A night of fright
From realtor to real scary, one Alexandria resident is taking Halloween haunting into her own hands. Kari Wilde, who has been in the real estate business for about 20 years, and her family recently converted their barn into a haunted house for the public. They call it Frightmare Farm.
Now in its second year at their new Alexandria residence, Frightmare Farm is “guaranteed to scare the ‘yell’ out of you.”
GETTING THE WHEEL SPINNING The idea for creating her own haunted house presented itself in 2002 when Wilde and her family lived in Thief River Falls. Wilde hosted a large Halloween party for her son, Luke, and daughter, Hailey, who were 5 and 3, respectively.
For those who attended, she made it a night to remember, complete with spooky decorations, creepy food and a maze in her basement.
And the kids weren’t the only ones won over by the event.
“All the parents were so impressed,” Wilde said. “They were like, “You should really put one on for the public.’ So that kind of got the wheel spinning in my head.”
Wilde decided to go for it and created her own haunted house for the public, an attraction that became known as Hilda’s Haunted House. Her main role was dressing up as a witch, dubbed “Hilda,” and creeping through the secret passages to scare people. With the haunted house a reality, Wilde decided to support a charity with a portion of her proceeds.
“The first year, I chose the humane society,” she said. “And in exchange, then, they got to be in the haunted house scaring people.”
“So I started doing it every year after that,” she added, “and it just got bigger, and every year I chose a different charity to help out.”
This year, Wilde chose to support the First Robotics Team at Jefferson High School in Alexandria.
STARTING OVER When Wilde and her family moved to Alexandria three years ago, she sold and gave away all of the haunted paraphernalia, forcing her to start from scratch again.
They purchased a farm home, complete with a barn in which to recreate the haunted house. However, they were unable to build the first year, as the barn had been a full-time home to 30 cows.
“It wasn’t until last year that we decided, ‘Let’s do a haunted house again,’” Wilde said.
But they had their work cut out for them.
Converting the barn included cutting out all of the cow stalls, taking out the conveyor belt, filling in the gutters with sand and concrete and knocking out cement dividers with a sledgehammer.
In the loft, about three to six feet of hay covered the entire floor, which they pitched out by hand.
“Once we got that finished, we could start building,” Wilde said.
A FAMILY EFFORT Wilde isn’t alone in her endeavors. Her son, now 16, and daughter, 14, as well as her husband, Jarrod, who works as a building contractor, are all fully involved in the entire process.
“They get in here and pound away,” Wilde noted. “They even make sets. They set up walls, help tear things down and build things, paint things, make props.”
Using ideas she finds online, as well as her own creative ideas, Wilde and her family make all of the props from scratch and paint scenes by hand. Jarrod has built many of the larger props, including a bookshelf in the “library room.”
And Wilde keeps adding to the barn all year long.
“Someone who puts on a haunted attraction, their work is never done because they always have new ideas,” she said, enjoying the fact that it gives her a creative outlet.
FRIGHT NIGHT With at least 30 different rooms ranging in intensity, connected by dark hallways and disorienting mazes, Frightmare Farm takes visitors through a twisting labyrinth of startling scenes, trick doorways and past live actors ready to jump out at every turn.
“There’s going to be a lot of big scares right at the beginning instead of easing into it,” Wilde said with a grin. “This year is a lot scarier.”
To achieve the frightening effects, Wilde uses LED, strobe and black lights, heavy fog, strong smells, loud sound effects and haunting music. Graphic scenes also play a large role in the experience.
Wilde, her family and volunteers will don costumes and run wild throughout the haunted house to scare unsuspecting visitors. If they encounter younger kids or people who don’t want to get too scared, however, they always make a point to tone the effects down.
“We had adults in here last year that didn’t even go all the way through,” she recalled.
Though Wilde doesn’t frequent other haunted houses or watch scary movies, she gets joy from creating a scary atmosphere for others.
“I think it’s needed because it’s a good way for people to exaggerate their fears, a good way for them to face their fears or overcome their fears in a controlled, safe environment,” she said, then added with a laugh, “And you get a good release because you get a scream.”
And for the people who are too scared, Wilde has gag souvenirs for sale: “Just in Case” and “Big Chicken” diapers and glow sticks.
Ultimately, as attendees exit the barn and make their way through a huge mock cemetery, Wilde hopes that they will have gotten a thrill, enough to make them come back “screaming” for more.