WARREN, Pa. - Craig Rodgers III has a daunting, haunting task before him.
He, with the help and support of his family, is building a haunted house in the former Ponderosa Steak House at Warren Mall.
It's daunting because the effort will end up taking about two months, for just two days of scaring people out of their wits. "Go big or go home" is his personal motto for both this project and others in his life.
Setting up the haunted house is a family endeavour for the Rodgers. From left, Cadence, Cordelia and Concour Rodgers carry a gory exhibit to its (temporarily) final resting place. Parents Craig and Megan were working behind the scenes.
The fun will begin on Oct. 26, from 6-9 p.m., and on Sunday, Oct. 27, from 2-5 p.m. Prices are $2 for kids seven to 12, $4 for adults, and $3 for senior citizens. Children six and under are free, although he advises caution.
"A walk through the house will take about seven minutes, although the fright factor will cause some to move a little faster," Rodgers said. "Participation is at your own risk."
He said he has been scaring people at Halloween for "five or six years, and this is my third year doing a 'walk-through'." He noted that in previous years, his haunted houses took place at his grandparents' house in Frewsburg. "This year, I figured I should go bigger," he said.
Rodgers, who is a 15-year-old sophomore at Frewsburg High School, plays both junior varsity and varsity football. He works at the Warren Arby's with his mother Megan, the restaurant's manager. Building the interactive display takes a delicate balance of time and effort.
"I come to the mall early on Saturday mornings to walk around. I thought that this would be a good place for a haunted house. It doesn't cost anything, because all the proceeds will go to my church's (Frewsburg Zion Lutheran Church) youth group. Even the electricity is free."
He began by moving old materials and cleaning the space. After he put up a sign facing the mall concourse, Ken Sheldon of Sheffield called him. Sheldon, who is a Halloween aficionado, offered to loan his rather large collection of scary decorations to the project, and Rodgers readily accepted.
The theme this year for terrifying paying customers is "Meadowbrook Asylum," based on a post-Civil War insane asylum where the inmates took over. Rodgers noted that he is also a Civil War re-enactor.
In keeping with that theme, Rodgers created a Facebook page with the same name to keep people updated.
The layout of the house will include a large central area, so that actors will be able to move about without disrupting the flow of visitors, using walkie-talkies to coordinate their actions. A number of his friends will fill the roles needed.
"My girlfriend doesn't have any real interest in it, but she supports me," Rodgers said. "My whole family is helping out."
His other interests include astronomy, and he is a member of the Marshall Martz Observatory. He wants to be a mechanical engineer specializing in robotics and animatronics.