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Our very own heritage of horrors

Dedicated home haunters team up to create ‘Curse of the Ghoul Mines’ at Heritage Junction

Posted: October 16, 2008 9:11 p.m.
Updated: December 18, 2008 5:00 a.m.

Several local residents are serving as "haunteers" at this year's Heritage Haunt, Curse of the Ghoul Mine, running weekends at the SCV Historical Society's Heritage Junction through Nov. 1: front seated - Sydney Albert, Darlene Morrow; middle row - Mike Kelly, Rick Berg, Teresa Marg, Ed Marg, Ed Marg, Sr.; back row - Rob Tezai, Konrad Summer, To...

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No one seems to love Halloween more than the Santa Clarita Valley’s own group of happy haunters — the slightly twisted troupe of folks who stay up into the wee hours of the morning building spooky mazes and wiring up things that go ‘bump’ in the night. They love the thrill of the chill and believe the most fun anyone can have is screaming one’s heart out while fleeing from some strange terror or a chamber of horrors. And they bring along their wives and kids.

Call them “scareacters” or “haunteers,” their philosophy is families who haunt together, stay together — and laugh together.

But only after making everyone else hysterical with screaming. Now, some of the most dedicated home ‘haunteers’ — the folks behind “Bedlam Manor,” “Psycho’s Circus of Horror,” the “Caravilla Haunted Graveyard” and “The House on Rodeffer Place”— have teamed up to create a spectacular attraction.

Heritage Haunt, Curse of the Ghoul Mine,” running weekends at the SCV Historical Society’s Heritage Junction through Nov. 1. This is their second year on the site and with a brand new production to rival major theme parks, the horror show is better than ever and waiting to instill fear and dread in thousands of unsuspecting folks who dare venture inside.

Cast of scaracters
One of the driving forces behind the attraction is Ed Marg, the Haunt master of Bedlam Manor. With his wife Teresa, daughter Corrina, his father, Ed “Poppa” Marg, Mike Kelly and Ian Sim, he created a spectacular fright-oriented haunt for 13 years at his home in Saugus that used high tech equipment and well- planned scare tactics to make everyone who dared enter leave with a scream and a smile on their face.

“Our goal was for everyone that entered Bedlam Manor to have fun and to create a memory that would last forever,” Ed Marg said. “We were sensitive to small children and didn’t go over the top to scare anyone.”
Joining Marg as the co-creator of Heritage Haunt is the gregarious and outspoken Scott Sivley. He started haunting at his parent’s house in the San Fernando Valley in 1970 and continued right up until his most recent incarnation, “Psycho’s Circus of Horror” at his home in Saugus.

“We had a rule at my haunts — scare well, scare quick and have fun,” Sivley said. “I always took the time to bring in as many friends, neighbors and family members as we could handle. It was an unforgettable journey. This year his wife, Cindy, plays the “mysterious lady in the foyer.”

Also on the core team are Tony Monton and Thomas Van Tassel. They are the indefatigable characters behind the Caravilla Haunted Graveyard — an interactive haunt they offered in Canyon Country for 12 years.

“We are guys who never grew up and have no intention of ever growing up,” Monton said. “But at least we are man enough to admit it.”

To create the Caravilla Graveyard, Monton and Van Tassel collected an odd assortment of props over the years, allowing them to perfect the art of grisly scenes on a small scale.

“We attempted to give our graveyard guests an unforgettable journey into the realm of fear and danger in a safe environment,” Monton said. “We combined live action and animatronics. Although it was geared to older kids and adults, smaller children experienced the thrill without experiencing the fear.”

New to the team this year is Rob Tezai, who was recruited the old-fashioned way — door to door.
“One night in March I was upstairs and heard my wife, Christine and baby son, Mykhail come home,” he recalled. “Next thing I heard was ‘Honey, you’d better come down here ...’”

Sivley and Marg were in the front yard wearing their black Heritage Haunt T-shirts, just waiting for Tezai to show up. The creator of “The House on Rodeffer Place couldn’t have been more thrilled.

“I always had a passion for old-fashioned haunts, in the classic Universal Studios or Disney style,” he said. He immediately joined the team and produces drawings, artwork, graphic design and anything else that needs to be done.

Ghosts of Heritage Junction
This year’s theme is the “Curse of the Ghoul Mines” based on the history of Santa Clarita Valley’s Mining History — told with fictional spin. So you may experience a chance encounter with “The Lady in Blue” or “Martha” as she is known and often seen from reports over the years in the Newhall Ranch House.

“Martha just loves the kids; she is having a very good time,” said Darlene Morrow, the resident psychic who monitors the spectral activity for the Haunt. Joining “Martha” is Timmy, a small child and Rory MacGregor, who occasionally stirs up his own variety of “cowboy” mayhem. Ghost hunters from the American Paranormal Research Association have verified paranormal experiences at Heritage Junction, most recently in September.

Pumpkin Festival
The American Paranormal Research Association will offer up “ghostly” evidence they have collected at Heritage Junction and demonstrate their equipment at the Pumpkin Festival to be held at the Saugus Train Station from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday in Heritage Junction. The “tech” crew will also be on hand to give free daytime “behind the scenes” tours of the Haunt.

“This is a great chance for children who might be too scared of the evening haunt to come and see what the haunt looks like in the daylight,” said Pat Saletore, executive director of the SCV Historical Society.
Sivley, coordinator of the Pumpkin Festival, said a host of other family friendly activities will also be offered, at Heritage Junction and at Hart Park.

Activities will include gold panning, creating your own haunt maze, crafts, a party jumper and a pumpkin carving contest.

Two age groups, 10 and under, and 11 and older, will compete in the contest. Albertson’s will donate 100 pumpkins to the first 100 children to claim a pumpkin. Pumpkins will be for sale for those who want to participate in the contest but miss out on the donated pumpkins. “They also can bring a pre-carved pumpkin from home if they want,” said Sivley.

In addition to all the activities tours of the historic homes and Ramona Chapel will also be offered on Saturday at Heritage Junction.

At Hart Park a “bug show” will be held at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. and an animal show from Placerita Nature Center will be offered at 10 a.m. and noon.

Trick-or-treating in downtown Newhall will be offered to children with maps of participating merchants available from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s booth.

The Sheriff’s Department and the Masons will be on hand to provide free child fingerprinting for parents.

“The Pumpkin Festival will a great family event for everyone, from little kids to adults,” Sivley said. “It’s a chance for families to do fun stuff together.”

Heritage Haunt
The Haunt is controlled from the second story of the Newhall Ranch House where an elaborate series of computers, video cameras, electrical panels and safety exits are monitored. Mike Kelly, a test engineer at Hydro-Air in Burbank, helps run the system with Marg.

The duo controls 16 video cameras wired with 10 miles of cable and fiber optics.

Also at the helm is Ed Marg Sr., a recently retired electrical engineer at Hydro-Air who now works on the haunt full-time. Marg said credit must also be given to Brian Hook who programmed the animatronics.

“We are a combination of Knott’s Scary Farm and Disney,” Marg said. Indeed, it’s a fun scare, but anyone who is too young or traumatized to go through the maze is invited to watch from the saloon on one of three video monitors. And you can get a very nice $1 soda, hot chocolate or coffee while warming up inside. The Haunt also offers food and treats on site, as well as two performances of the Sleepy Hollow Dance production in the Train Station on Saturdays.

Professional haunts don’t create themselves, as evidenced by the look of the exhausted team members munching on pizza and soda at midnight after a recent workday. Together they bring with them an impressive résumé of skills including construction, electrical, pneumatics, engineering, graphic design, computer programming, video, sound design, steelwork, welding, PR, artist, costume and makeup design.

Luckily, Marg also brought back his friend, Ian “Mr. Sunshine” Sim, who has helped with Bedlam Manor since the beginning.

“He doesn’t even like Halloween,” Marg laughed. “We’ve known each other ‘forever,’ he just helps because I make him do it. He’s our ‘Hoover Dam’ builder.”

If Marg is the “dad” of this haunt family, his exuberant wife, Teresa, is the mom. She helps coordinate interior design, costumes, hair and makeup. And this year, the Haunt is getting professional makeup design from the artists at M.U.D. to make it even cooler and creepier.

Known more precisely as the “kid wrangler,” Sydney Albert is the actor coordinator who handles the training and scheduling of the 60 student volunteer actors who play the spooks, zombies and ghouls.

“My job is the calming of chaos,” she said. 

Then there is Mike Smith, a welder who also plays the nine-foot Phantom.

Corrina Marg, Ed and Teresa’s 17-year-old daughter, is the second set of eyes for the Phantom when he wanders through the streets of the Haunt.

Konrad Summers is a SCVHS docent and in his off hours, actually holds down a responsible job at Yahoo! But he spends every waking minute helping tweak the Haunt and even plays a role in the attraction.

A heavy equipment operator for Cobalt Construction who needs little in the way of makeup to scare kids, Ralph Nazarian showed up three weeks ago to help build the Haunt.

“Ralph just drove in one day, he is a godsend,” Marg said.

“It lets me live my dream of haunting,” Nazarian laughed. “I am having a blast.”

Teresa Marg also said some really extraordinary team members are Hart High School students Jesus Cruz and Francisco Flores, who volunteered after hearing about the Haunt at school. “They jumped in and asked what they could do,” she said. “They are totally reliable and skilled. You should see the amazing work they did on the bridge.”

Putting it together
Months before they could even consider opening the doors there were many repairs necessary to prepare the old buildings for the public.

An exterminator for Our Town Pest Control on San Fernando Road, Monton helped fumigate for termites and black widows. Marg said Newhall Hardware donated untold gallons of paint and equipment.

Then, Heritage handyman Gerry Sokolowicz, a long-time docent and newly inducted life member of the Historic Society, stepped in to help repair parts of the houses so they could be used. He said the Pardee and Newhall Ranch House and part of the train station were brought up to code, rewired and renovated.

Marg said they fixed the plumbing, installed locks, fixed windows, cleared rooms and transferred items into safe storage. Then they started building the Haunt. All on an accelerated time schedule.

“We breed on chaos,” Sokolowicz said.

Giving back
“We just love doing haunts, it is a joy, a big male play yard down there. There is lots of blood, sweat and tears in there,” Teresa Marg laughed. “We don’t do any of this for a living, just for fun. But I am glad we turned it into a nonprofit event. Last year we brought in more than 5,000 kids by bus from various groups around the Southland to come and see the event.”

But what Ed Marg said they are most proud of is that by creating this Haunt at Heritage Junction, they are able to give something to the community and raise money for the Historical Society and the Advancement Via Individual Determination programs in the local high schools.

Marg estimates that they should be able to give the Historical Society about $30,000 to $35,000 this year.
Alison Henry, the AVID Coordinator at Valencia High School, helps coordinate the entire program and makes sure the students who participate by selling tickets or working at the haunt are credited for their time.

“(The AVID program) broadens their horizons, and pays for trips to colleges because lots of kids can’t afford it,” Teresa Marg said.

The future
Marg said eventually he would like to step away from the haunting business and pursue other adventures.
In spite of his grumbling protestations, one can tell he loves every minute of it and the friends he has made along the way. These are people who are living their dreams—creating haunts and providing just the right amount of scare and thrill to make the season really fun.

They have a great passion for Halloween and the skill and dedication to put it together and make it happen — all the while becoming one big happy, haunting family while doing it. And there is talk of making this an ongoing haunt but it needs dedicated volunteers.

“All we need are 200 people and a little bit of their time, then the event can run on its own,” Marg said. “It’s not the scare, it’s the journey.”


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