MAUMEE - By day, Tiffin resident Mark Roberts works at American Welding and Tank in Fremont. His wife, Barbara, works at the YMCA in Tiffin. But when Halloween rolls around, the husband and wife assume their alter egos as proprietors of Terror Town, a haunted attraction at the Lucas County Fairgrounds in Maumee.
The Roberts have been running Terror Town for 15 years.
For several years, they also operated the Nightmare Within in Tiffin.
One of more than 70 animated figures that inhabit Terror Town in Maumee.
Barbara said she and Mark had become friends with the former Terror Town owner while offering a hayride at the Lucas County Fairgrounds. He wanted to get out of the business and made Terror Town available to the Roberts.
Barb said the Tiffin market proved to be too small to reinvest the income in the kind of features Mark wanted to offer, so they decided to concentrate their efforts on the Maumee location.
"Mark has been building haunts since he was a teenager. His uncle did them for the Jaycees here in town, and Mark just went along with it. After his uncle stopped, Mark continued doing them for the Jaycees for quite awhile and decided eventually to branch out on his own and do it himself," Barbara said.
If you go
Terror Town operates rain or shine. The remaining hours are 8-10 p.m. today and Sunday; 8 p.m.-midnight Friday and Saturday; and 8-10 p.m. Monday.
The cost for House of the Dead is $20 for adults and $10 for kids. A combination ticket for both haunts is $25 for adults and $15 for kids.
Terror Town will be open for one bonus day, 8-10 p.m. Nov. 5.
The couple attends a large trade show every spring in St. Louis to get new ideas for the coming season. People from all over the world come to the trade show.
The main house at Terror Town is called House of the Dead.
Barb said the scenes and props are changed every year to offer variety to regular patrons. They try to utilize new gadgets and animation that go on the market. Mark also builds many of the features himself.
A second smaller house is called Big Top Terror, which has a 3-D circus theme.
"You wear 3-D glasses through, and the artwork is just amazing in there," Barbara said.
The average person spends 25-30 minutes going through House of the Dead and about 10 minutes in Big Top Terror.
Mark works on various projects all year, writing his ideas on notes Barbara finds lying around the house and workshop.
As soon as the Lucas County Fair concludes in late July, the couple and their crew transport the props from Tiffin to get started on Terror Town displays.
Barbara said they spend August and September setting up. This year, the attraction opened Sept. 30. About 25 live actors play the roles of monsters, zombies, ghouls, ghosts and other scary figures, in addition to more than 70 animated props.
"Mark really likes his big animatronics," Barbara said. "We trade props with other haunters in other parts of the country. That keeps the ideas fresh."
People who visited Terror Town in the past often return to see the changes that have taken place.
This past weekend, one group reported seeing some of the Terror Town props on the television program "Making Monsters."
Barbara said the industry has become more sophisticated over the last decade or so as the Halloween holiday has increased in popularity.
Mark and Barbara stay onsite every day Terror Town is open. Once the season ends, the smaller haunt can remain in place, but the House of the Dead uses three buildings at the fairgrounds and an outdoor area. All of that must be disassembled, loaded into semi-trailers and stored at the Roberts' workshop in Tiffin.
Barbara expressed appreciation for their employees from Tiffin, Defiance and Toledo, including several long-term workers, who help with the project every season.
Sunday, younger patrons can take a lights-on tour 1-4 p.m.
"None of the props are turned on, we have no actors in the house, the lights are on. We walk through with the kids and show them 'This is where ... happens.' In a year or two when they go through on their own for the real thing, they're not so scared. We want them to be scared, but we want them to realize it's a safe environment. Nobody's going to get hurt, and nobody's going to do anything to them," Barbara said.
Some of the parents express surprise at the amount of work that goes into the attraction. After the tours, kids can have cider and donuts and pick up a goodie bag.
The location is 1406 Key St., Maumee. For directions and more information, visit www.terrortown.