A ScareHouse Builder’s Work is Never Done
Mike Richter found his calling as a carpenter because of the haunted house industry—even if he says he was scared of haunted houses growing up.
“About nine years ago, my buddy got me to audition for a haunted house up in Erie,” says Richter, “and I just kinda fell in love with it. Then I started getting into building, which actually led me getting into carpentry.”
Eventually, he found himself all the way out in Albuquerque, New Mexico, working for the Dragons House of Horror, which holds the Guinness Book of World Record for longest indoor walk-through haunted house. But while he enjoyed hiking the mountains and beautiful scenery out west, Western PA was calling.
“It’s home,” he says. “Although I miss some of the [Albuquerque] food. Not gonna lie.”
Having been with ScareHouse for about a year now, Richter says working with the team and set designers have been pretty amazing.
“I thought they were just going to tweak a couple of things, but at least half the haunt build this year was all brand-new designs. They have the craziest concepts. They’re like, ‘So, is this possible?’ And I’m like, ‘Anything’s possible!’ It’s been nuts, but it’s been very rewarding. I take my carpentry skills and experience with the haunted house industry and mash them into this labor of love that is the ScareHouse.”
Richter says his ScareHouse building experience has been much different than his Albuquerque one.
“In Albuquerque, we only had a two-week window for each set. It was very rush, rush, rush. Here, being in a permanent location, it’s really nice because you get to take your time and feel the scenes. It’s just awesome.”
And while you might think that most of the carpentry stops once the ScareHouse season begins, it’s actually never done! Rowdy guests might knock into something and accidents happen throughout the night.
“I am constantly working. I build during the day and then on the weekends, during the night. Building the sets, you have the background of what the scene is supposed to be, so it makes it easy. If something breaks, they can pull me, and I can fix it. It’s challenging, but it’s fun.”
Just as guests are impressed with the set design and carpentry of ScareHouse builds, Richter is impressed with the passion of the ScareHouse staff.
“Everybody loves what they do and that affects everything here. It affects my attitude, and work, because they love what they do and I love what I do, and you come together and make this crazy awesome experience—it’s very rewarding. The staff is very detail-oriented, which I love, and it definitely makes a difference in the end product.”
Richter also appreciates the team’s willingness to take on new ideas.
“One cool thing about working for Scott and Nicole is that I can see something and say, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool if we did this?’, and they’ll be like, ‘Yeah, that’s a great idea,’ and they’ll let me do it, and it turns out awesome.”