The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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October 8, 2008

Old haunt at Dark Shadows Mansion

Owners make sure 100-year-old granary stays fresh, keeps getting spookier

MANKATO — A haunted house is a haunted house, you say?

Not at Dark Shadows Mansion. Warren and Beverly Smith — owners of the old, dilapidated house on a wooded lot behind Drummers Garden Center & Floral on St. Andrews Drive — try to change things about the mansion every year. The pathways, room layouts, entrances and exits have all changed this year. Beverly said many of their competitors didn’t last because they didn’t change the layout and people want something new every year.

“It can’t be the same,” Beverly said. “That would be like going in and watching a movie over and over.”

The old house with a white picket fence has been in the business of scaring people for about seven years. The Smiths keep the place popular by mixing a number of old buildings, a trail through the woods and more than 40 people in costumes.

Open Friday through the last weekend in October on Fridays and Saturdays after dusk, the mansion typically brings in about 5,000 people every year. It’s popular in Mankato among college students, but people from as far away as Iowa and the Twin Cities drive just to get their share of scares, Beverly said.

Starting in the rundown house, Dark Shadows’ path goes through a series of buildings including a granary and a building known as “Clown College.” Over the years at the mansion, Beverly has designed all the rooms on the path and made most of the costumes worn by characters. She has also taken the time to give every character a name, such as The Undertaker and Torture Clown.

Beverly has been acquiring the props for the mansion since they started more than seven years ago from antique shops and garage sales. She also received real coffins through someone who had them stored in their attic.

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