Jeff Keiling wants to get into your head. "The Madhaunter" and mastermind behind Laurel Park’s Track of Terror designed two state-of-the-art haunted attractions for the express purpose of scaring people silly. On Friday, October 26, brave souls can pay $25-$30 for admission to two haunted houses, a dance party and a cash bar at a century-old haunted horse track.
“You want people to be so scared that they really want to come back,” Keiling said about the 21+ haunts. “When you know everyone is at least 21 and up, it eliminates the filter that you have to put on it. You really don’t have to hold back at all.”
The scare master has transformed a good, old-fashioned fear fest into two equally terrifying haunted adventures: a circus-themed attraction upstairs and a unique take on a more traditional haunted house downstairs. He took his own feelings of terror that visiting the circus created as a child and transferred over to the haunt, by sucking you into his worst nightmare.
Imagine creepy clowns (think Stephen King’s, It) and a fake midway full of deceptive special effects, crazy lighting and confusing illusions designed to throw off your equilibrium, all against a claustrophobic, harsh neon backdrop that draws you deeper into the haunt. Keiling’s goal is to get people completely involved in the attraction itself.
“I found that in a lot of haunted houses, you’re very much aware that you’re just in a building somewhere when you’re going through them,” he said. “What I like to do is as soon as you walk in, you kind of forget where you are and you feel like you’re actually experiencing what it is that’s going on around you.”
This shouldn’t be a problem for Keiling’s haunted house on the lower level of the ancient horse track. He likened the area to a dungeon, full of 100-year-old corridors and hallways that – even undecorated – are the perfect setting for a goose bump-inducing adventure.
“I mean, I’m the one putting it on and there are times that it’s three o’clock in the morning and I’m running wires somewhere underneath the grandstand and it’s creepy for me! It’s just so old and it creaks. It’s a really neat area.”
Keiling said he took a handful of people on a walk through last year before the inaugural Track of Terror and even when the bare hallways were lit, a few of the girls didn’t want to walk through them.
“They’re that creepy on an everyday basis,” he said. “So when you get to take that kind of an environment and run with it, you can really incorporate some good scares in there.”
In last year’s Track of Terror, Keiling had one section completely blacked out. There was a hallway in the bottom of the building down which people would walk in the dark, with lights flickering on and off. They would be “trapped” in complete darkness until the lights came back on…and someone was suddenly standing in front of them.
“It was great,” Keiling chuckled.
He described one room that he didn’t have to decorate at all – he just put someone in it.
“It was already pretty much haunted when I got to it.”
“I couldn’t have picked a better location outside of a condemned insane asylum or an old prison. You just add to it and put it a little over the edge.”
Last year’s Track of Terror only featured the haunted house downstairs, complete with an A Nightmare on Elm Street-themed area, a Hannibal Lecter look-a-like and a lunatic asylum. But even if someone braved the 2011 haunt, it’ll be brand new to them this year.
The revamped haunted house will feature glimpses of a few scenes from David Fincher’s Se7en, the 1995 thriller about a serial killer (played by Kevin Spacey) whose murders each have a direct correlation to one of the seven deadly sins. Zombies will also pop up throughout the haunted house. Hint: Keiling is a fan of The Walking Dead and graphic novel Crossed, which introduces the idea of freakishly smart and fast zombies that learn quickly and team up to plot against the living.
“There are a lot of new additions this year,” Keiling said. “More animatronic things – not your typical haunted props that you would see in most haunted houses. They’re a little more gruesome and frightening.”
He also made sure to mention one of this year’s highlights by saying that only a couple of people know what it is and he’s received mixed reviews on whether or not he should even do it.
“I’m definitely doing it because the more people tell me, ‘Oh, don’t do that!’ means I need to do it. It’s going to be good.”
The Northern Virginia resident became fascinated with all things spooky at a very young age. With the support of his wife Amy and daughters Hailey and Shelby, he’s gone from charging neighbors for yard haunts to putting on his biggest production yet.
“We’ve just been getting bigger and bigger every year and more elaborate with the scares,” he said. “I have a regular job and I enjoy what I do, but, ideally, I would rather do this full-time and eventually will be there.”
Keiling’s ultimate goal is to put on a month-long haunt that runs every night or at least every weekend through Halloween. But until then, he’s pumped about the second annual Track of Terror – and so is his daughter Hailey.
Though the 14-year-old isn’t a huge fan of going through the haunted house, she loves actually being in it. Her claim to fame thus far occurred when she was 12 years old and played the character of Samara Morgan from The Ring. Keiling said she had people getting out of line when she came through because she freaked them out so much.
You can most likely catch Hailey in the haunted house at the Fall Festival of Racing on Saturday, October 27. Laurel Park’s Oktoberfest celebration features thoroughbred racing, German beer and fare and $10 tickets to a kid-friendly version of the Track of Terror.
Friday’s 21+ haunted extravaganza includes over $1,000 in prizes for best costumes, 16 oz. Samuel Adams® Oktoberfest or Lager for only $3, as well as a DJ dance party.
Track of Terror will be held Friday, October 26, from 8 p.m. to 1 a.m. at Laurel Park. Friday’s 21+ haunted extravaganza includes over $1,000 in prizes for best costumes, 16 oz. Samuel Adams® Oktoberfest or Lager for only $3, as well as a DJ dance party; 301- 725-0400. For more information, visit www.trackofterror.com.
Laurel Park: Laurel Race Track Rd. Laurel, MD; 301-725-0400; www.laurelpark.com.
Head to Track of Terror with On Tap! We’re hosting an all-inclusive bus trip on Friday, October 26, 8 p.m. to 11 p.m., for only $35! Our package includes unlimited access to both haunted adventures plus admission to the Mid-Atlantic’s Most Outrageous 21 Halloween Bash and DJ Dance Party. Email firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions. To purchase your tickets today visit store.ontaponline.com.