By Henry Shorr
Erik Engartner, the owner of The Wickyards, loves taking people on tours of the old funeral home after concerts. This October, he is hosting the venue’s first haunted house every weekend leading up to Halloween.
Engartner has operated The Wickyards — a venue for local and incoming musical acts — for over 10 years. He has been running the venue out of the former McVean, Hughes & McClurkin Funeral Home for over 6 years. When planning the haunted house, he said he wanted to create a story that referenced the location’s history.
“The place is a historic home, a funeral home, formerly. So I tried to play into that history, but also added to it in the paranormal sector,” Engartner said. “Something that has a storyline you could cohesively follow through. Something that made sense for the building.”
The idea for the haunted house came from the post-show tours Engartner gives to concert-goers after the bands have finished playing. He wanted to expand upon that for Halloween.
“People always want to hear, like, ghost stories about spooky happenings in the house,” Engartner said. “Sometimes I have content to give them, sometimes I don’t. So now I want to give them something to be a little spooked by.”
Engartner said he started planning the haunted house at the end of last year. First, he created the storyline. He then mapped out the entire house to create different scenes and paths for people to meander through. He brought on volunteers to scare thrill-seekers. He planned characters, make-up and costumes.
Chris Ferrick, a mechanical engineering technology major at Youngstown State University, volunteered to help Engartner plan and execute the haunted house. He reaffirmed how diligent Engartner was throughout the process.
“Eric started building the whole interior design in July. So it’s taken that long already,” Ferrick said. “[It’s been] a lot of work, a lot of effort. He had to get all these people together … You know, it takes a lot.”
Ferrick said he is excited to scare patrons of the haunted house.
“I’m looking forward to scaring somebody so bad that they cry. That was my goal. I just want to see some tears. You know what I mean? That means we did a good job,” he said.
While Engartner said he is glad to have such enthusiastic volunteers, he stressed this will be a haunted house for everybody, not just extreme thrill-seekers. He said he wants people to leave with a sense of thrill but is not in the business of giving people nightmares.
Nicholas Charles Foster, a junior at Ursuline High School, is also volunteering at the haunted house. Foster said he’s enjoyed the process of putting this event together and exploring the large funeral home to find places to hide from patrons.
“I try to scare them by, like, coming out of a dark corner and growling just to … give them some sort of, like, fear of the unknown. And if they can’t see me just, like, hide or scratch the walls or something like that,” he said. “But it takes a lot just to get myself into the … mentality to be, like, kind of crazy and, like, psychotic.”
Engartner said proximity alone makes this a perfect spooky-season event for YSU students. The Wickyards, located at 711 Wick Avenue, is a 10-minute walk from Kilcawley Center. He also said it’s a great way to support a small business this holiday season.
“It’s entirely community-based; all the actors are from around here. We’re, in ourselves, a local business. We hope to bring people out, bring exposure to our other events and [make sure] that people can also be aware of us and how we can help them with their own events,” Engartner said.
The Wickyards haunted house will be open Fridays and Saturdays in October from 7 to11 p.m. There will be live music for people waiting in line. Engartner has lined up a range of musical acts to entertain guests including Miss Dreadful, Thought Mass and Outrun Infinity. Tickets start at $10, but a $20 ticket will offer a more immersive experience as well as access to the third floor of the attraction.
“It’s going to be a dang good time,” Ferrick said. “I think that it’s going to be a blast, and if you get to show up, I hope we get to scare the pants off you.”