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.
Even with the high number of people passing through the mansion every year, they have never had to kick anyone out. Beverly said a warning is usually sufficient if people are hitting, stealing or knocking things down.
One of the only reasons people hit is because they are frightened by the workers in costume, she said.
“We have a no-touch policy here. My people cannot touch the customers, and the customers aren’t supposed to touch workers either,” Beverly said.
There is no age requirement at Dark Shadows, but Beverly hopes parents know whether their child is too young to go through the mansion. She recommends no one under 7 go through, but says it’s up to parents to decide.
“People ask, ‘Is my kid too young?’ and I think you should know your own kid,” she said.
Children aren’t the only people Beverly has seen going into Dark Shadows against their will. She said she sees a lot of people being dragged along, one person even passed out on the porch of the house last year.
Mankato resident Maggie Georgopoulos went through Dark Shadows two years ago in hopes of getting in the Halloween mood. Georgopoulos said the place was completely black and she was frightened the entire time someone was going to jump at her.
“It definitely got me in the spooky mood, but it’s not the way I will get in the spooky mood this year,” she said.
Beverly has only had a couple of instances where she had to remove someone from the trail because they were too afraid to continue. The majority of people going through Dark Shadows are there because they want to be.
“It’s fun when (customers) exit at night just to listen to them talk,” Beverly said. “You hear them talking about what they saw, and they are all just on a high.”
Owners make sure 100-year-old granary stays fresh, keeps getting spookier
MANKATO — A haunted house is a haunted house, you say?
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