Horror: A household custom

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) – ELGIN, S.C. (WIS) – A volunteer-based haunted house is keeping true to a family tradition of scaring customers at every turn.

Dark Castle Haunted Attractions is based out of a warehouse with over 30 horror scenes on Highway Church Rd in Elgin. The attraction was founded as the Dark Knight’s Terror Trail by U.S. Army Veteran Larry Oates in 1999.

“When my grandfather was spearheading, we’d get setup in two weeks, go for the month of October and shut down in two weeks. We had this huge castle façade,” said Elizabeth Oliveira, Oates’ granddaughter

Oates operated the annual pop-up horror show until he was diagnosed with cancer in 2003. After a lengthy battle with the illness, he passed away in the mid-2000s.

Come 2012, the Oates family and subsequent village returned to the haunt with a vengeance. They rebranded themselves as Dark Castle and opened the brick-and-mortar facility one year later.

Now, volunteers from ‘the old haunt’ are keeping Oats’ legacy alive.

“Both of my children were born into this. They were a part of it before they even knew they were. And both of my children are actually actors on the trail as well as my husband,” said Tracey Roberts, a longstanding scare-actor for the family business.

Robert’s used her fear of clowns to create a monster titled “Ringmaster Coulro” for the Carnival De Chaos trail. She says Dark Castle is a creative outlet for her and her family.

“We built a Ferris wheel, we built a carousel. We don’t buy most of our props, we build them. That’s the creativity that we throw into it. It’s a passion that we bring to the game,” said Roberts.

According to Oliveira, upward of 70 volunteers are making Dark Castle a reality this year. She attributes the passion of every community member to its year-round success.

“We are a volunteer-based haunt which means that everyone who’s here wants to be here. They love to scare. They love to entertain… And it really does make a difference when you go through a haunt where people like it versus a haunt where they’re just doing it for a paycheck,” concluded Oliveira.

For more information on upcoming events at Dark Castle, click here.

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