Atascadero’s The Haunt delivers a freaky Halloween experience

A volunteer actor scares up screams “operating on” another actor at The Haunt in Atascadero.
A volunteer actor scares up screams “operating on” another actor at The Haunt in Atascadero.

Randy Russom takes it as a sign of accomplishment when people wet their pants at his house.

His haunted house, that is.

Russom is one half of the duo that is scaring up screams this Halloween with a new haunted house attraction in Atascadero, called The Haunt, open this weekend on Friday through Sunday.

Russom and Chris Towers of TNT Terrors, both well-known names in the local fright scene, paired up this year to create a new Halloween attraction that mimics traditional haunted houses — but that doesn’t mean the house will be any less frightening than the pair’s previous endeavors.

“We’ve had at least one person pee their pants every day,” he said. “One guy didn’t even make it through the second room.”

The Haunt is a take on the traditional haunted house, Russom said, and draws a lot of its inspiration from the Haunted Mansion ride at Disneyland. It features your time-honored horror characters, he said: Clowns, mad scientists, a stilt walker and, of course, a horde of zombies thrown in for good measure.

“You can’t put on a show without zombies,” Russom joked.

Fifteen to 18 actors are onhand at any given time to spook visitors, Russom said, with a total of about 30 volunteers who have given their time to the haunted house each weekend since it opened Oct. 9.

While scaring the Central Coast public is nothing new for Russom or Towers, this year’s attraction is a little different from their previous work.

Russom ran the Mid State Scare in Arroyo Grande for five years, with a focus on volunteer actors and high-energy performing, he said. Towers’ work with TNT Terrors — which he founded in 2011 — was more mechanical and engineering-driven, Russom said, with automated lighting and moving parts.

“Chris’ stuff is really on par with what you would see at amusement parks and professional haunted houses,” Russom said. “It’s great.”

The pair have sometimes helped each other in the past with specific projects, until deciding this year to join forces in the fright business.

In September, they signed a five-year lease for a building in Atascadero to permanently house The Haunt. That means rather than having to dismantle it each year after Halloween, Russom and Towers will be able to leave most of the haunted house intact in the off-season and build onto the attraction each year.

“It’s going to get bigger and better each year,” Russom said.

In the off-season, he and Towers are considering a separate business, turning the place into an escape room that challenges customers to figure out how to escape from a locked room by following a series of clues.

Russom said people who visit The Haunt this year will get an even more frightening experience than they did with either the Mid State Scare or TNT Terrors.

“Our actors really know how to scare you,” he said. “Whether it’s from above, below, behind, blowing in your ear — they know what scares people and aren’t afraid to use it.”

Kaytlyn Leslie: 805-781-7928, @kaytyleslie

If you go:

The Haunt is open Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 5805 El Camino Real in Atascadero. Doors open at 7 p.m. each night, and close at 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 10 p.m. on Sunday. Tickets are $10 each, or $35 for a four-person family ticket.