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Fairgrounds haunted

Shellie Zielsdorf and Kerry Kraus help at nearly every level of the haunted house-making process. The women help with everything from decorating to costumes and makeup.

For nearly 11 years a handful of Hammond residents have volunteered their time and talents to create a haunted house of spooktacular proportions.

Although the "Town of Tormented Souls" haunted house has had various names and locations over the years one thing has stayed the same, "every volunteer loves the excitement of scaring the living daylights out of people," said Gary Zielsdorf, Hammond, an organizer and volunteer at the Town of Tormented Souls haunted house.

Zielsdorf said every year the haunted house has a different theme and new characters.

He said they welcome suggestions from attendees in hopes of making the haunted house the best it can be.

For example, the group brought back a few freaky elements that they didn't include in last year's house after receiving requests from returning thrill seekers. They also removed or changed some of the less popular elements with new ways to scare.

This year's theme is "Pirate's Revenge on the Town of Tourmented Souls."

"Basically we built a haunted ship inside a barn," said Zielsdorf.

Visitors will walk through about 25 rooms ranging from a loading dock and beach to the uneven inside of a sinking ship.

Zielsdorf's son, Jason, 16, is the main interior designer of the haunted houses, and Jason says this year's house is the most detailed yet.

The grave yard and treasure room are two of his favorites this year.

Zielsdorf says everyone involved in creating the Town of Tormented Souls takes pride in the detail and size of each new haunted house.

He said he believes that the Town of Tormented Souls is the largest single-unit haunted house in western Wisconsin, at almost 6,000-square feet.

Between 25 and 30 possessed pirates and other ghoulish characters have tricks up their sleeves around almost every corner, he says.

Zielsdorf says the Town of Tormented Souls also uses a lot of technology and other creative ways to scare attendees in unexpected ways.

Hammond resident Tim Kraus is the mastermind behind the Town of Tormented Souls. He created his first haunted house 11 years ago in his Hammond home, for his daughter Ashley's eighth birthday party. It's now turned into a hobby, he says.

"It's just a hobby. It's an expensive hobby. I don't hunt. I don't fish. I do haunted houses," Kraus said. "It's not about making money."

Kraus spends between $5,000 and $6,000 each year on supplies and other costs to run the haunted house and in more than a decade he has yet to make a profit on the haunted house.

On average, about 1,500 people go through the haunted house each year.

Zielsdorf says about 75 percent of the 30 volunteers are from four or five local families.

Many of the actors are high school students from Glenwood City, Hammond, Roberts and Baldwin.

Kraus hopes to one day be able to pay the workers that help make the haunted house a horrifying reality.

Although they don't have a budget like some commercial haunted houses, Zielsdorf says thrill seekers will find more pride and excitement in the Town of Tormented Souls' actors, because they enjoy what they're doing and aim to scare.

Creating new and exciting haunted houses each October is a yearlong hobby. Creating the "town" takes about two months to set up and one month to take down. Planning for the following year's house starts immediately after the current house is taken down.

Zielsdorf stresses that the Town of Tormented Souls is more than just dark hallways and loud noise.

"We put a lot of thought and attention to detail into creating each new haunted house," he said.



St. Croix County Fairplex, 210 Fairgrounds Road, Glenwood City, WI 54013

Dates and Times:

Oct. 14, 15, 21, 22, 28 and 29; from 7-11 p.m.


$10 per person

Kid Zone:

For younger kids or individuals who might be easily scared, there is a kid zone on Saturday afternoons. There are lights on the guided tour, no gore or blood and treats are given to attendees who walk through the haunted house. The Kid Zone is open from 2-4 p.m. and costs $5 per person, including adults.

For information:

Go to: www.ktkhaunted or call Kraus at 651-271-1386.

Gretta Stark

Gretta Stark has been a reporter for the River Falls Journal since July of 2013. She previously worked as a reporter for the New Richmond News from June 2012 to July 2013. She holds a BA in Print and Electronic Media from Wartburg College.

(715) 426-1048