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Three decades of scaring people in Sinking Valley

For more than three decades, the Long family has been scaring the dickens out of both the young, and the young at heart.
This year proves to be no different as the family has once again opened it’s imagination and the doors to an exhibition building at the Sinking Valley Fairgrounds for Long’s Haunted House: “A True Test of Bravery.”
“We’re really excited about the house this year,” said Greg Long. “So far, the reaction has been positive and people are really enjoying it. In fact, we’re setting new records for attendance.”
According to Long, the tradition of Long’s Haunted House began about 35 years ago when his parents, Frank and Sarah, set-up a haunted house scene for members of their church to enjoy. First it was just the church congregation touring the house, but as the years grew on, so did the size of the project. Now, thousands of people visit the community tradition each year.
“About seven years ago, we decided to move the house here, into this building,” said Long. “The house seems to always be getting larger and larger and we needed more space. It’s working perfect here.”
Long said this year’s edition of the haunted house was constructed over a two-week period by himself and his wife Chris, his sister Leslie and her 16-year-old son, Brian. Amazingly, costs for this year’s house were just about $300.
“We recycle an awful lot of the materials year to year,” said Long. “The plywood is torn down each year, then stored. When we’re ready for the next year’s house, we pull it back out and use it again. There’s really not much to expenses.”
Although the cost to construct the house is low, Long assures that the contents will be different than in years past.
“That’s one thing we’ve always tried to do here,” he said. “And I think we’ve been pretty successful. Sure we use a lot of the same stuff, but our themes are always different.”
Long said that off-season shopping is very important.
“That’s usually when we can find the best price on things,” said Long, noting that he and his family always have their eyes open for new ideas while walking through the mall or grocery store. “We’ll see something that we think we could use and pick it up. Later on down the road…that’s when we’ll figure out what to do with it.”
This year’s house takes visitors, usually in groups of 2-4, on a self-guided tour through the dark walkways. Visitors weaving through these passages can expect to walk through low-hanging items designed to put just a little bit of frieght into the soul before being introduced to one of several automated exhibits or scenes.
At one exhibit, a small, green dragon with piercing red eyes lights up the corridor with a plume of fire, designed specifically to appear as though the flames were coming right at visitors. At another, visitors are captured in a small room that is lifted by air pressure, which gives a feeling of being not so sure-footed. There’s also a table scene with “human heads” as the main course.
“We all really had a lot of fun building this year’s house,” said Long. “It’s borderline scary, but people visiting here who have been in other haunted houses know this one’s just a little bit different.”
According to Long, most haunted houses employ people to actually work in the house, explaining that some are hired to grab visitors or chase them with a mock weapon.
“Here, we don’t want to touch our visitors, only make them feel like that’s what we’re going to do,” he said. “People who come through here are anticipating that kind of scare, but we’re not going to give it to them. They feel like we’re going to do something like that around each and every corner, but we don’t
“And I think that anticipation is what scares people the most.”
And it’s not just the young people who come in for a little scare.
“It’s a pretty good mixture,” said Long. “We do get a lot of high school kids and college students here, but we also get people who come and talk about how they went through it 20 years ago. They just want to keep coming back. I guess it has turned into tradition.”
Long said he couldn’t put a finger on what keeps him designing the haunted houses each year.
“I like the challenge of building it and I like to hear what people are saying as they go through it,” he said. “It’s a blast to just sit back there (behind the scenes) and listen. People really have different imaginations and that’s what makes haunted houses work.”
Cost to enter the haunted house is $4 for adults and $2 for children under the age of 12. All proceeds will benefit the Sinking Valley Farm Show.
“Because of our record numbers this year,” he said , “we’re anticipating donating close to $3,000.”
The house, located at the Sinking Valley Fairgrounds at the Bellwood Exit off Interstate 99, will be open from 7:30-10 p.m. Friday through next Thursday,
Also, private parties and hayrides are available by contacting 684-7469 or 684-8441,