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Ready to scream? Area attractions gear up for Halloween

Brian King’s graveyard smells of mold and mildew and every night his pumpkins sing a tale of woe originally crooned by Michael Jackson.

“’Cause this is thriller. Thriller night. And no one’s gonna save you from the beast about to strike.”

Only in this graveyard, King is, well, king.

He’s the caretaker, engineer and builder and from 7 to 10 p.m. every night in October he’s the host at Silent Oaks Cemetery.

But King’s Halloween Haunt at 4179 Anderson Road in Wesson isn’t the only place to find a few ghosts.

The Fear Haunted House is open in Wesson at 2152 Hwy. 51 tonight, Oct. 19-20, Oct. 26-27, Halloween night and Nov. 2-3. It’s sponsored by the Wesson Chamber of Commerce.

In Brookhaven, the Mississippi School of the Arts students present their annual ArtOberfest Haunted House in Cooper Hall on the MSA campus, Oct. 25, Oct. 30 and on Halloween night from 7-10 p.m.

And in Ruth, the volunteer fire department is scaring up some creepy fun — and a few cakes — with its annual haunted firehouse. It will be open Oct. 19-20 and Oct. 26-27 from 7 p.m. to midnight.

Silent Oaks Cemetery

King started creating his haunted cemetery in his front yard about 10 years ago.

“Everybody does Christmas. You see every house with a Christmas tree and Christmas lights, and once you’ve seen one you’ve pretty much seen them all. But nobody does this,” he said. “It’s not a haunted house to scare the living daylights out of somebody, it’s just something to come look at and like. It’s something you can bring your kids to and them walk away with a smile on their face and not go home having nightmares.”

He first decorated for the holiday with store-bought decorations and tombstones from Walmart.

“I had old ghosts hanging out here and one light on it and thought I was all that,” he said.

The display didn’t give him the effect he wanted so the next year he made a wooden tombstone. He didn’t like it either. He wanted it to look real, like those he’d seen at The Haunted Mansion in Disney World.

It took some trial and error and a few Google searches, but he finally got the look he wanted.

He uses 4-foot-by-8-foot sheets of pink foam cardboard to cut out tombstones from simple semi-ovals to elaborate designs. He cuts it, shapes it, sands it and uses a dremel tool to carve a name, date and funny epitaph. Then he paints it an old moldy gray.

His tombstones lead visitors to the graves of the dearly departed like Lee Ning, Ben Sitten, Perry Noid and Leapa Yeer. A wrought iron fence keeps the final resting places of Albee and Helen Back safe from grave diggers.

A mausoleum holds a demo floor-model casket he scored in Batesville and creepy paintings that watch visitors as they walk past.

The Harris crypt of six vaults is wired with digital technology — a touchpad lists the six occupants and visitors can hear stories about their untimely demises. It’s even set up to shoot a mist of a moldy smell when visitors stand to listen.

“You can touch on one of their names and it talks to you, tells you who they are, where they’re from, how they died and it also gives you a video of them,” he said.

The singing pumpkins are rigged with a light show and music.

“At night, it lights their faces up and they talk to each other and sing,” he said.

His pride and joy is a glass-sided, horse-drawn hearse that is forever carrying a wooden coffin through the cemetery. He built it using a base of an old flatbed trailer with rotted wood. He took it apart and created the creepy carriage, which is drawn by a skeleton horse led by a skeleton driver.

In fact, everybody and each creature in the cemetery is a skeleton — the only pieces King purchases. He was constructing a horse out of PVC pipe when a friend told him about one he’d seen at Home Depot. He bought it.

King, who works every other week as a machine technician at Aptiv, adds to his display each year. He gets help from his family — fiancé Mandy Sykes and her daughters, Laci, Katelynn and Jacee.

This year he’s added the Silent Oaks Mine. Legend says  it was discovered in 1804 by Bonnie and Mitchell Anderson. Gold, silver and precious stones were unearthed, but miners were trapped when a support beam cracked and buried them under tons of stone and rubble.

King said the cemetery was “built” over the mine to cover up the accident.

But he recently discovered a hand-drawn map to the entrance and it was reopened. Visitors to the cemetery can look through the glass covering the entrance and try to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Visitors have reported sounds, he said.

“The locals say the strange rumbling noises are the ghosts of the miners still trying in vain to blast their way out,” he said. “You hear the explosions deep in the ground.”

King plans to add a pet cemetery and a walk-in mortuary next year.

His Silent Oak Cemetery is open from 7 to 10 p.m. nightly through Oct. 30, and 7 to midnight on Halloween night.

Admission is free, but he welcomes donations of money or building materials.

Cooper’s Inferno at MSA

About 75 MSA students volunteered to turn Cooper Hall into Brookhaven’s version of Dante’s Inferno. Cooper’s Inferno will be open for three nights this year — Oct. 25, 30 and 31 starting at 7 p.m. each night.

Tickets are $5 for one visit and $3 for repeat visits on the same night. The walk-through is recommended for ages 10 and up. Tickets will be sold in Lampton Auditorium and visitors will be escorted to Cooper’s Inferno in small groups.

Built in 1914, the abandoned, dark building becomes a showcase for the imaginative students at MSA. It’s been transformed through the years into downtown New Orleans, a haunted carnival, a horror-filled Home Seekers Paradise, an insane asylum and Area 51.

The students — juniors and seniors from Lincoln County and other areas of the state — brainstorm ideas then vote on their favorite. Dozens of students volunteer to be involved in the project, working on it for two months. They receive community service hours for their time and valuable experience for their participation, said Sudie Palomarez, the director of maintenance at MSA who has sponsored the event with the students for six years.

Cooper Hall is divided into nine rooms, with five to 10 students in charge of creating a story that fits the theme of the house, which is the nine levels of hell.

The entire walk-through, led by tour guides, takes about 10 minutes. There are a lot of jump scares within the passageways so those with heart conditions be warned. It’s also not a good event for young children, she said.

Money raised goes to the Berean Home for Children. More than $5,000 was raised last year, but Palomarez said because they won’t be open as many nights this year due to fall break, their donation may be smaller.

For more information, call 601-823-1300.

Ruth Volunteer Fire Department Haunted House

With noodle rooms and creepy clowns, visitors to the haunted firehouse at 3531 Hwy. 583 won’t know what they’ll encounter, said volunteer firefighter Nicole Lawrence.

The haunted firehouse is Oct. 19-20 and Oct. 26-27 from 7 p.m. to midnight.

Admission into the haunted firehouse is $5 per person and the money is used to buy gear for the firefighters.

BINGO is offered on Friday nights. The cakewalk is held both Saturday nights until they run out of cakes, she said.

The fire trucks are moved out and the empty bays are divided into themed rooms. One year, pool noodles were hung from the ceiling so that anyone who entered couldn’t figure out how to get out, she said.

Volunteers go all out to make their rooms the scariest.

“I’ve had some adults that will not go through,” Lawrence said.

To donate a BINGO prize, call Lawrence at 601-695-6737.

The Fear

The Wesson Chamber of Commerce is hosting a haunted house attraction at 2152 Hwy. 51 in the old Sunflower Grocery building.

The Fear is open tonight, Oct. 19-20, 26-27, Oct. 31 and Nov. 2-3 from 7:30 p.m. to midnight. Admission is $10.

Tonight visitors can meet the characters of Twisted Carnival and a team from the Mississippi Paranormal Research Institute.

The quarter-mile walk-through tour is designed to scare. Parental discretion is advised for children 10 and under.

Strobe lights and realistic gore are used in the attraction’s lifelike displays.