Rob Blanken may be the scariest man in Junction City.
As the owner of local haunted attraction Zombie Toxin, he wouldn’t have it any other way.
Every October, the Junction City haunted house serves up scares.
There are a few new additions to the haunted house this year.
The upstairs section has been remodeled for this year’s haunted house.
This, according to Blanken, is something they try to do every year.
“We try to keep it fresh,” he said.
Other recent additions include the escape rooms, added last year.
According to Blanken, the escape rooms are a popular activity.
“It’s pretty popular and they’re very short,” he said. “They’re not like a traditional, hour-long escape room.”
The rooms, which require participants to decipher puzzles in order to locate a key and escape, only last about 10 to 15 minutes, according to Blanken.
This year’s escape rooms include “Jack the Ripper” and the “Head Shed.”
Zombie Toxin — the escape rooms and the haunted house itself — aren’t for the faint of heart.
“We do a good job in there,” Blanken said. “Everyone reacts differently, so you never know exactly what the response is going to be.”
He said he had seen full grown men exit the haunted house in tears, or abandon their significant others to exit the attraction early.
While he’s proud of eliciting these kinds of reactions, Blanken really just wants his guests to have a good time.
“I want everyone to scream and have wide eyes in the house and they come out laughing at it,” Blanken said. “That’s what I want.”
But people keep coming back through.
And others keep auditioning to be part of the haunted house.
“Everyone in here — they’re here for whatever their personal reason is,” he said.
Friday night saw actors in elaborate costumes they or Blanken fashioned for their characters, wandering the grounds, scaring attendees as they waited in line. Each of these characters has a backstory of their own, according to Blanken.
Amid the traditional zombies and spooky clowns were unique creatures — someone in an antique divers suit with a spinning saw blade for a hand and a man in overalls who had taken an old stuffed toy and turned it into a disturbing mask, walking the grounds with a talking rubber head.
“When you’re in a community this small, you have to resort to being creative and make your own,” Blanken said. “Otherwise, the budget would never stretch that far.”
For everyone involved, the haunted house is a labor of love.
Blanken spends the entire year preparing for the next season.
“Our last night this year is Nov. 1 and Nov. 2, we’ll be planning for next year,” he said. “Actually, I’m already planning for next year and I just finished up today for what we’re doing this year.”
For himself, Blanken enjoys the building sets and props for the haunted house.
“Kind of like the Wizard of Oz — behind the curtains,” he said.
Zombie Toxin is a PG-13 attraction. Children are allowed to go through with parental guidance.
“We don’t recommend anyone under 13 going alone,” Blanken said. “You need to have a guardian. And we really don’t recommend anyone under eight.”
However, it’s up to the discretion of parents and guardians.
“The only thing that we will prevent is if you’re carrying your children — if they’re so small they have to be carried, we will not let you in,” he said.
There were several children present for opening night Friday evening, including eight-year-old Montreal Wicksking. He went through the haunted house with his mom and a friend and, he said, he wasn’t the least bit scared inside the house. The only thing that scared him, he said, is when one of the clown-costumed actors approached him and his family while they waited in line. Friday night was Wicksking’s fourth time going through Zombie Toxin.
“The first time I went in, I was scared,” he said.
This time was different, though, because Wicksking had a friend with him.
“I was pumped up and ready,” he said.
Wicksking’s favorite part, he said, was “all of it.”
Regular admission tickets cost $18, speed passes which allow patrons to bypass some of the lines cost $25, and the escape rooms cost between $5 to $10, depending on the room patrons pick.
Zombie Toxin will be open to the public from 7:30 until 11:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday evenings and from 7:30 until 10:30 p.m. on Halloween night at 417 N. Franklin St.