Old prison's horrors will take on new life in Pa. haunted house

August 09, 2008|By DON AINES

CHAMBERBSURG, PA. -Staff and inmates at the old Franklin County Prison had their complaints about the aging facility before it closed last year, but it really wasn't all that horrible.

Or was it?

The public can judge for itself this fall and Correctional Officer Bob Fink thinks they will find the old jail on Franklin Farm Lane both horrible and terrifying. On Fridays and Saturdays from Oct. 3 to Nov. 1, the jail will be the setting for "Terror Behind Bars," perhaps the biggest haunted house in the state.

Fink, a correctional officer for more than 13 years, wants hundreds of people to come by and get a bad case of the heebie-jeebies for some good causes. The event benefits the Cumberland Valley Animal Shelter, the Stacy Reed Children's Fund and the Employee Fund of the Franklin County Jail.

Reed was a correctional officer killed last year in a vehicle accident on her way home from work, leaving behind three small children, Fink said.


"The employees started a trust fund last December at our Christmas party" to benefit the children, Fink said. The employee fund provides assistance in other ways to staff who are injured, ill, or have sustained other kinds of losses, he said.

When visitors come to the jail this fall, they will find it infested with flesh-eating undead, said Kenneth McCommons, owner of Spooks-R-Us of Fayetteville, Pa.

"The whole attraction is based on the government ... using inmates as test rats and the experiment went bad and turned them into zombies," said McCommons, who has been in the haunted house business for 25 years.

Mike Pine of Creepy Cadavers and Bart Raifsnider of Community Underground Inc. are also working on the haunted house design, Fink said.

The set design work is ongoing, with blood spattered walls, sprayed-on cobwebs, coffins, a few scattered limbs and skeletons throughout the building, and two of three mazes are under construction. Features the old jail did not have include an electric chair, a gas chamber and the laboratory where those experiments went terribly, terribly wrong.

"We're thinking of letting the zombies get even with a guard on this one," McCommons said of the electric chair.

"They'll be eating the med techs in there," McCommons said of the lab.

McCune Lumber Co. of Shippensburg, Pa., has contributed to the project and companies that provide money, materials or volunteers can put up banners on the prison fence and have their names printed on T-shirts that will be sold at the event, Fink said. Entertainment and food vendors will be outside for people while they wait to get in, he said.

The county is allowing the use of the old prison for the event, but no taxpayer funds are being used, Fink said.

Tickets are $13 for adults and $10 for children 13 years old and younger. For more information, call Fink or Michelle Davis at the jail at 717-264-9513.

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