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Behind the scenes of Amarillo haunted house attractions

Organizers of Amarillo Scarground and Van Buren Frightmare said it takes months of hard work to put their attrations together. (ABC 7 Amarillo-Tiffany Lester)

October is a spooky time of year, full of pumpkins, candy, scary decorations and haunted houses.

Things go bump in the night at Amarillo Scaregrounds and Van Buren Frightmare.

Dark hallways, filled with dizzying walkways and creatures hanging from the ceiling.

Ghouls pop out at you when you least expect it.

“When you get that person to jump about three-foot off the ground, it's all worth it,” said Joey Adams, owner of Amarillo Scaregrounds.

“We’re actors,” said Amarillo Scaregrounds lead makeup artist Elexi Vasquez. “We're supposed to make you feel a little on edge. And that's kind of what Halloween is about; the creepy and the fun.”

It might only take guests a few minutes to enjoy the scares, but crews spend months of hard work putting these haunts together.

“We work all year on this,” said Mark Maupin, manager of the Basement at Amarillo Scaregrounds. “We go to conventions and things and literally we start working November after we close down. we're working all year and a lot of this stuff takes a long time to do.

The Basement's backstage access corridor at the Scaregrounds looks completely different from what guests see as they walk through and gives actors and crews access to any part of the attraction within 15 seconds.

Managers even turned to technology for optimal scaring.

“In the Basement we use a whole lot of back up cameras that were meant to be put into cars, so we can hide the cameras inside the haunt and see where customers are at pretty much at all times, so we know the best place to scare them,” said Maupin.

Maupin has been working at haunted houses around Amarillo for decades. He tells ABC 7 News the hobby has now become a family affair.

“I work here with my daughter and my little sister, so a lot of us have been working together from 10 to 20 years,” said Maupin.

Folks at the Scaregrounds are able to keep their rooms and props in place all year in their location, but they can tweak things as their tastes change.

That's not so simple for crews at Van Buren Frightmare.

The haunted house is part of the Amarillo Activity Youth Center, which runs throughout the year.

AAYC volunteers have to take down their haunts and rebuild them from scratch each year.

It is the primary fundraiser for the AAYC.

“I can come up here and if I'm having a down day,” said AAYC member and volunteer Halston Shipman.” “I can lean on somebody and they always pick me up no matter what. I'll just come lift weights and then it turns a bad day into a good day.”

Halston Shipman and Brandon Gallegos have volunteered at the haunted house for years.

They said helping out the youth center also helps them look toward the future.

“(It) helps me with learning how to build things, use tools, helps me with responsibility, discipline and a good way to stay responsible outside of school,” said Gallegos.

“It gives you a lot of skills that you can even take on to your career later on life. You could be a handyman or electrician or something like that,” said Shipman.

Another big part of building the perfect haunted house is makeup.

Vasquez said she and another makeup artist works on anywhere from 60 to 80 actors a night.

The types of makeup range from extremely detailed basic.

“’A’ makeup usually will take around 10 to 15 minutes. They'll get liquid latex, the slime, the more gory blood, the more realistic blood,” said Vasquez. “’B’ makeup will be a little bit less than that; some cuts and bruises, and then ‘C’ makeup, we'll throw some blood on you and mess up your hair. And those are for people who do a lot of jump scares.”

But in the end, it's all about helping the community. And each house does that in their own way.

“It’s more than just a haunted house to scare people,” said Van Buren Frightmare Director Matt Hite. “It's a project for kids to teach them how to build, make things, it's a theater experience. It's not really just a haunted house. They learn everything from basic tool work to makeup work, to costume work to things they can use every day for the rest of their life.”

Hite is also the Executive Director for the AAYC.

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