“Why did I make my own haunted house? Ha! Just the love of Halloween,” said Tom Braun, the creator of Horror on Harmon. “I always loved going to haunted houses at carnivals when I was a kid, but my mom wouldn’t let me set one up back at home. ‘I don’t want the neighbors to feel like they’re living next door to the Adams Family,’ she’d say. I’m glad I can do whatever I want now!
“Horror on Harmon officially started out in 2001. It was just a basic yard haunt with blacklights and fake tombstones back then. I’d dress up like the Grim Reaper to hand out candy to trick-or-treaters. A couple years later my nephews and I expanded it into the garage. We got about 75 kids that night.
“By 2004 people started slowly driving past my house to get a look at all the decorations, just like they would during Christmas. We became a non-profit organization in full and teamed up with United Way that year. The charity got us a lot of exposure and upward of 1,200 visitors, and we made some money for them through voluntary donations.
“In 2006 my handyman friend Wayne Jundt said ‘Let’s make this thing bigger.’ We built a bunch of new buildings in my backyard to bring the attraction’s room count up to nine, and we gave each one its own theme: clown room, swamp, corn field, vampires – whatever creepy ideas we could come up with and wanted to do.
“And it just kept growing from there. By 2015 I had close to 80 volunteers coming to help out at my house, all aged anywhere from 12 to 60. The whole experience still took less than ten minutes to walk through, but there would always be someone nearby waiting to jump out at you.
“At that point we had kind of maxed out what we could do on my own property. As luck would have it, that was the same year I met the president of the United Tribes Technical College. We ran into each other by the Batmobile at Buggies N Blues, and when he found out what I’m all about he invited me to use his school’s buildings. I took a look and saw that the possibilities were endless. Now Horror on Harmon is bigger, better, and a lot scarier than it’s ever been before with about 100 volunteers and upward of 1,500 visitors in two nights
“We have a huge front yard for costumed characters to interact with the crowd while they’re waiting in line. Let me tell you, a lot of people get creeped out just from having to stand next to a clown for any amount of time. Our two-story building has about a dozen rooms, each with its own theme that changes every year. Some people take their time to drink it all in, which I appreciate because we do put our hearts and souls into our decorations and costumes. But I appreciate the people who try to tear through it all as quickly as possible just as much!
“Going back all the way to when it was in my garage, Horror on Harmon has never been about making money. Last year we raised almost $10 thousand for the college’s scholarship fund, and whatever money we take in just goes back into offering an even better experience the next year.
“All I ever wanted was to have my own haunted house. Now I have one of the best, and I’m able to do some good for the world while I’m at it. That sounds like an all right deal to me.”
If everything goes according to plan, this year’s Horror on Harmon will take place at the United Tribes Technical College on October 30th and 31st. You can learn more about the bloodcurdling event at facebook.com/HorrorOnHarmon.
By David Scheller