Haunted house turns Grimm


LA GRANDE — Snow White is selling poison apples and the Beast is threatening the life of his beloved beauty, Belle. A dark curse has sent the storybook universe into disarray, and it’s up to the participants of the 2017 Night Fright Haunted House to put things back in order.

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Jeri Mackley, co-owner of the Maridell Center, which hosts the Night Fright each year, said the crew has wanted to put on a dark fairy tale theme for several years.

“Every time, we just had something else we thought would be more compelling,” Mackley said. “So when we finally committed to this, we started early.”

Caedra Whitnah plays Dorothy of Oz in the 2017 Night Fright's "Fairy Tales Gone Wrong." Whitnah stands in the vortex that transports participants into the cursed storybook land.

Caedra Whitnah plays Dorothy of Oz in the 2017 Night Fright’s “Fairy Tales Gone Wrong.” Whitnah stands in the vortex that transports participants into the cursed storybook land.

Mackley said the planning for this year’s haunt started before last year’s attraction ended. The event is more ambitious than past efforts, she added.

Part of the issue is that the theme is so different from the previous year’s Mayan Tomb theme, so most of the materials had to be created from scratch.

“Sometimes, we’re able to save the walls and use them again, but this year we were going for something completely new,” Mackley said.

The bigger challenge was pulling off the amount of variety in the haunt, she said.

“Each room tells its own fairy tale story, so everything has to be different,” she said. “It’s a lot more intensive.”

The first room, for instance, is Belle’s library. The walls are lined with bookshelves. Stepping through a vortex into the Hansel and Gretel forest with a witch’s gingerbread house, participants will have to navigate through a sweet candied path.

Geppetto’s toy shop, the Mad Hatter’s tea time, Rapunzel’s tower, Maleficent’s castle and Rumpelstiltskin’s apothecary can also be found along the cursed path. An extreme shift occurs from room to room, and the Night Fright crew has taken special care to highlight it.

“You’ll notice that each time you enter a new room, you have to walk through something, like the vortex,” Mackley said. “We wanted to emphasize that you are transitioning into a different story with a whole new world.”

Along the way, you’ll find storybook characters from the three little pigs to Dorothy of Oz. The characters will have a few brief lines that give clues about what exactly has gone wrong.

Perhaps the hallmark of the Night Fright events is the hand-crafted contraptions. Adam Grove has built the moveable pieces for years, with a drawstring bridge and falling obstacles.

This year’s event also features a couple of participant-initiated scares.

“The clients will actually bring about some of the scares themselves,” Mackley said. “We just get a big kick out of that.”

The haunted house will be held every Friday and Saturday night in October plus Oct. 30-31 at the Maridell Center, 1124 Washington Ave., La Grande.

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