A long driveway of dead trees leads to the decaying mansion outside Lewiston’s city limits that has become one of the area’s top Halloween attractions.The haunted house tour, Nightmare on Grelle, returns for its second year, opening Friday, Sept. 13, in honor of Friday the 13th.
Built as the county poor house in the 1920s, the building regularly attracts paranormal researchers, says owner Karen Kelly. “Supposedly there’s a lot going on.”
No ghost hunting equipment is required for the tour, which features masks and scenery by professional haunt artist Jon Rode, 42, of Clarkston. Rode is part of a team Kelly employed full time over the summer to prepare the house for this season.
“Originality is key in the haunting world,” says Rode, who has designed masks and props for B horror films like “Hypnogothic” and the upcoming release “The Last Halloween.”
A machine sent bursts of fog into the air in a large room Rode was working on this week. The room was papered to create fake walls and Rode was applying fluorescent paint to aid in the illusion of three-dimensional movement.
Rode says he practically grew up in the mansion. Formerly known as Neva’s Shelter Home, it was named after one of his relatives. When offered the chance to return to the home to use his skills as an artist, he was happy to accept.
“It’s going to be pretty darn intense,” Rode says about this year’s tour, which includes a cannibal dining room and a slaughterhouse.
Rode says he was raised on scary movies and has always had a taste for the macabre. An art award in elementary school put him on the professional art track. His work has been featured in Girls and Corpses magazine, which promotes itself as a cross between Maxim and the movie “Dawn of the Dead.” For his birthday on Oct. 24, his mother always buys him a severed head, he says, but she’s also asked him why he can’t make something nice for once.
“I try so hard but it always ends up covered in cracks and spiders,” Rode says with a laugh.
“My imagination has always been a bit overwhelming.”
New entryways were created through walls for this year’s tour, which weaves through a long maze of rooms, hallways and a cave Rode sculpted. Over the summer Rode taught volunteers how to make professional, hand-painted latex masks. They’ll don them and take on the roles of zombies and other creatures lurking in the house.
Kelly calls this year’s event darker than last year’s insane asylum tour visited by about 3,800 people. They decided to open early this year in honor of Friday the 13th. It will give staff and volunteers time to practice before Halloween, says Kelly, who hopes to grow Nightmare on Grelle every year and put the house on the national map for haunted house attractions.
if you go
WHAT: Nightmare on Grelle
WHEN: Starting this Friday, Sept. 13, tours will take place 6-10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays through and including Halloween.
WHERE: 2621 Grelle Ave., Lewiston