Every October, Frankfort Square resident Marty Herkel sacrifices his backyard for the sake of the scare, as he and his neighbors transform the plot of land into “Hotel Hellseher,” a free haunted house open to the entire community.
There was a time when Herkel and his neighbors, Phil Brandis, Jason Werner, Tim Eckert and Chris Petro would compete to see who could create the most elaborate Halloween yard display.
“Halloween is our Christmas,” said Brandis.
However, in 2005, they pooled their collective talent and experience to build the haunted hotel, which has since become an annual institution.
The five friends typically begin constructing the 2,500-square-foot hotel in August, adding new features every year. The hotel usually costs $2,000-5,000 to build, and although visits are free, Herkel and company do accept donations.
All props are either made or found and repurposed, a task which is easily accomplished by the quintet, who, collectively, have professional experience in electrics, carpentry, maintenance, glasswork and heating and air.
As thrill seekers wait to enter the hotel, classic horror movies play, projected against the side of Herkel’s house, while cast members work the line. Inside, ghosts and ghouls lurk inside the walls and behind closed doors.
The cast consists largely of the five builders’ family members, who are recruited annually for scare patrol.
All the hotel rooms are themed. This year’s new additions include an overhead scare, an outdoor crypt and a zombie apocalypse cage.
“We try to appease everybody,” said Brandis.
Hotel Hellseher hosts the final night of the season this evening. The hotel runs family-friendly walkthroughs from 6-6:30 p.m., before amping up the scare factor from 6:30-9 p.m. Hotel Hellseher is located near the intersection of Jessica Lane and Pine Hill Road in Frankfort Square.
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