eye to frighten even the toughest of men.

What’s almost just as good as the actual scaring?

Reminiscing about the best stories.

Gordon, Wilson and Owen all have their favorites, and there’s a few they’ll never forget.

For instance, Owen said he will never forget the time he went easy on two young children when he was the man chasing poor souls with a chainsaw.

Their mother came up to him afterward wanting to know why he didn’t scare them, and he explained that it was because he realized how young they were.

“She said, ‘I want you to scare the devil out of them.’ I said, ‘are you sure?’ She said she was,” said Owen who proceeded to crank up his chainsaw and chase them all the way to their car.

The three can hardly get through the story of the time the Halifax County High School football team came through without getting a good laugh.

Not only were they scared throughout the house, but when it was over, the three men, dressed in full costume, went and sat on the back of the bus and waited.

When the unsuspecting football players climbed onto the bus and saw who was waiting for them, “they were climbing over seats, and climbing out of windows trying to get out.”

Year after year, they tap into all fears they can think of from clowns to chainsaws, and even those you may not even think of – like smell.

Think rotten corpses.

“Think about it,” said Morris. “If you’re too busy trying to figure out what that smell is, you’ll never know what pops out at you until it’s too late.”

A word of warning: If you’re claustrophobic, the house may not be for you.

With the use of materials used in bounce houses along with others, the men have created some spaces that may even give the sense of unsuspecting visitors not being able to make it through. There are even some spaces one is forced to crawl through.

The scaring actually begins before they even enter the house.

Once each valiant person reaches the rope that leads to the line, ghosts and goblins may come out of the dark, and although that’s not a point of no return (you can leave if you want to), there are no refunds once you reach that rope.

As they wait in line, adrenaline kicks in for those working, and it is more than flattering when they receive that first scream.

If they don’t run out in fear, each person will enter rooms rigged with fog machines, strobe lights and other tricks that the men have installed within those rooms that visitors unknowingly trigger themselves.

Watch where you step or rub those hands, you never know what one might conjure up in this House of Horrors.

Come out in October to see what the house, which has been rated #1 in Virginia, will do to make your fears become a reality. SVP

Ashley Hodge reports for The Gazette-Virginian. Contact her at

Ashley Hodge is a staff writer for The Gazette-Virginian. Contact her at